Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog

Salta Cathedral

Even more tasteful Iglesia de San Francisco

Another part of San Francisco

Inside Salta Cathedral - very restrained and tasteful by South American standards

Reflection of Cathedral bell-tower

So my last bus journey is over, and here I am in Salta, which seems very nice so far. The main reason a lot of people come here is to take what they call the Train to the Clouds, this radical train journey that goes up another 3,000 metres higher into the Andes. I don't have time to do this, but I did walk up a nearby hill to get a view of the town and the surrounding hills, and I have also managed to confirm my flights home. I also went to see the doorway of a closed convent - that is the kind of party animal I am - and very fine it was too, but more interesting was that it was visiting time for the inmates, and how this seemed to work was that one bought some cakes from the many people outside selling them, and then wrote a prayer on a piece of paper, gave them both to the nuns inside through this little hatch which was such that neither party could actually see each other at any point, and then presumably waited for the results while the nuns did their stuff...and ate the cakes. After this I felt a bit thirsty, but due to momentary confusion as to pints and litres, ended up drinking too much for this time of day at a pavement cafe in the main square. Unusual though was that the local pigeons allow themselves to be caught and handled - sometimes quite roughly by children -I guess they have worked out that it is worth it.

This evening I had probably the nicest meal I have had in South America, asparagus in a white wine and cream sauce with parmesan au gratin for a starter, and a fat steak in a vodka, mushroom, garlic and cream sauce with crisps, except they were called something much posher than crisps in Spanish. Another way I know it was posh is that the toilets had a bidet in them. How many restaurants have you been in where the toilets had a bidet? And would you use it if they did? The food though, was exquisite...yum, yum, yum, yum, yum! This travelling business isn't all about living off biscuits on 30 hour bus journies, thankfully. I am glad though that I finally had a steak before I left Argentina. I don't normally like steaks - far too much meat, and usually chewy - but everyone raves about Argentinian steaks, and with good reason it seems, it was tender and tasty as hell.

The way home took me through the main square, and it being Saturday night in a warm country, there was a lot going on. Of note was a kind of gaucho dance thing, which involved various gauchos doing Michael Flatley impersonations to much cheering from the crowd. I had just seen Zorro 2 a few days ago on one of my many bus trips, and there was quite an atmosphere of flamenco meets cowboys going down here as well. And nice to see everyone of all ages drinking together, and not a spot of bother anywhere. Why can't we do that?

26 Nov: Wandered around in a manera muy tranquillo this morning checking out more culture in the form of colonial architecture, nice churches and art galleries. Good stuff. And then off to the airport to fly via Bolivia to Lima, a vastly more attractive prospect than three days on a bus, and not that much more expensive.

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