Our last stop in Argentina is Salta. We immediately like Salta in a way that we didn’t with Mendoza. Not that Mendoza was bad, and we enjoyed our time there for the most part (dodgy food and accommodation aside), but sometimes a place just feels right.
Simple things can effect you view of a place. Accommodation can be a factor, and our Salta choice was much better than Mendoza. Food is another and we also found good food on the main square the first night after the elongated bus journey, whilst in Mendoza the first nights food was nothing better than the fresh pasta you can buy from the supermarket.
Plan for the day was to fit in another famous Argentinian experience….the estancia. The famous Argentinian beef is sourced from estancias (farms) that are managed by gauchos (aka cowboys).
We arranged this tour with the usual level of planning and consideration…a phone call in the morning. This makes the fact that we had to go back to collect a second couple that they had forgotten about surprising given they had researched and booked this from London 3 weeks ago before they left the UK. Who says planning is everything?
The journey up to the estancia is in a dirty old beat up Toyota Hi-Lux and the road is an amazing unfinished collection of hairpin bends (which the driver tells us will be part of the Dakar ralley next year when it comes to S.America…not sure as he seems full of tall tales).
When we arrive we are given a sheet of paper to fill in including smiley face scores for the quality of the driver and the car (apparently his boss wants the information). We are generous and are informed that anyone who scores less than 4 gets a ‘free trek back to Salta’. On the back of the evaluation form are the instructions to ride a horse in 4 pictures, and with this plus the “it’s like an Xbox – left = left, right = right” instruction and we are off.
The ride is great fun and involves some steep narrow paths eventually giving us a wonderful view of the surrounding area and at the end we do a bit of running near the ranch, but thankfully the horses are far less enthusiastic than the ones we rode on the beach in Australia last year so my bottom isn’t too sore.
The tour was a half-day including a estancia style BBQ, which after having one in Patagonia as part of the fjord tour I wasn’t looking forward too but it seemed like the only way to eat at a sensible time.
Well my preconceptions were wrong, wrong, wrong. Both ourselves, and Ben and Francesca (the really nice English couple with us on the trek who we go on with very well) were made to feel like part of a family BBQ and the food was amazing and plentiful. We stayed way into the afternoon chatting and drinking and never felt like it was a ‘tour’ and before we left Guillam (our guide) gave us a demonstration in using the lasso as well – everyone got a go, but if you failed, then he had a go at getting you as you run across the paddock…..I was the only one who he caught (and the rope burn to prove it).
After we were dropped off at our accommodation we had much needed showers and also managed to get all our washing done in the laundry on the top floor (until you have lived with hand-washed clothes for a while you don’t know the pleasure of a properly clean t-shirt).
Guillam had given us a recommendation for the best empanada in Salta so we walked through the bustling town, first through the main square which is more touristy, and then along busy streets filled with locals (but we never felt unsafe) and eventually to a strange little courtyard with 3 little cafes in it. Definitely not the place you’d find or enter without a recommendation but it was wonderful and extremely cheap (less than £10 for two for dinner) Andes I think we were the only ‘gringos’ in there all night.