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Northern Argentina: Shake Hands with Beef

ARGENTINA | Thursday, 3 November 2011 | Views [1885] | Comments [1]

Incredible view! Nice waterfall too. Hahaha. Sorry.

Incredible view! Nice waterfall too. Hahaha. Sorry.

Coming from the intensity of Potosi in particular, and 3-odd months in Peru and Bolivia, Argentina seemed a bit of an oasis. The roads weren’t terrible, you could (safely) drink the water, butchers decided to spring that bit of extra cash on refrigeration and for the first time in a long time, we weren’t 3000+ metres above sea level: basically, it was suddenly all so easy. Our first stop in our short trip through northern Argentina was in the city of Salta.

Salta is smack-bang in the middle of Gaucho territory. Gaucho’s are the Argentine equivalents of cowboys. So it was, that we decided (after a couple of days of relaxing, eating empanadas and drinking beer and cheap Argentinian wine) that we would try out horse riding. We’d been recommended Sayta Ranch by some other travellers, so we got in contact with them and arranged a half-day trip.

Now, I’m not really a horse person. I don’t really trust these walking glue-pots, and find a couple of hours in the saddle anything but a comfortable experience. But the thought of guiding (using the term loosely) a few hundred kilo’s (is that what a horse weighs?) of horse flesh across rivers, fields and valleys, under the watchful eyes of someone who knows what they are doing: that sounded too good to pass up. We arrived at the ranch mid-morning, had some breakfast and met our fellow apprentice gauchos, before being assigned our horses. I felt mine looked friendly enough – no psycho eyes, he didn’t try and bite me, so all good. I hopped on and stayed on: maybe this wouldn’t be so tough after all.

Horses so good, I could ride them. I even cantered!

The trail took us through some great scenery: we passed a bit of farmland, before veering off into a creek bed, all the time pinching mulberries from the trees aside the pathway. Over time, I felt more comfortable in the saddle, and even decided to try my hand at trotting. Bron (who’s a little more experienced with horses) explained you needed to rise once for every two steps, which made trotting a lot more enjoyable, and by the end we were trotting as much as walking. After a wee bit, we stopped, and led by the guides, we got to try galloping! Needless to say, I was shitting myself, but trying not to show it. I was in the third pair to go: I held on tight, don’t think I breathed for the whole stretch, but when we stopped, I was still attached to the horse, and I had a massive rush of excitement. We then had our second gallop: Bron’s technique was good enough that she was allowed to gallop on her own, but I still needed the horsey training wheels of the guide keeping one hand on my reins. I was ok with this. The second time was much more comfortable: at no point did I feel imminent death approaching.

During the 3 hours riding, I felt I’d been transformed. I get why people enjoy riding now. I really think it’s something that, given the opportunity to practise and learn, I could get into. That’s not a particularly likely scenario, but still, maybe we’ll get some more chances further on in South America. The best bit was still to come. After the ride, we were treated to a massive asado (Argentinian barbeque), with loads of salads, half a dozen types of beautifully cooked meats and all the wine we could drink, while we sat around and chatted about travel, life and politics in a food coma.

Afterwards, they fed us a huge asado and all the Argentinian wine we could drink

Later that afternoon, we had a night bus to Puerto Iguazu, stopping at San Ignacio Mini: some old Jesuit ruins. The ruins were interesting, and it was refreshing to see some European history where the settlers didn’t come across like assholes. Basically, the Jesuits tried to instil Christianity onto the natives, whilst also respecting their traditional beliefs, and cultivating a culture of art and music. They fought the other Europeans to try and prevent the enslavement of the native people. Not surprisingly, the powers that be ended up removing the Jesuits, and sending them back to Europe. Oh well. The ruins were nice - different from everything we'd seen so far.

Our last stop in our foray into northern Argentina was Puerto Iguazu, the town servicing Iguazu Falls. As well as seeing the falls, we had to arrange a Brazilian visa: not a difficult thing to arrange, but due to a combination of our arrival late in the week and stupid opening hours for the receipt of visa applications, our intended 2 day stay turned into a 6 day stay.

The Iguazu Falls are truly amazing. From the Argentinian side, you see the falls piecemeal, starting with some of the smaller isolated falls, and ultimately coming around to a view point where you can see the falls stretching out in front of you for hundreds of metres. The waterfalls are around 2.7 kilometres wide and an average flow rate of 1750 kL/sec. When we were there, they were particularly high water conditions (flow rates maybe 3 or 4 times average): amazing! Standing in the walkways, you get drenched with mist, both Bron and I couldn’t stop giggling like school children. The final point is the Devil’s Throat – almost like a sinkhole in the middle of the falls, with water thundering down on three sides around you. The site was so amazing, we visited it twice.

As well as the waterfalls, the national park is full of animals. Whilst walking along the paths, we saw coatis (one of whom stole a packet of pretzels out of Bron's hand), toucans, vultures, eagles, thousands of butterflies, monitor lizards and all sorts of other birds and reptiles. Monkeys and caiman live in the park, although we couldn’t spot either. The songs of birds mingles with the roar of the falls to create an atmosphere that makes it easy to forget the thousands of tourists at the site. The walkways within the park are beautifully thought out – this really is a special place, and one of the best sites we’ve visited on our trip.


Tags: argentina, waterfalls





We really liked your post and decided to feature it on the WorldNomads Adventures homepage so that other travellers can enjoy it too.

Happy Travels!

  Kate Hoffman Nov 28, 2011 10:54 AM

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