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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

The Last Days of Dulce de Leche

ARGENTINA | Saturday, 15 May 2010 | Views [2538] | Comments [1]

It was our fifth time crossing a border into Argentina. This time we had to traverse the Andes along a switchback road with twenty bends to get us up over the natural boundary, passing Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Americas and outside the Himalayas at 6960m. The landscape reminded us of parts of China and Tibet and afterwards we discovered this is where Seven Years in Tibet was filmed. Brad, where are you Brad?

Mendoza (aka Curse of the Dodd)

The Mendoza region is famous for its wine and the most popular trip for tourists is to spend a day cycling around the wineries. We intended everyday to do this. However, first Ryan caught a cold, then everywhere was closed for a national holiday, then it was Sunday and the wineries were only open for half a day, then we over-slept so didn’t have enough time to do a full day, then I caught Ryan’s cold, then, then...we gave up. By the sixth day we realised wine tasting was not going to happen for us so left it at that. Sometimes you just have to know when something has beaten you, or you have been cursed, and have a beer instead!

Salta

Catching our last long overnight bus in Argentina, we moved on to Salta, 18 hours into the North West corner of the country. Our hostel was putting on an Asado in the evening so we signed up for a feast. The night was shared by the 18th birthday party of the hostel owners granddaughter, so we were treated to local entertainment of Folklore dancing and singing. The adults and children where really talented and the young boys did a ‘dance off’ where they slowly build up momentum to a thigh slapping, boot stomping, leg kicking finale that was fantastic.

The lady dancers even managed to get some of the crowd to join in. Ryan tried to abstain but with two ladies on either side he couldn’t resist their charms.

Unfortunately, the curse of the Dodd returned with a vengeance when I woke in the night with a bout of food poisoning. After suffering all day, it was suddenly Ryan’s turn to come down with the same symptoms, only a lot worse and whatever it was we had eaten left us holed up in our room for the next three days. Thinking we were better, we would venture out into town only to find 10 blocks down the road that we were exhausted and needed to rest much more, so it was back to hostel until we were fully recovered. But what we did see of Salta was really lovely, the town has many original colonial buildings still intact.

Salta is home to the MAAM museum that contains the Llullaillaco children, three Inca children almost perfectly preserved after they were led to the highest mountain in the region and left to die as a sacrifice to the Incan gods. The high altitude and cold weather kept their bodies intact, so when they were discovered 10 years ago and moved to the museum in their mummy state, they still eerily look exactly as they did 400 years ago. Apparently, there are still hundreds of sacrificed children in the Andes today, which may never be discovered.

Salta sits in a valley on the edge of the Puna, the high altitude area of the Andes. To counteract the effects of the altitude you can find Coca and Bica on sale. Coca leaves are chewed in the mouth then Bica (like bicarbonate of soda) is added to increase the stimulant effect that helps reduce altitude sickness. It’s not addictive and only has mild effects, but of course the coca leaf is what cocaine is extracted from, so it’s not the most legal practice either.

Cafayate

Eventually, after days of recuperation we felt much better and decided to see the Cafayate region. The drive from Salta took us through the Valle Calchaquies, filled with rock formations created when two tectonic plates collided a few million years ago. The colours were remarkable along with the different views around every bend. 

We even got up close to a few iconic llamas! But beware, do not pat them on the head or ears as that will make them spit at you. Luckily we were warned before we got too close.

But the highlight of the tour was finally shaking off the ‘Curse of the Dodd’ and being able to visit some of the regions wineries at long last!

Humahuaca

The Humahuaca region north of Salta is one of the most historical of Argentina. It is said that every Argentinean has a part of them that comes from this North West corner because it’s the area where the war for Independence was fought and won in 1810. The area has great scenery including the Pumacara seven colours hill, the colours appearing from different stages of oxidisation of various minerals.

Quebrada de Humahuaca is a ravine leading up to the altiplano high altitude land with the town of Humahuaca based at the top. The town is full of cobbled lane ways lined with adobe houses made from mud and straw. The hillside is adorned by a giant bronze statue for the great leader of the Humahuaca people. The town also gives us a taster of things to come, with a large Bolivian population the changes of faces was notable. There was street food on offer on every corner along with pan pipe players tootling out familiar tunes. And we welcomed back street sellers trying to off load sombreros, ponchos and coca leaves at any opportunity.

So after just one night here, we board a bus to La Quiaca, the border town with Bolivia, over 5000km north of Ushuaia. Argentina is certainly one very long and changing land, but as we say Adios with a tear in the eye, I think I hear the pan pipes calling us to experience something new.

Argentina Observations

Dulce de Leche - Our first introduction to this was at our first breakfast in Argentina and I believe my words may have been ‘I can’t eat this everyday for breakfast it’s far too sweet’. 60 odd days in the country and we are addicted like the rest of the population. It’s everywhere, in liquors, cakes, biscuits, pancakes and of course ice cream. It’s caramel, it’s sweet, it’s gooey, it’s delicious. We are already wondering how we’ll cope without it when we leave, eyeing up 1kg tubs of the stuff in the supermercado and wondering how many we can squeeze it into our backpacks.

Ice Cream - Yes the ice cream here is amongst some of the best in the world, but don’t bother trying all the flavours, when the vendor asks what three flavours you want in the tub, the only answer is ‘dulce de ’leche, dulce de leche and dulce de leche’

Dogs - these are the coolest dogs in the world, including Scooby Doo dogs. They do have owners but are allowed to wander free in the streets and play their favourite game of chasing cars. We still haven’t worked out which particular car will make them bark; ten cars can pass by then suddenly the eleventh is the one that has the dog up at high speed barking at the top of its lungs running down the street. The nasty barking dogs are always chained up, thankfully, but do make for a good game of ‘how many dogs will scare the bejeezus out of me today’ Top score 7.

Islas Malvinas (Falklands) - we have mentioned this a few times and it’s a hard topic to to avoid as a Brit travelling this country, but whatever the islands mean to Britain, you can guarantee they mean 100% more to Argentina. It’s their land that’s for sure.

Meat - is always overcooked. We should learn to say ‘Please don’t overcook it’ in Spanish, but even over cooked it tastes good, just imagine what it’s like done properly.

Buses - These have to be the most comfortable buses in the world and it is worth spending the extra money to experience executive class, it’s so comfy you could tackle a 70 hour journey on one of those babies!

H’s - everytime we learn new words in Spanish that begin with H we forgot to pronounce it without the H, everytime! How many times in English are you told to pronounce your H’s properly but here that rule goes straight out the window. Just when we think we are mastering the language another Argentinean looks confused and says, oh you mean Elado not Helado (ice cream), Ambre not Hambre (hungry), Uevos not Huevos (eggs). We even met a lovely foreign coin collecting shop assistant called Herbert who would rather pronounce his name Erbert!

Mate - a traditional green tea drink, drunk from a specially made cup through a gauze. We have heard it is addictive, so much so that people carry flasks of hot water around under their arm all the time to ensure they can continually top up the drink. It’s also a sharing thing...pass it around.

Gauchos - we’ve seen real ones of these and they are cool dudes. They have perfected the weather-beaten look, donning berets and riding horses. I was too intimidated to ask any of them if I could take their photo, you’ll just have to imagine them for yourself.

Piercings -  everyone under the age of 25 has a piercing, but none are the conventional ones you are used to, more like someone has their cheek pierced, or their forehead or shoulder, it’s really strange. Or you see someone with what looks like a bunch of map pins of different colours dotted around their face. Is this catching on in other countries?

Music - every other day Rick Astley’s ‘Never gonna give you up’ comes blasting through a public speaker in a shopping centre or bus station. If not Rick, then it’s Belinda Carlisle or, a personal favourite, A-ha! Maybe they have Now 12 stuck in a tape deck somewhere in the system, but it’s always good for impromptu dancing and warbling in the supermarket aisles.

Argentina Summary:

Highlights

Favourite Place - Salta region (Jo)  El Chalten (Ryan)

Favourite Attraction - Evita Museum (Jo) Mount Fitzroy (Ryan) Perito Moreno Glaciar (Both)

Food - Birthday Waffle* (Jo) Patagonian Lamb (Ryan) Dulce de Leche in any form (Both)

Beer - Iguana (Jo) Beagle Fuegian Red Ale (Ryan)

* It did actually come with dulce de leche, que surprise!

Lowlights

Welsh Settlements (Both)

For those of you thinking of possibly travelling to the region: Costs in USD

Accommodation - $25-50 room in hostel (depends on season)

Restaurant meal  - $4-10

1L Bottled Beer - $1.50-2

500ml Soft Drink - 75c

1.5l Bottle of water - 50c

Bottle of wine - $3

Bus - $3 / hour

Until next time,

Jo & Ryan

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/

 

Tags: cafayate, dulce de leche, humahuaca, mendoza, salta

 

Comments

1

Sorry dudes - didn't mean for it to go quite that far, but hey, we were in freakin' IRAN. I can't help but find it slightly amusing to think of you guys cursing me as you fight past each other to assume the porcelain worship position (you know, the one that Catie knows so well). The curse has lifted and we've been downing cheap Aussie plonk for the past week in, um... Iraq. Let's hope we're not on the reciprocal end of the curse when we pass through the Baalbek in Lebanon in a few weeks' time.

Love
Nob

PS - Enjoy another season in the championship. I'll be enjoying Europe.....

  curse of the dodd Jun 1, 2010 5:15 PM

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