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Day 42 – South America’s American Southwest (Through Chile to Argentina)

November 21, 2010

Location: Roads between San Pedro de Atacama, Chile and Salta, Argentina

Date: Sunday, November 21, 2010

There’s not much for me here in San Pedro de Atacama. There’s sandboarding (done it). There are geysers (done that, too). There are trips to Chile’s altiplano (done better). It is warmer than Bolivia, but that’s like being impressed that I’m less broke than MC Hammer. It also doesn’t help that Chile is almost as expensive as back home.

Knowing all that, Jamil and I opted to buy tickets straight away to Salta in Argentina instead of sticking around Chile. This morning we boarded an Andesmar bus with loads of other tourists and headed off. As we climbed into the Andes Mountains, the desert around San Pedro de Atacama gave way to the otherworldly desolation of the altiplano. A quick border stop at yet another isolated immigration station (second one in 24 hours) and we were in Argentina.

The drive up, through, over, and down the mountains was impressive. The roads were winding in that way South American roads always seem to be, doubling back and forth as if the highway designers were paid by the mile. Unlike roads in Bolivia and Peru, though, these roads were fully paved. I guess Argentina’s got some money (or a slave labor program).

During the descent, the canyons, red rock, and desert shrubs gave the place a New Mexico feel–the American Southwest grafted onto the Andes. There were, however, reminders that I wasn’t back home. The movies on the bus subtitled in Spanish. The bus driver crossing the double yellow lines to pass and make sharp curves. Road signs in Spanish. Che Guevara spray painted on a wall with a non-English rally cry. The bus stopping at a random intersection for 10 minutes so a bus attendant could buy himself snacks. Argentina might be a step ahead, but it’s still South America.

The sun set by the time we arrived in Salta. As hoped, the city was warmer at night than Bolivia in the day. I like Argentina already.

I Put It in My Mouth – A Periodic Feature on Food Told (Kinda) in Pictures

I’m in Argentina. It’s appropriate that the first night I have beef. At the recommendation of the Irish couple from the Salar de Uyuni trip we hit a restaurant in Salta. I was going for a straight up steak, but couldn’t pass up foie gras crammed into loin. It sounded decadent. It was. It was also cheap. The entree cost around $12. Not exactly a typical Argentinean dish, but for the price, it was worth it.

GALLERY: No bonus pics today.

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