Friday, 11 July 2014

Tucumán & Salta, Argentina: Día de Independencia - Independence Day

I arrived in Tucumán at 8am in the morning after a bus ride through the night. I found myself WiFi and got the address of a hostel. I was indecisive about whether to walk 40 mins or spend $3 on a cab ride following the warnings I received about Tucumán being the most dangerous place in Argentina. I decided to chance it and walk... I made it!

After settling into the hostel and taking a nap I met up with Patricia, an Argentinean girl from Couchsurfing, for a tour. Patricia took me to all of the main sites within the centre always with a big smile on her face. Tucumán is the 5th largest city in Argentina and is very crowded in the centre. It is also where the declaration of Independence was signed making Tucumán a very important city in Argentina and South America... as it turned out I arrived 5 days before Independence day. Tucumán is also the capital of the smallest province in Argentina also called Tucumán (the capitals of most Argentinean provinces share the same name as the province itself).

After returning I quickly got prepared for my second CS meetup to experience the night life of Tucumán. I met Julieta in front of a bar that was closed... good choice. We had dinner and snacks at a bar that was open followed by dancing the night away in a club. The security at the nightclub performed a rub down and used a metal detector before entry. Once we were through there was a table full of free lollies, I returned to this table many times. Upon returning to the hostel I handed over 100 pesos (about 10 bucks) for another night and passed out for most of the day.

Once I was up I was ready again. This time to experience my first full on house party in Argentina along with Julieta and her friends. The night involved 2 house parties, experiencing coca leaves for my first time and finally making it home at 10:30am which was 30 mins before checkout. I handed over another 100 pesos and had a short nap before watching the final of Wimbledon (which no one cared about) and seeing Argentina win another match in the world cup (which everybody cared about)... I slept well that night.

The next morning I decided to leave Tucumán 2 days before Independence Day, it was a tough decision but after experiencing how crazy Revolution  Day was in Buenos Aires it was probably a wise decision. I met Patricia, my tour guide, for a quick coffee at the bus station before taking off to Salta.

Saying Goodbye to the Hostel Staff

Salta is a large city in the very north of Argentina and the capital of the province of Salta. The people in the city appear very mixed in their heritage of both natives and European. The province surrounds the next province to the north (Jujuy) while also bordering Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay. There are a lot of beautiful landscapes, nature and wineries in the province of Salta but my trip was beginning to be constrained by time so I decided to stick to city.

I spent my days exploring, walking up an inner city mountain (Cerro San Bernardo), followed by running up the same mountain the following day (while also running into my Frenchy Friends from Valle Fertil), using the free outdoor gym equipment on top of the mountain while listening to the awesome music they had pumping (other cities take note!)... And watching Argentina beat The Netherlands in the semi-final of the world cup on Argentinean Independence Day.

Salta from on top of Cerro San Bernardo

A waterfall on the top of Cerro San Bernardo

Standard Argentinean Home Security

The celebration of Argentina defeating The Netherlands was possibly the most crazy celebration I've seen in my life. I watched the first half of the game in the main square but it was too crowded and squishy so I returned to my hostel to watch the second half with a big group of Argentineans. Every time Argentina won the citizens of every city would march to the main square for post match celebrations. I left the hostel with a group of Argies to the sight of people pouring out of every building (I thought the square was packed before). So many people were driving around in cars beeping their horns and shooting fireworks out of their windows. There must have been close to 1 million people filling the main square and the surrounding streets, going against the crowd was not a possibility.

After 3 nights in Salta it was time to head to my last province in Argentina, Jujuy, this time avoiding the cities and going straight to a little town very close to the border of Bolivia surrounded by ridiculous nature.

Next Stop Tilcara!

Lessons Learnt:
I can't escape the French.
Running up a mountain after 2 months of drinking and limited fitness is not a good idea.
Argentina knows how to celebrate.
Vegetarian Asian restaurants exist in the South American steak capital of the world (AKA Argentina).
The Inka tradition of chewing coca leaves gives you a nice buzz.

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