Here we were, a few days short of leaving Argentina. We had no idea what we were going to do in Salta, but felt good about going there nevertheless and excited about getting further North to the places we had heard about from fellow travelers.
We got to Salta around dinner time, and since we were still with Daniela we enjoyed a nice vegetarian lasagna together. It was served to us by an Uruguaian waiter who had a German ex-girlfriend, an Italian ex-wife and had lived in Spain for 11 years. He was so excited about chatting to Daniela in Spanish and (a few words) German that he would sometimes even forget to serve us our food and would just stand there, left arm propped on the table and a spoon in his right hand, halfway between our plates and the big tray he was serving from. Other times he’d grab the bottle of wine and forget he should in fact transfer its content into our glasses, so he’d just hold it up by his chest and keep on chatting nonchalantly, on and on about his wives and girlfriends. We loved him! (maybe more so after we actually had food on our plates though hahaha).
When we got back to the hostel we were met by another surprise: there were 3 girls we kept seeing on our way for the past week or so, bumping into them in buses, caves or other random places. And now, here they were again, in our hostel in Salta. We knew something was up with so many “coincidences”, so after interacting a bit we invited them to join us the next day for a panoramic view of the city.
One of them did, and she then ended up traveling with us for the next 10 days, until she had to fly back to the UK for her grandparents’ 50th marriage anniversary. We felt so comfortable with Jess around, it was as if she were naturally the 4th backpacker :).
We spent a beautiful day climbing the 1070 steps up the Cerro San Bernardo, from where we saw the entire Salta, we had the best ever empanadas for lunch, and then delighted in pure Argentinian ice-cream. We let Boca cajole us into that – based on her research, it seems wine, steak and ice-cream are the 3 things not to be missed while in Argentina. Well, we got 2 out of 3, and satisfied with that we were. 🙂
The highlight of the day though was the visit to the MAAM museum (http://www.turismosalta.gov.ar/internacional/in/reco_maam.asp). When Silviu said he had seen a documentary about it on National Geographic we knew we were about to see something quite remarkable… and indeed we did! The museum is centered around the mummies of 3 Inca children (aged 6, 7 and 15) who were buried alive more than 500 yrs ago on top of the Llullaillaco Vulcano. They were buried together with a great collection of Inca objects during a ceremony we would now consider barbaric, but which at the time was an utmost privilege as it meant the reunion of the little ones with their ancestors and creator. They were being sent to a better world to become God’s messengers, and being chosen for such a ceremony was an honor reserved only for the perfect children.
The burial place of the 3 Incas was at 6739m high, and the unearthing of the bodies in 1999 made them the highest and also most important recent archeological discovery in the world. Due to the high altitude and the cold, the bodies of the 3 children were fully preserved (intact internal organs, blood in their heart, hair and skin undamaged) and now constitute a very touching sight – they really look more like sleeping children than like mummies. Only the body of the boy is displayed to the public at this moment, and seeing it took me back in time and gave me the shivers upon realising what my people were like barely 500 years ago. It was a visit to remember!
We ended that special day with a long process of deciding how we’d be heading up North. Actually that’s not true, we ended it with dark Salta beer and some good ol’ red wine. But before that we walked up and down the little town figuring out prices and deciding between going on a tour (which would have been super expensive) or renting a car for a two-day road trip up to the Northernmost inhabited place in Argentina. Not surprisingly, the road trip idea won.
We were bursting with excitement in the evening when we checked out the black Wolswagen Gol (no, there’s no letter missing as I originally thought, it’s just… Gol :p) the rental people brought to us for the next day. They had to take it back though when they said it wasn’t safe to park it in the street during the night – we wanted to sleep peacefully, so told them they’d better bring it back the next morning.
Ahhh… the amazing days which were to come…:).
Oh, on a side note, after 4 months on the road we finally realised how tired we were of answering the same questions over and over again upon meeting someone new (Where are you from? What do you do for a living? etc etc). So we thought we’d spice it up a bit by answering them for each other, and then even moving on to making stuff up. This was a spontaneous one Boca applied on an Austrian guy who had just arrived at the hostel and we were making small talk in the kitchen with. When the fella asked Boca what we used to do in Singapore, she looked at him with a serious look on her face: ‘Well… I used to do some random job. And she… she used to sweep the floors in McDonalds’ said she while throwing her arm up in my direction. “Oh… ok” replied the guy after the initial shock, while trying hard to assume a non-judgmental look. He didn’t really managed to pull it off, but it surely was great fun!! 🙂
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