One of my biggest fears about going on a trip of this length and scale, was my health. Of course, I visited the travel nurse months before departing, sorted out all my vaccinations early on and read about the common diseases I could encounter on my way. But what worried me the most, was the fact that if I would get ill, I might not get the best medical attention, I might not get the medicine I need, and, most importantly, I would be in a strange country with not much of a support. Yes, I hear you say , but you are travelling with your boyfriend! Well, yes, but he is one of those wondrous types who rarely, if never, get ill. Or if he does, he just shrugs it off and gets on with his business, no biggie. I, on the other hand, am the delicate flower, who gets miserable when ill, longs for comfort, a friend to pat my back and someone to feed me soup. So imagine my horror, envisaging myself ill and bed ridden in some remote corner of South America. Little did I know, that I will find myself in an uncomfortable situation only 3 weeks into the trip.
It took us another long 4 days to get from Iguazu to Salta, our next destination. We would stay in Salta for few days, unload the bike to give it some rest, wash our clothes (bags of smelly clothes and all our riding gear, eww) and just sort out anything else that would require attention. I was positively hopeful, as Salta is one of the largest cities in the North East of Argentina, and it felt good to be in an actual city and stay in one place for a while (a luxury when you intend to travel for a long time).
The road to Salta was dreadful, especially the last days riding as there were construction works everywhere, parts of the road where badly damaged, with big holes, cracked concrete and, sometimes even unsealed. It was a slow and bumpy ride, so what a relief it was to see the city appearing in between long stretches of mountains.
We had booked a whole apartment to ourselves so we could enjoy some privacy and space for all our luggage. The place was called La Casita de Salta and it was pretty decent apart from a constant faint smell of gas from the big boiler in the kitchen (thankfully, it was not a gas leak).
We spent first couple of days wondering around the city replenishing our supplies, nothing extraordinary. For anyone passing through and in need of camping gear, I can recommend ACamPe (Caseros 121/Local ‘A’/Salta) – an outdoors shop, mostly catering to fishing and hunting enthusiasts, but with a decent supply of camping gear, knives and, most importantly for us, we found a gas cannister for those times when we want to cook some food in the wilderness. (Note, gas cannisters can also be bought in hardware shops or ferreterias, but the choice might be limited – we needed a propane and butane mix which works better in high altitudes).
Whilst walking around, we admired some of the artwork on the walls. I am against some random scramblings of teenagers who try to call it a grafitti, but what we saw, definitely added some character to the streets.
Salta certainly is a city, that has had less of European influence than other major Argentinian cities and there are many wonderful old buildings surrounding the cobbled streets. Indigenous people peacefuy cohabit with the locals making for an interesting mixture of cultures.
There is not a grand choice of attractions in Salta unless you want to splash out on some white water rafting or bungee jumping. Most of the things worth seeing require getting out of the city and getting to towns of Cafayate and Humahuaca (we visited Humahuaca on the way to Bolivia). We were stuck without a transport as Carl found a garage who could sort out our overloading problem, but it took a couple of days.
On one of those days we decided to take the cable car or teleferico to Cerro San Bernardo mountain . The cable car gives a great opportunity to take in some great views of the city from above for a reasonable price of $55 one way or $110 for a return trip. The mountain can also be accessed via steps which start near the Güemes Monument. We could not find the steps at first, so decided to get a ticket up and then see how and if we can get down on foot. Although there was nothing much to see on top of the mountain (There is a playground, fake waterfalls, little touristy stalls selling all the usual tourist stuff, few viewpoints and facilities, but any views are obstructed with branches of trees so no decent pictures can be taken. There is an option to rent a bike to do some downhill biking which seemed quite good fun, but it cost $150 per person so we skipped on that one) the ride itself was great. It lasted about 10 minutes max, with the cable car moving at approximately 2m/sec, allowing us to take plenty of pictures and admire the views.
The cable car or teleferico
We decided to walk down instead of taking the cable car again. It took us about half an hour maybe, but from seeing other people walking up, be prepared to walk at least an hour on the way up and sweat a lot.
I wish I would have known that the same evening I will get ill and the rest of my days in Salta will be spent in bed loosing any chance to take some more pictures and experience the local cuisine with rumours of best empanadas in Argentina.
I managed to get what is called Travellers Diarrhea. After extensively reading about it, it seems that it is common, and 20 – 60% of travellers catch it in this part of the world. Due to the fact that some parts of South America are still developing, the water is not always clean and, although I was drinking only filtered water all the time, it is easy to catch any parasites from fresh fruit and vegetables or dodgy street food places.
The symptoms include watery diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and loss of appetite. TD usually lasts 3-5 days and in most cases resolves itself. I was not that lucky, so had to seek out medical help later in Bolivia (I somehow managed one days ride to cross the border). As I am typing this, I am still ill, but I have some medicines so hopefully I will be back to normal soon.
Carl took wonderful care of me, buying me little scraps of food, if I could manage it, patting my back and listening to my weeping, but there were plenty of times I wished to be at home. Now when I am feeling better, I have taken the positive view, that this is all part of the bargain and can only make me (or my guts) stronger, and even when you find yourself in a bad situation in a strange country, there are people who will not hesitate to help – like the doctor who sorted me out in Bolivia, but that is something for another post.