October 31, 2006

Stationary in Salta
Salta, Argentina

My first impressions of Argentina are mixed. I find the cost of accommodations high, and the price of long haul bus transport to be shockingly expensive, but I've been able to find Internet access as cheap as Bolivia, and the wine—oh yes, the wine—is deliciously cheap.

I've been traveling at lightning speed since I left Cuzco earlier this month; not spending more than three nights in any one location. Aggravating border crossings and sleepless buses have left me exhausted. Salta seems like as good a place as any to avoid seeing the inside of a bus for at least a week.

Main plaza

Up in the NW part of Argentina, Salta is a sizable city of over half a million Argentineans. It's a crossroads town that most every traveler heading north or south, to or from Chile and Bolivia will cross through—this I like.

I arrived in town and tackled the choice that confronts me each time I'm in a new city: Do I want cheap and comfortable accommodations, or to pay more for a sociable scene? Often times there isn't much overlap between the two—you're either on the Lonely Planet trail, or you're off it.

Guidebook suggested accommodations or not, I still find the price of simple dormitory rooms, filled with a half dozen bunk beds, to be rather high. Speaking to travelers with experience in the region, it sounds like $17–23 pesos (US$5.50–7.50) per night is going to be about the norm. Ouch.

I'm paying US$6.50 a night at the Hostal Terra Oculta (for the social scene). Rather disappointed with the cost, I walked around the city the first full day I was in town, sniffing out other housing options. Hostal Iguana, the top discovery made, offered me a private room, breakfast, and free Internet access for about US$0.75 less than what I was paying at Terra Oculta. I decided though that the small amount of money I'd save would, in turn, find me drinking a bottle of wine alone (in an otherwise empty hotel).

Speaking of wine, I've got a serious vice for vino tinto that has gone relatively unfulfilled since I left the States (it's just too expensive for my shoestring lifestyle of street food and dorm beds). Thankfully, Argentina is truly a wonderland of tasty, inexpensive wine, and I feel like a kid in a candy store.

Yum

Malbec is my vice of choice at the moment. This variety of grape is grown almost exclusively in Argentina, and has been making my taste buds tingle with delight from the first night I arrived in Salta. I'm very much looking forward to getting down to Mendoza for some tasting sessions at the local wineries.

Sadly, I can't seem to find an affordable way to bus down south. The costs of buses here are some of the most expensive I've seen in all of Latin America. Argentineans and tourists alike are paying anywhere from US$2–5 an hour spent on the bus (nearly the cost of a short flight in some places I've been). Services on some of the luxury bus services include seats that fold completely flat into beds, meals, and your choice of wine, champagne, or whiskey at midnight.

The absolute lowest fare I've found to Mendoza, a 16-hour trip, has been about US$35.

I rallied down to Salta for Halloween and All Saints/Souls Day festivities, but it looks like it was a wasted effort—nothing going on here. It should come as no surprise that I'm looking for something fun to do tonight; Halloween is the second most popular holiday in the United States (after Christmas).

I'm told by the staff here that there might be a few parties, but they're typically going to be small events in homes—nothing visible in the streets. Oh well…

I'm also asking staffers and travelers—I can't remember seeing such as concentration of Germans before—what there is to do during the day in Salta (as options aren't particular visible to me). Beer is the answer one staff member gave me, with a smile. Horseback riding, guided tours to nearby villages/landmarks, and some small museums seem to comprise the bulk of my options.

Instead of such things, I'd rather continue to try and relearn all the Spanish that I know—now totally wrong because Argentina has this crazy way of pronouncing double-Ls (as well as myriad other quirks). There's only a few Spanish-speaking countries that I haven't been in yet, so thankfully, this will be one of the last variations I'll have to adapt to.

Comments:

Jeremy

October 31st, 2006

Hey Craig,
If you are interested in having some actual Spanish classes, check out our website. I'm Australian and my wife is from Salta but we have been living in Australia for 13 years where my wife taught Spanish. We are currently in Salta for a year where my wife has been giving Spanish lessons to travellers like yourself.
Our contact details are here:
http://spanishcommunication.com/blog/?p=15

Erik

October 31st, 2006

Can't wait to see where you end up during the spring. I'd bet you'll still be in South America.

It's most likely that I will be wandering a chunk of eastern Europe for about a month then. Back to Prague and then Cesky Krumlov, Brno, Vienna and Bratislava. Not sure if I'll go north or south then. I could end up in Talinn or Dubrovnik. No clue yet.

Waiting for my Peace Corps application to process too. :)

Andy HoboTraveler.com

November 8th, 2006

Hello Craig,
Speak English to the girls and give them hope you are going back to the USA. Make sure the girls know you are from the USA, the richer girls in Argentina are keen on Americans and life was wonderful in Argentina for me. I have many nice memories…

The women do not want you to live in Argentina, they want you to live in the USA, their dream.

SH for LL
Worst place in the world is in Argentina to learn Spanish, or maybe Chile. Barcelona is also horibble, they do not even speak Spanish, it is Catalon, or something like that.

Go slower
What it the rush..

I just got back from West Africa, I am in Thailand, West Africa….

I have some stories to tell, but they do not need to be pubic.

Andy in Bangkok, recovering form malaria.

Argentina

Craig | travelvice.com

November 9th, 2006

(laughing) — yes, I'll speak only English and tell them all I'm a professional skydiver — returning to the USA in a few months…

I watch the look of heartbreak on the faces of the kids who come here to study Spanish when I tell them this variation isn't spoken anywhere outside of Argentina… Vos instead of Tu… SHH for the LL's… Crazy. :)

Venezuela

metodex

March 9th, 2011

i know im a few years late but the fact that andy said his conversations don't need to be "pubic" just made me laugh a lot.

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