We had heard from Ben and Vicky. They were only a day or so behind us, with Ben having bravely scaled a 20,000ft mountain peak. We had hoped to meet up with them at the pizza restaurant on our final evening in Uyuni but they weren’t arriving until later that night and we had the night train to catch down towards the Argentinian border. As it turned out we had a brief reunion with them on the old-fashioned station platform – they arrived on the train we were leaving on – it was a bit like a scene from an old British black-and-white movie!
I really enjoyed our comfortable overnight sleeper journey from Uyuni to Villazon; we were in the “salon ejecutivo” carrriage, having earlier in the day secured the last two tickets, much to the consternation of an Irish chap in-line behind us. We were settled down by the attendant who gave us warm blankets and pillows. After some up and down bumping around as the train picked its way through a canyon we slept and awoke in the morning to be told that our breakfast in the dining carriage awaited (back-packing eh – it’s a tough life)! This set us up nicely for “border day”, and we had no problem crossing into Argentina and were soon on a bus heading for Salta.
We didn’t escape so lightly afterall. Our bus was stopped a few miles down the road by the police and all passengers were ordered off and we joined the long queue for what looked to be an intensive bag-search. Fortunately, by the time the police got to us, they were bored and clearly not interested in opening our backpacks and waved us through! I wouldn’t have minded if they had chosen mine for a search as after almost four months on the road I am now an expert packer! We continued on our way and enjoyed the wonderful landscape as the road to Salta snakes through the beautiful Quebrada de Humahuaca, a painter’s palette of colour on dramatic hills. We stayed just one night in colonial Salta (where, incidently, I discovered a blood-bloated tick attached to my right leg) and the following day left for Cafayate.
Set at the entrance to the Quebrada de Cafayate, 1600m above sea level and surrounded by some of Argentina’s best vineyards, Cafayate seemed to us to be good place to kick-back for a few days and explore the fabulous coutryside and sample the local wine. Which we did!
But we also hired bikes and ventured up the hillside, tough-going still at this altitiude and after throwing a bit of a wobbler (because Tim said I was going too slowly), I was relieved to make it to a farmer’s goat enclosure where we left the bikes and followed a river upstream to a small waterfall and secluded pool. It was gorgeous: the rocks sparkling with silvery minerals and the thorn-trees in bloom. We didn’t want to leave this beautiful place.
After a brief afternoon stop in Tucuman (where Argentina’s Declaration of Independence from Spain was signed exactly 200 years ago), next on our agenda was Cordoba, Argentina’s second city. It didn’t disappoint! It’s a city of culture, manageable in size and a real mixture of architectural styles – although mainly colonial.
We explored on foot, visiting the cathedral, biblioteca and Cordoba Zoo. Whilst reading and doing some writing in the biblioteca, Tim was approached by a librarian who noticed the book he was reading: “The Black Dahlia” by James Ellroy. He told Tim that the biblioteca’s director was a writer himself and a great admirer of James Ellroy’s works and was keen to introduce Tim to him! As it turned out, the director was otherwise engaged and we had to move on…. I didn’t want to miss visiting the zoo!
And so now this is our final week of the big adventure; we’ve had our final long overnight bus journey to reach Buenos Aires. We had half -hoped to hop over to Uruguay but we are, frankly, tired and our bodies are telling us to chill out before flying home on Friday. After weighing up the pros and cons in an American sports bar whilst catching up with the Chicago Bear’s latest excellent result, we have decided to stay put in B.A. We plan to meet up with Ben and Vicky who arrive here tomorrow for a final night’s celebration of the trip.
It has been an incredible journey…..a real eye-opener for me and, for a while at least, suspect that I will miss my life on the road. But my family and friends back home await me (in the snow!) and I can’t wait to see them. Thanks everyone for all the encouraging messages, I hope very much that you have enjoyed reading my Blog and that you have gained a sense of the magic of fabulous Latin America. Who knows, me and Tim may have another big trip in the future and if any of you do the same, I highly recommend keeping a Blog!