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Salta, Argentina

Considering Salta is smack bang in the middle of the North Argentinian desert, we weren`t expecting it to be so ridiculously green and pretty and lush. The main sight backpackers swarm there to see is this huge quarry thing of blood red rocks which are meant to be daaamnn impressive at sunset. But of course, it wouldn`t be true to form if there wasn`t some kind of hitch preventing us from seeing this life-changing, not-to-be-missed piece of scenery as so far in the trip we have been plagued by a `South America Natural Disaster Curse`(i.e. mudslides at Macchu Picchu, earthquakes in Chile ) which reared its ugly head once more in Salta causing huge mudslides at the quarry and closing it to visitors. Mudslides, schmudslides. Luckily for us Salta was a tasty little crumpet of a town where it was really easy to spend a day not seeing any quarries. So we headed into the centre and hit the two museums on offer. The first was a bit average apart from some amusing pottery and an interesting toilet.

However, the second was incredible and we really geeked it up in there, soaking up the knowledge like little sponges. The exhibition featured information about three inca children who were left 6700m up a volcano as sacrifices to the Gods roughly 500 years ago. They were excavated in 1990 and had been almost perfectly preserved by the freezing conditions. There were two young girls and a little boy all found in the same site, but to keep them properly preserved only one of the children is on display at any one time. We had been expecting to see a decayed mummiefied skeleton of a child, but instead it was really eerie to see the small pefectly preserved body of a young boy huddled up with his skin, hair and clothes intact. Its weird to think that he had died 500 years ago and was still in almost the same condition. Those Incas definately took their virginal sacrifices a little too seriously.

Feeling very brainy and smug with the new facts we`d learnt, we skipped through town and headed to the cable car, which seemed a good idea until we started our ascent of the mountain and a huge roar of thunder shook the car on its wire. We`d like to say we were brave and nonplussed by the impending thunderstorm, but in reality we spent the whole time playing the `what would happen if the car got struck by lightning?`game. We came to the conclusion that as long as we kept our feet on the floor of the car, the rubber of our flips flops would save our lives. This is probably incredibly inaccurate, but it made us feel slightly better anyway. The mountain at the top of the cable ride was really beautiful, with carefully manicured lawns, bright exotic flowers and a breathtaking view of the valley. However, the views showed us just how quickly the aggressive lightning storm was approaching so we made a hasty retreat back down to safe ground.

When we got back to our hostel, Cilla and a fellow Aussie called Kylie (not Minogue unfortunately) had arrived and we all went out to dinner in search of some local cuisine. We found a restaurant where the staff were dressed as matadors and the food was authentic North Argentinian fare. We ordered a variety of corn and veal based stews and some hot tamales for starters. The meals were really tasty and had a good level of spiciness, and the meat tamales were sexy little bundles of corny goodness.

The bus to San Pedro the next day was a bit of a shock due to the altitude. As we climbed higher and higher through the Andes the air got thinner and thinner and we were soon struggling for breath like a group of old ladies after their aqua aerobics class. San Pedro de Atacama is a desolate little town in the very North of Chile, completely surrounded by desert and you can`t help but feel completely cut off from the rest of the world when you`re there. The purpose of our visit was that San Pedro provides the jumping base for a three day jeep tour through to Bolivia and the Salt Flats. Our hacienda was a charming little place to stay which had loads of cacti in the yard, one of those oversized paddling pools, and most importantly, not one, not two, but three tiny kittens. Tay got overly obsessed with a little female kitten called Luna and even though Tay left the window to the room open every night in hope that Luna would come in for a midnight snuggle, every morning she woke up with the mangey fully grown ginger cat from next door getting cosy at the end of her bed, cleaning its bum. Such a disappointment. However, kitten karma came full circle when on the last day, Tay caught Luna suckling milk from her mum and very nearly broke down in tears right there. An added bonus to the array of kittens running around the yard was the shaggy dog called Pompom who resembled Dougal from the Magic Roundabout and who Jodie fell in love with and referred to as Dog Marley because of his dreaded fur.

San Pedro was a tiny, tiny little place and basically consisted of mini shops and high end restaurants to cater for the tourists. We used the two days there wisely by booking ourselves on to the jeep tour and buying loads of coca sweets (to combat altitude sickness) water and other handy supplies for three days in the wilderness. And by handy supplies we mean an array of different biscuits and a shit load of toilet roll.

Next stop. Bolivia Baby!


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on March 30, 2010 from Salta, Argentina
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Veal??? Surely not! Mummy T xx

permalink written by  pat taylor on April 1, 2010

Yes, I'm afraid that the flipflop insulation theory was, as you suspected, flawed. Flipflops might conceivably reduce the shock from a 240v mains supply. But they would not help too much with the 10-120 MILLION volts of a lightning strike. The flipflops themselves might actually survive, intact, as the current would bypass them and leap directly from the end of little pink toes to the ground. But the flipflops' moisturised organic cargoes would be totally crisped, regardless.

permalink written by  Father O'Doode on April 1, 2010

Sorry, but I confess that I did not read your text carefully enough. My previous assessment would be correct in a walking-along-the-pavement situation. However, while you are in the cable car, assuming that it is of a metal-skinned construction, then you would be saved by the "Faraday cage" effect, whereby the high voltage would route around the cage/skin, but not penetrate inside the car. As with lightning strikes on aircraft and cars, you would be unharmed by the strike itself. However, in an unfortunate secondary effect, the lightning strike might fuse and melt the cable and the car would then hurtle, unsupported, with its screaming occupants, to an impact on the rocks below. As in the pavement strike scenario, the flipflops would remain perfectly serviceable for their next users.

permalink written by  Father O'Doode on April 1, 2010

I tried to explain Farraday but it was as if my words were the lightning and their brains were the cages, i.e. the information passed safely around the outside and didnĀ“t penetrate.

permalink written by  Robbi on April 3, 2010

I enjoyed your Argentina post, and the adorable photos of the kittens and dogs! Reminded me of my own time there and how much I loved it. My blog is looking for travel reviews, photos, etc, to share. If you have the time, check it out at dirty-hippies.blogspot.com. Our blog is also giving away a free night in Peru or Bolivia, if you're still in South America, or know anyone else who might be interested. Continued fun on your travels!

Heather :)

permalink written by  Heather on May 14, 2010

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