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March 17th, 2012 | Argentina

Busy Day in Salta…

The size of Salta threw me…. Not because it is an especially big city, but more because I had something so completely different in mind when people started telling me that I must not leave this off my itinerary when I rode across northern Argentina…

I had pictured a small town in the foothills of the Andes, a quaint place full of country charm… What I got was the bustling capital of the region…!! Traffic up the wazoo, and crowded sidewalks…!!

But it is a great place….!! I was lucky enough to turn down a quiet side street off the main General San Martin Boulevard which runs directly from the highway and into the city….

The Hostal Las Marias... A great find in this bustling city...!!

The Hostal  Las Marias is the perfect spot to be based at… It has very secure parking, which is behind a 3 metre wall, and is locked behind a hug gate at all times of the day and night…. It has to be, because the owner, Augusto Delgado, has a small collection of vintage Ford cars and trucks parked there, which are priceless…!!

Don Augusto Delgado's 1932 4-Cylinder Ford B Series is in mint condition...!!

The rates are good, the internet signal strong, and the service friendly…!! There is a very large park on the corner and the main central square is just three blocks away… What more could you want…??

Here we go again...!! And I am NOT overloaded...!! I have seen bikes with far bigger loads than I am carrying...!! And I just recently sent two t-shirts and half a dozen maps home...!! So there...!!

What I did not want to see when I arrived and began taking all my gear off the bike, was a leaking shock absorber… After just 7000 km, it would seem that the Ohlins jinx had not left me after all…

If and when this one does give up the ghost completely, it will the fourth time it has popped on the GBWT…!! I do not think that Ohlins are about to make me their Roving Marketing Ambassador just yet…!!

I am not looking forward to the roads of Bolivia, where I am told, the ripio will put hair on my chest and ice water in my veins…!! Like I need either of those…!!

I decided that it was high time the Big Fella had a decent wash, and took him around the corner to a place called “Tweety’s Estacionamiento y Lava-autos” and got the two guys working there to give him a thorough “going over”…

I thought I heard a deep sigh of contentment as the he was being soaped down, but it might well have been one of the washing crew putting some effort into their work…

The boys from Tweety's give the Big Fella a wash...

The panniers got the same treatment… Besides the space I have allotted for the last 15 Flags, I have hardly any space for the stickers that are given to me as I travel the world…

Spick and Spanish... !! The Big Fella rolled out of the factory in Germany in March 2007, which makes him exactly five years old this month... Not in bad nick, considering he has 145 000 km on the clock now...!!

I rode into the town centre to look for an ATM, and came across this beautiful cathedral on the western side of the square… While I stood admiring the building, people stopped to admire the bike, and ask me questions… Many of them shook hands with me and wished me “Buen viaje…” (a good journey…)

Magnifico...!! And beautifully maintained... I stood staring at it for almost half an hour...

In the park behind me, a brass band was playing… People sat on benches or lay sprawled on the lawns, listening to the music… Kids chased each other amongst the shady trees, and pigeons crapped on the statues… Life was good…!! Except if you stood still long enough for the pigeons to mistake you for a statue…!!

A brass band played to the many people enjoying a lazt Saturday afternoon in the park...

My next "thing to do" required a different form of transport...

The last thing on my list to do today, was to take the cable-way up onto the mountain behind the city to get an overall look at the Salta valley…

Five blocks from the hotel is the city’s Teleferico, and for just 30 Pesos, it whisked me up the mountain in no time at all… Sharing the cable car with me were four Dutch tourists, and they were delighted when I began talking to them in Afrikaans…!!

On the way up, we looked back and all agreed that Salta was much more than we had bargained for…

The city, which is situated in the Lerma Valley region of the province, stretched out to the east and west of us, and to the north ran up onto the foothills of the Andes…

It is a major tourist destination, and up at the top of the hill, I heard people speaking in German, French and Italian…

I wandered around to the various viewpoints and then went over to the small restaurant and bought a bottle of water… It was baking hot, and the sweat ran down my back in rivulets…!!

From under the cableway, you can see that Salta is not a small town...!!

I had no idea that this was once the southernmost limit of the Inca Empire, and was only pushed back into Bolivia and Peru when the Spanish Conquest began…

I had noticed that unlike the southern and central parts of Argentina, up here in the north there was a stronger Indian influence in the make up of the population… They are darker skinned, have straight black hair and an almost oriental-like facial structure…

There are half a dozen small curio stalls that sell colourful hats, scarfs and other "wonderlike kak" as one of my friends back home would say...!!

Another country, another wedding...!! What is with nuptuals that seems to attract me so...?? I must have come across at least two dozen since I set out...!!

In keeping with the by now GBWT tradition of gate-crashing wedding parties, I went over to where a bride and groom were having their photos taken, and gave them the best advice I could think of under the present circumstances…

“Get yourselves into an air-conditioned room and consummate this thing before you melt…!!”

I could not give them any hand signals to explain what I meant, but I am fairly certain that they took my advice…!!

We laughed and chatted in Spanglish for a few minutes, before their “official cameraman” began clearing his throat to indicate that he was getting annoyed with the intrusion of the Gringo…!!

I wished them the best of luck, and got a kiss from both the bride and the groom, and an invitation to join them…!!

At least I think that was what it was…!! They mentioned the name of a hotel, and I am pretty sure I never once indicated a need for accommodation…!!

I rode the cable car back down the mountain with a local couple, whose five year old daughter plonked herself down on my lap, and gave me a running commentary of the what she was seeing…!! Her parents tried to pry her loose, but she was having none of it…

Blinded by the shiny bike, the hotel cat had to shade it's eyes....

She probably wondered who this strange man was, who could only nod and say “Si,si…!!” from time to time…!!

Back in my room, I planned a short ride south of Salta for the following morning, to see if I could find a way higher into the surrounding mountains… I had a strange desire to be alone with my thoughts and felt the higher up I got the better…

I was also keen to put the Big Fella through his paces before we began the much higher climbs in Bolivia and Peru in a few days time…

I also wanted to get the suspension and shock absorbers working hard to see if the leak was serious, or just some oil that had leaked out in the heat of the last few days…

I scrubbed and cleaned my riding kit in the shower, and hung it over the balcony to dry…

I figured with the Big Fella looking so clean, I should at least make an effort to match him…!!

©GBWT 2012

 

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