Bolivia was a bit of a mixed bag for us, we had some great times but it was tough travelling in parts. The roads can be bad, facilities very basic and the people not so outgoing. We weren’t planning to go to Argentina at first, we thought we would only have time to do Chile. Somewhere along the way we changed our minds though and decided that Argentina was preferable to Chile and we were happy to forego some of our time in Chile in favour of Argentina. Mostly this was a decision based on money, we had heard that Argentina was cheap and Chile expensive.
Well, so far I can only say that it was definitely a good decision. We are finally out of the Andes and have arrived in Latin America. The difference is quite staggering, the music, the weather, the people and the facilities are all pretty amazing (so far). As soon as we came of the bus in Tilcara (a town about three hours south of the border) the heat hit us like an oven. Swelteringly hot. And we loved it.
After checking in the hostel, we went for a bite to eat and were shocked at the prices, we thought it was supposed to be cheap here? We are obviously very naive and didn’t do our research properly as we soon found out that there is the official exchange rate from the banks (which gets you about 10 pesos for a pound) and the unofficial exchange rate on the streets, shops and anyone that is willing to change money (which gets you about 15 pesos to the pound). That is a big difference. I can’t quite get my head around how a country can operate like that and what the consequences are of such a wide scale black market in pounds, dollars and euros. Basically Argentineans save in any other currency than their own (as it inflates too much) and therefore are willing to pay more than the banks to exchange it. It’s weird.
In any case, we didn’t have any euros, pounds or dollars on us so were faced with a dilemma. Pay 50% more for everything or one of us has to go back to Bolivia and get dollars out and exchange them for pesos. So off John went…and Argentina is now very affordable!
Tilcara was small, hot and quite nice but not that much there. We had already booked a hostel in Salta before John went back to Bolivia, so we decided that we would meet in Salta at the other hostel. I travelled there with the kids, arrived at 7pm when it turned out it was an over 18 place. Not very suitable for the children! Luckily they were understanding, let us stay for two nights and we actually had a great time there and the staff and people were very nice to us. John also showed up at 10pm and we were all together again. Salta itself was amazing, a beautiful colonial (again) town with great restaurants, bars, coffee shops and shops. It is almost like being in Spain. Which makes for a great holiday feel.
In Salta, we did the city bus tour (is recommended) and visited a couple of museums. One in particular was very interesting, it showcased the finding of three children that were sacrificed 500 years ago. The mummies are almost intact because they froze high in the mountains. Fascinating.
From Salta we moved on to Cafayate, one of the main wine regions of Argentina. The town is lovely and sleepy with a fantastic town square with lovely little bars and restaurants surrounding it. The first night we had great fun trying all the different empanadas and rating the different fillings (the basic meat, tomato and onion filling was the most popular). We also managed to visit the wine museum, goat cheese museum, a winery and taught Amy how to ride a bike on the town square!