I just arrived in Salta, Argentina ... nicknamed `La Linda` (`the fair` or `the beautiful one`) because it apparently is very lovely, with magnificent colonial architecture and a beautiful setting in the sierras. I can`t really vouch for that yet, since I`ve spent the day mostly lounging around; what I did see on my walk from the bus station to the hostel this morning did look very pretty, though.
This has long been intended (well, for a month or so anyway) to be my most northerly stop in Argentina. I hadn't quite realized just how bloody big Argentina is, or just how long it would take me to meander my way here! But I arrived this morning, at last, off a very plush and comfortable bus ride -- complete with complementary malbec -- from Cordoba, Argentina.
Now that I'm here, I'm stopping for a bit, here and in Cafayate. You may have read my previous rants and gathered that I'm probably overdue for this; sleeping in the same bed for more than a night or two will feel like a royal treat. I might even splurge and stay at an actual hotel (i.e. have my own room, with no bunkbeds or roommates) in Cafayate ... Sarah or Steve, if you're reading this, where did you stay when you were there? (And would you recommend it?)
I'll have a couple of days of enforced idleness, even if I felt like running around madly (which I don't); Monday and Tuesday are national holidays in Argentina, as May 25th is the 200th anniversary of the revolution that gained them their independence from Spain. As a result, many things are shut, aside from the restaurants and cafes; I couldn`t play tourist even if I wanted to. So my plan for tomorrow involves nothing more ambitious than parking myself on the hostel`s patio, with a glass of torrontes and a good book (I found an Anne Tyler and a John Irving in the last hostel`s book exchange, both of which I am very excited to read).
And I`ll do some thinking about plans beyond Salta. This is where I`m starting to tie myself in knots as I try to figure out options, so I`m probably going to ignore the whole issue tomorrow and get lost in a fictional world. The problems of Anne Tyler`s characters are usually quite absorbing, so I doubt I`ll be thinking too much about my own dilemmas.
My original plan was to head from Salta to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, and from there organize a trip through the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni into Bolivia (at least a 4-day excursion). But I`m conscious that it`s the end of May, almost, and I still haven`t made it to Cuzco -- my four `must see`s` in South America on this trip when I started out were Easter Island, Mendoza/wine country, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Everything else I saw, I thought, would be gravy but I wouldn`t be too upset to miss other stuff. Well, I`ve got two of those things still to do -- and I`m still determined not to miss them! -- so part of me just wants to get to Cuzco, and then to Quito, so I can organize those trips. I decided to cancel my Inca Trail booking, so I could do one of the alternative treks instead; now, I`m quite glad of that, as I`d otherwise have to be in Cuzco and starting the hike next week! (And I have one very sore heel that would seriously undermine my hiking ability right now.)
I`ve also realized that travelling through Bolivia would take a lot of time and effort, as their bus system is nothing like Argentina`s. Flights from Bolivia to destinations out of the country are either non-existent or expensive, so my Plan B of simply flying onward from Uyuni to Cuzco doesn`t look possible either. Then I thought maybe I`d just skip the salt flats, and fly directly from Salta to Cuzco; well, there are flights, but they`re about $900. That`s just a wee bit steep for my budget, particularly after I already took an expensive (but worth it) detour to Easter Island. And I don`t really want to skip ALL of Bolivia, just the scary bits (La Paz).
I went online and found a travel agency in Salta that does a Salta-Salar de Uyuni-San Pedro trip in about 5 days, which is much faster than I`d ever be able to do it on my own. Plus, I like the idea of having travel companions for a few days! From San Pedro, I could carry on over the border into Peru and be in Cuzco before too long, so it just might work. I`ve emailed the company in question, but probably won`t hear back till at least Wednesday (everything being shut, as I mentioned).
So I don`t know, really, what I`m going to do. I think I`m just going to put the question out of my mind for a few days and just relax: read, write, go for walks, review my Spanish course books (I have become too used to just using basic Spanish and switching to English if I get stuck; I`d like to refresh my memory). Maybe after a few days to recharge, all will become clear. Or at least maybe I`ll just be able to pick a plan and go with it, instead of ruminating endlessly and driving myself completely mad.
Oy vey. This travel stuff is not a walk in the park, but I`m going to have such a sense of accomplishment by the time I get home. (This is important for us Type A, overachieving, first-born children so that`s a really good thing.) And I`ve learned some stuff along the way; no, I haven`t figured out the big question of `so what do I want to do with my life when I get back home?`, but I do realize now, at least, that I like having a home base (so I won`t became a total nomad) and I like having a purpose/goal other than `what do I feel like doing today?`(That`s good in the short term ... but as a lifestyle, it wouldn`t work for me.) And I really, really like to write, as I`ve learned from writing this blog; it`s gratifying to know that people out there are reading it (I love it when you comment!) but I`d do it anyway, because it makes me happy. Maybe I`ll even dust off my mystery novel again over the next few days and get writing some fiction, too.
Anyway, I think I`ve probably done enough rambling for the moment. I`m also hungry, so I`m going to go cook my dinner -- I`m excited about that, I found lots of vegetables and spices at the market and am going to make my favourite arrabiata sauce. With perhaps another glass of torrontes to wash it down ... bottoms up!