Whilst the salt flats were absolutely one of the most incredible experiences of the trip, it’s fair to say we were pretty done with the altitude. The freezing cold nights, and getting breathless just climbing up the stairs for over a month meant we were excited to get to lower altitude. Luckily for us the border with Argentina was a lower altitude border, sitting at around 1,800m. We camped in the small town of Tupiza, the last major town before the border with Argentina.
We’d found an old large casa with beautiful architecture, which apparently had some Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids history (although we don’t want to do it an injustice by telling the story all wrong!). We planned on spending two nights before the border however the place got unbelievably busy. In the end there were c.20 overlanders with only 1 toilet! We decided to head into town for dinner and found a USA themed restaurant. They had some incredible food and real nachos – a nice thing to stumble upon!
The following morning we headed for the quiet border of La Quica with Argentina, our second last country! Entering was relatively easy, although the immigration officers wouldn’t accept a campground as a booking so we needed to make a hotel reservation on booking.com which we cancelled straight away free of charge. Turns out the Aduana (customs agent) on the Argentinian side was visiting London this summer! So we ended up giving him loads of tips on where to go and he was definitely the most friendly we’ve come across on the whole trip!
After entering we had a 5 hour drive to Salta but what awaited us was such an excitement – a real life supermarket! It had absolutely everything, and the wine and meat section was as big as we’d have hoped for in a country famous for steak and wine! We picked up some meat for cooking with our fajitas for the first time since Ecuador, and also a few bottles of lovely wine for a few quid. What a treat this was going to be! Then we drove to the municipal campsite, the only one in town. Unfortunately it’s a little worn down but at £2 a night it’s hard to complain. It featured easily the biggest swimming pool we’ve ever seen, which apparently takes a week to fill(!), but was empty as we’re officially now in low season.
The next day we went into Salta, but unfortunately as it was a Sunday literally everything was shut. The only places we could find open were those on the central square, so we enjoyed a coffee on the square for next to nothing which was a relaxing and European-esque experience. We came back to camp and tried again the next day, successfully changing our money at the change shops which were now open. We did the usual chore of getting a Sim Card and then it was time to have our first steak meal out. We shared a paradilla (a grill) of chicken, pork, steak, sausage and some less easy to define meats… The grill was £11 and we had a £5 bottle of Reserva Malbec which was truly delicious. We even had a complimentary limoncello after the meal – very Italian!
The following day we visited the Panaderia outside the campground for morning bread which was also pleasantly surprising. Then we both did a few laps of the big pool to get back into running now we’re lower down in altitude. Afterwards we headed back into the city to visit the famous museum, where they display the perfectly kept bodies of child sacrifices who were preserved due to the temperatures of the mountains. It was a sombre but incredibly interesting museum, with no photos allowed for fairly obvious reasons. Then, on the day we planned on leaving, it was the 1st of May aka Labour day so the whole country was shut down! This put a spanner in the works as it meant all the shops would be shut and we couldn’t stock up on supplies, so we relented and spent another relaxing day at the campground.
Finally, on the 2nd of May it was time for us to leave Salta! It had been a beautiful city and a fine introduction into Argentina but the wine region of Cafayate was calling, with far too many beautiful vineyards to visit!