Christmas in Salta, Argentina    

Image for Entry 1198526364 Our arrival in Argentina got off to a rough start. That is how borders go. Bus to Villazon (Bolivian border town); walk through crowded streets to the border; out of Bolivia--a breeze; into a long line for Argentina Immigration--a line that seemed to move 1 person every 15 minutes.

We were in a cluster of non-South Americans. Eventually a guard came and took all of our passports, pulled us out of the line and had us wait to the side. Too late I began thinking we should have asked for some ID or had someone tail him to make sure he was legit. Fortunately he was and soon returned with our passports all stamped with a 90 day Argentina visa. Then we had to fight for a taxi to the overcrowded bus terminal with very few benches so everyone was sitting on the ground. Where was the shiny and clean Argentina I'd heard about?

I managed to buy a bus ticket which was surprising because I could barely understand the Argentinian accent at all. Then we had an hour to wait. It started pouring forcing even more people to take shelter in the bus station. Our bus arrived and we boarded. As it started moving someone said it didn't go to Salta. After a panicked and confused discussion with the conductor, we realized our tickets weren't direct and we had to change at Jujuy at 2 AM. The conductor made fun of our Spanish. Later as he tore our tickets he tore off part of the other bus ticket. I noticed it and we asked him for it. He denied it until I begged him to look and he found it with his ticket stubs. Then he made a scene of explaining to us how we should take good care of our ticket stubs and don't let them out of our sight. I don't know whether it was a joke or he was just being a jerk.

At 2 AM we arrived at Jujuy. Rowshan had a cholesterol burger made from Argentine beef which contained: a big burger, egg, cheese, ham, mayo, ketchup and mustard all served on a bun toasted on a greasy grill. Our bus arrived early and whisked us off so we arrived in Salta at 5:30 AM.

The terminal was shiny, clean, bright and white. It looked like a modern airport.

As we surveyed the long line for an occasional taxi, and I stared with confusion at a map of the area, and we saw the shiny, clean terminal cafe with a pile of medialunas (croissants), we decided to enjoy the atmosphere of the terminal until the sun rose and we could tell which way was East.

At 6AM we wandered towards an area with hostels. The streets had a lot of people who were definitely not going to work but rather coming home from the clubs: girls in party clothing, guys sitting at outdoor kiosks eating cholesterol burgers; people finishing off bottles of beer in their cars... 7 hours and we had reached another world... South America had become Europe.

We ended up getting a room at El Andaluz, a colonial building with a courtyard, lounge area, kitchen and pool table. A group of us decided to do Christmas dinner both for Christmas Eve and Day. It was a nice international group including Americans, Norwegians, Brazilians, a Croatian, an Austrian, an Italian, a girl from the Netherlands and Mika, from Israel. It was Mika's first Christmas. We went to the supermarket and purchased a big hunk of meat as well as ingredients for rice pudding, Rowshan's potatoes, mulled wine and lots of beer and wine.

Christmas Eve dinner was a fun crazy success. The food was great. Mark's roast (and his fresh baked bread) was delicious. Rowshan's potatoes were brilliant as usual. We played a variety of music which encouraged spontaneous bouts of singing and dancing. We also had Norwegian rice pudding with an almond hidden. The person who found it would get a prize. Since Maren and Lana couldn't find the traditional marzipan pig (and figured the winner wouldn't appreciate the more readily available whole dead real pig) the prize was a panetone. There was even a point where everyone danced around a makeshift Christmas tree singing a traditional Norwegian Christmas tree song (though I'll admit this happened rather late in the evening after much consumption of alcoholic beverages).

Eventually we left the hostel and joined the fray in the night club district where we stayed out until 5 or 6 in the morning.

We had a relaxing few days in Salta. One day we hiked up a hill to a mirador with views of the city and lots of large caterpillars.

We also happened through the main square while some people were filming a music and dance program for TV and got to see some fine examples of local traditional music and dance.

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