In other words: Salt flats and 7-colored hills! For the Easter break, I headed to Salta and Jujuy in the northwest of Argentina with housemates Molly and Melanie and our friend Courtney. Leaving early afternoon on Tuesday, we hopped on our bus (Almirante Brown) and settled in for the 20 hour bus ride. The bus smelled like a musty 70’s porta-potty, but had surprisingly tasty food and good service. We watched one movie before dinner and one after before I took a Dramamine and was out for the night. The following morning we arrived in Salta about 2 ½ hours late because there was apparently a huge storm during the night that slowed us down. Salta was warm and sunny and a really cute city. We spent most of the day walking around and hanging out in Lover’s Park – dubbed for its crazy number of loving couples. For dinner we headed to the supposed nightlife area of town, but decided to head back to the hostel after dinner since it seemed pretty dead.
On Thursday, we headed to the bus station around 10:15 because we had an 11:15 bus and Courtney and Melanie needed to change their return tickets. When Molly and I were waiting, we noticed that at the Balut (bus company) counter, they didn’t list 11:15 as a bus time for Salta-Jujuy. When we went to ask, we discovered that there wasn’t one then, only at 10:30 and 12:30. So, we rebooked on the 12:30 and hung out for a little while longer, looking into car rentals. We, on a whim, had considered renting a car to drive up, but found out that it wasn’t really going to work out for us. After lunch, our bus arrived and we were on our way to Jujuy.
Arriving in Jujuy, we headed to our hostel, dropping off our stuff before going back out to explore the town. We walked around for a bit, but then headed to talk to the travel people in our hostel to see about excursions. Luckily, they had the perfect excursion, that would take us to Purmamarca (with the 7-colored hills) and the salt flats. Since we were going to have a fairly early morning the next day, we went to get ice cream and then to a grocery store so we could cook our own dinner. We made an egg scramble with tomato, onion, green pepper, and cheese, and some potatoes with oregano, salt, and oil.
We woke up Friday to see that we had been joined in our room by our other friends Sarah and Rachita (who had arrived around 1:00). We all had the hostel breakfast + leftover eggs that we had scrambled, and then we went outside to wait for our little bus. Our first stop were the 7-colored hills, which were beautiful. While there, we encountered the strong, hot, dry winds the area is known for and ended up stopping in the town to let it pass a little. In that time, we got to go around and shop at one of the cutest artisanal markets I’ve found in Argentina. I bought snazzy alpaca socks, as did Molly. I also finally bought my first alpaca sweater, quickly followed by my second.
Continuing to the salt flats, we took one of the windiest roads I have ever encountered, and sucked on some coca leaves to help prevent altitude sickness. We frolicked on the salt flats for a while, trying to take some “optical illusion” photos. After the salt flats we went back to Purmamarca for lunch and some more shopping time. More ice cream and some chatting finished out our day.
Saturday meant our bus back, so we packed and ate breakfast, then headed to the bus station. We were trying to figure out which stall our bus would be in, made a little more complicated by the fact that three Balut buses pulled up at the same time. We settle in and set off, getting a rather delicious lunch an hour in. After a few more hours we were stopped at some checkpoint thing and had to get off the bus with all our things, have them searched by the police, and then wait for the bus on the other side of this arch thing. Later in the night, we were stopped again so that some more police could come on and search. I had finally given up hope on getting dinner around 10:00, but at 11:00 we stopped at some roadside bar/restaurant and were told we all had to get off for dinner so they could clean the bus. The meal was included and quite good, but it was definitely not something I had seen before. When we got back to our seats they had finally put down pillows and blankets, so the rest of the ride was comfortable, though we got in about 1 ½ hours late.