Lord, today I had to be up and out of the hotel and at the tourist office by 5:45 am!
When Leslie and I parted in Buenos Aires, I recall saying to her that I was looking forward to relaxing in Salta and sleeping in for a change! Besides my time in Ireland, I can probably count on one hand the days I have slept past 7:00-7:30 since mid-July. Today I was up at 4:30 am!! Enjoying life is a lot of work!
Anyway, today I headed off on a sort of ‘monster truck’ excursion. They have these things in El Calafate, and I think I saw one in San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) a few years ago. They are like Hummers on steroids! They are massive things that you climb up into and then sit high above street level so you can see everything. They are also built to ride over rough terrain so can go to interesting places. Today we were going to the “Salinas Grandes” salt flats via San Antonio de los Cobres (San Antonio of the coppers) and then back to Salta via Purmarmarca. It was a 14 hour day!!!
We assembled at the tourist office and then the truck showed up in all its glory! We loaded up, all seven of us, and I was the only English speaker. Not only that, I was the only non-Salteño (person from Salta) on the trip and just when I felt like I was starting to understand a bit of Spanish, these folks started speaking some sort of dialect that I couldn’t understand at all! The least of which being that they pronounce “ll” as a sort of “jz” sound. Oh boy! At least my guide spoke English and I think he wanted to practice so he spent a lot of time chatting with me which was good!
We headed out toward San Antonio de los Cobres traveling along the same route as the Tren a les Nubes (the Train of the Clouds) which is a big attraction around here as it is the third highest train in the world and the highest to not use any sort of cog system (it has an interesting switchback system instead).
First stop was for breakfast at the Chorrillos train station where we shared our lunch with some dogs and ladies setting up their craft stands for the train tourists.
We then continued through some lovely scenery to the small town of Santa Rosa de Tastil, which is in the Lerma Valley near the ancient indigenous city of Tastil. It is an itsy-bitsy place with a museum, “Moisés Serpa Regional Museum of Tastil” which had strange but interesting bits and pieces, including a mummy! I may add an additional post on mummies, but be forewarned that it will be quite creepy! There were also a variety of locals who had set up “shop” along the main drag selling all sorts of handicrafts. If you have ever been to any town within what was the Inca Empire you know the type of thing; finger puppets, knitted llamas, whistles, and a wide variety of hats, gloves, etc.
We continued on until we reached San Antonio de los Cobres which is a copper mining town, filled with adobe buildings, and sits at an altitude of 3,750 meters (12,300 feet). You will see in the photos that there is a tract of housing that was built cookie-cutter style by the government to help support the community. In addition to copper, there is a wide variety of other metals and minerals mined around San Antonio such as borax and lithium.
While we were visiting San Antonio, I noticed this bus that I thought was some sort of “food truck” and figured I’d take a peek inside. It turns out that the bus is actually a mobile educational vehicle that travels through various small towns and teaches the locals how to prepare certain foods! Today they were making empanadas, and a different group of students were going to show up tomorrow and then the bus was moving on to the next location! I thought this was great! They also looked ready to set up some tables outside the truck and sell the food at lunchtime.
Also in San Antonio, the kids paint murals on the streets so I included some photos of their work. Otherwise, it is the sort of town that I could personally go mad in! So small and remote and to much of the ‘sameness’! San Antonio is a good drive from pretty much anywhere!
We continued on to lunch, not too far away, at a place called Restaurant El Mojon which was on the one lone dusty road between San Antonio and the Salinas Grande. It was quite an interesting collection of buildings run on solar power. There was the restaurant, a chapel, a museum, some animal areas, and several other buildings. The food was delicious! We had empanadas, a llama/rice dish, and then lamb stew.
After lunch I visited the chapel which had an inscription behind the altar asking for a blessing from Saint Anthony of Padua. I found this remarkable and non-remarkabe at the same time. The reason being that I visited the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova (Padua) while I was in Italy a few months ago, and now here I am in the middle of nowhere at 12,000 feet in this little chapel. The reason it is not remarkable is that I have come to find that “things” also seem to have a limit of six degrees of separation, or maybe it is that people still have six degrees long after their dead? As an example, I found a statue of Hans Christian Andersen in Bratislava after just visiting Copenhagen the prior week (back in October). I sometimes feel like I am in some sort of strange circular motion!
The museum contained some odd artifacts including a Puma head (Pumas exist all the way down to Patagonia).
I then visited the rabbit hutch as I find rabbits cute, and also tasty! One came over to visit me at the fence and then bit my finger! Little b*stard! That’s why I eat them 🙂
Lastly, while we were at lunch there was also a group of five hodge-podgey guys on the premises that apparently had an accident and somehow managed to get the car to this location but now it would no longer start and they were stuck. I say “hodge-podgey” as they all had different accents and we came to learn that they just randomly met while traveling around South America and somehow ended up in this car together.
What happened was that they had been driving down the road and tried to overtake a car and were blinded by a dust cloud that had sprung up (normal along the road we were on) and they hit an oncoming car! Not only were they stupid to try and overtake a car while there was dust kicking up but it is amazing to me that they hit someone as we really didn’t see many cars on the road. Fortunately for all, no one was hurt. Fortunately for them, we were there and they got a very cool ride back to Salta!