sorry no photo of the festivities. but here's a photo from around Salta, appropriate because I was feeling a little penitent the morning after most of my nights in town.
What makes a good hostel, good? Sure there are the amenities (wifi, comfy beds, hot water and a clean kitchen) but there are also the people. And oddly enough, the hostels with the most amenities don’t always have the best people. So it’s rare when you get to a place where you have both packages. This hostel had everything. Perhaps it was because the owners, German and Eduardo, actually live there and actually made you feel like guests in their home. But the good company was the reason I wasn’t feeling so great this morning. Because of Tasha and Silvie, we had gone through the wine we’d meant to drink over our entire stay. But they were also one of the reasons we weren’t in any hurry to move on.
German tried to tempt us out with a visit to the small town of San Lorenzo. And even though most folks come to Salta to check out the surrounding countryside, I didn’t feel up to it. Besides we’d just come from the salt flats and seen all the rocks and desert we needed to for the moment. But Tasha and Silvie, those troopers, were all for it. They headed out while it took Adrian and I a little longer to get moving. But we did have to move. Thanks to an unfortunate incident with a wicker chair on the Isla del Sol, I needed a pair of pants and shorts to replace the convertible pants that were now shredded. Of course by the time we finally made it out to the pedestrian shopping area, it was siesta time in Argentina. We discovered that although it was Monday, all the stores were closed between 2 and 5. Yes, all of them. The imposed break gave us a chance to scope out our best bets for cheap shopping for clothes that might fit. And even walk to the bus station to buy our tickets to Mendoza for tomorrow. Then we camped out at the department store and as soon as the shutters were lifted we stormed in. In the uniform section we found a pair of good quality guide shorts that fit. However, the convertible pants were sold out in my size. Too bad, I was just getting into this shopping thing.
When we got back to the hostel, Tasha and Silvie were back and there were a few new arrivals. A couple from Singapore traveling with their young daughter, two French girls and two 30-something Brits, Del and Andrew. Andrew immediately tried to chat up the French girls in French but that seemed to drive them into their room for the night. Undaunted the Brits headed out to the grocery store to get food returning with little food and three bags of alcohol. Adrian was holed up in the lounge watching NFL highlights on the computer and I went to join him but they insisted that I, Tasha and Silvie stick around for a few drinks. They were only here for two nights as part of their two-week whirlwind tour of South America so they wanted to make the most of it. Uh-oh it was going to be one of those nights. They were good fun and even brought out the 8-year old Singapore girl early on. No, she didn’t drink with us. But she did enjoy mixing weird concoctions from Andrew's equally weird collection of alcohol that he actually drank. Fortunately for Andrew’s liver, she soon had to go to bed. But then it was time for German and his girlfriend Fabianna to join in. They had some time to kill while the suckling pig they were BBQing cooked. German brought out all the bottles of assorted alcohol left over by previous guests. A couple of sips into many of the bottles, and we had figured out why the liquor was left behind. Most of it either tasted of cough syrup or paint thinner. At this point, German thought it would be time to introduce all of us to the joys of Fernet, Argentina’s favourite liquor. Tasha and Silvie had already tasted it so they were excused. But Andrew, Del and I hadn’t. I tried to beg off but Andrew insisted I try it since it was so tasty. I should have know when he reached for his camera that I was in trouble. Somewhere out there in the cybersphere there is a video of me gagging as I spit-taking a tall shot of straight Fernet – a drink traditionally mixed with Coke.
I begged off any more drinks but hung around with the gang until 1am. I have no idea how late they went and I have no idea how the lads managed to get up for their early morning salt flat tour. But they did. When Adrian and I got up they were gone, as were the Asian family and the French girls. We just caught Tasha and Silvie as they headed out for a day of horseback riding and said goodbye. They were all a good laugh and it was too bad we were heading in opposite directions. That’s the problem with backpacking – you meet people whose company you enjoy and then you’re off, probably never to run into each other again. Of course if you run into people you don’t like then you’re happy about it. But we liked Silvie and Tasha and it was too bad we wouldn’t see them again. And as for Del and Andrew, well tomorrow they were headed to Rio and then Peru before running back to the UK. That was probably good thing, or so my liver told me.
Just after noon we checked out and headed to the bus station, grabbing a sandwich on the way. I’d heard so much about the comfort of Argentinean buses and was slightly disappointed to discover it was the same old type of bus we’d been on for the last few months. But then again we’d refused to pay $100+ dollars for the executive class upgrade. What was different about the bus ride, was the ayudante who was more like a cross between a flight attendant and Julie the cruise director from Love Boat. He led us in a game of bingo for a prize bottle of wine. It was good practice for our Spanish numbers but after last night’s festivities I was glad neither Adrian nor I won. Then it was dinner and movie time. I have to say the food was pretty good, except for the mystery sandwich meat. Just before it was time for bed, the bus pulled in to the town of Tucuman and Adrian and I hopped out for a cigarette break. Looking up from the ground, I saw a familiar face. At first I couldn’t place the guy, but I knew I knew him. And then it clicked, I actually had never met him. Him was Danny and beside him was Jillian. They were another couple I’d been emailing back and forth with ever since we discovered we were taking almost the exact same route through the same countries at the same time. We’d tried to meet up a few times but had kept missing each other. Now here we were, in a small town about to be on the same bus heading to the same time. We briefly chatted before we were hustled on board. Unfortunately their seats were at the opposite end of the bus. But we made plans to chat when we got to Mendoza the next morning. That’s the good thing about backpacking, you never know who you’ll run into or when.