Salta and Cafayate – Argentina

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SALTA

The cheapest way across Argentina meant it all – hitchhiking “hasta el fin”, making delicious stake meals for $2.5 , and CouchSurfing with random strangers.

When we arrived to Salta we had a Couch ready for us at our later-to-be friend Rosa who was a hostel host. Her house was outside of Salta and Jana, Rosa and I had to share a bedroom that has as big as a shoe box. Her and her family, however, took an amazing care of us. I also got to meet her crazy parrot that was running after my feet trying to bite me. What a creep!

I fell in love with Salta upon arriving but after a few days it all lost it charm. I was getting really tired from my 11 months trip. We went out a couple times to dance salsa. Unfortunately, nobody knew how. Then, we went shopping, ate lots of fried empanadas, met the nicest guy from Caledonia and after a few days decided to take off to Cafayate.

CAFAYATE 

It was such a brief visit that I have almost forgotten about being there. Cafayate is a nice little village with wineries and a canyon that looks something like Utah.

Jana and I decided to climb to a few waterfalls. On the way to the National Park we were offered a ride by two Argentinian actors. They could probably tell we were professional hitchhikers even without sticking the finger and the sign out.

We gladly accepted the ride and even hiked with them the first part of the trail. The guide was necessary for climbing but our “cheap” way of travelling forbid us to pay and we even convinced the Argentinians to go for free.

The climb was tough. I have never done so much wild bouldering in my life! Good thing the Argentinians had a thermos of rewarding mate and invited us for a traditional asado and beer dinner.

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Tips for Hitchhiking – Argentina

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General lessons learned from a one month hitchhiking from the North to the South of Argentina.

TIPS FOR HITCHHIKING:

-Stand in a place for a car to see you and have time and place to stop

-Hitchhike from a small village, gas station, hwy, rest area

-Never hitchhike from downtown or get dropped off in the city

-Walk the direction you want to go

-Made an eye-catching sign and yourself pretty, but not too pretty to attract the wrong drivers

-Dress warm, put sunscreen and have food and water. You never know where you might end up.

-Have a back-up plan and a pepper spray ready.

-GO WITH YOUR GUTS!!!! and do it TO THE END!!!! 

 

“We live here” – index finger down and an “sorry” face

“Good luck to you!” – waving at us, laughing, and telling a joke to a co-driver friend

Hitchhiking in Argentina – “a dedo”

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We crossed the border, walked a few meters to the nearest gas station and said – LETS HITCHHIKE! Guess what? Not the best idea. Nobody stopped. People were laughing, passing us, and we were hot and miserable on the corner of unknown town with our sign.

We decided to take a bus to  Humahuaca and try again. Walking to the terminal of La Quiaca we got our breakfast empanadas where they had the best promotion I have seen: 1 empanada for 3 pesos or 3 empanadas for 10~! Them we bargained to get cheapest fare to La Quiaca  and settled in a comfy bus.

After an hour ride the bus was stopped and everyone had to get out to form two lines: men separately from women. Our bags were examined with strong hands of handsome draconian Argentinian officials and the bags of Argentinians and Bolivians were emptied, thrown on the dirty ground and kicked with worn black leather boots. My heart was all torn up.

When we finally got to Humahuaca everything was closed and as we learned later, Argentina went into a massive across-nation nap and rest between 1pm and 4pm.

We walked to the nearest highway, got the sign out and tried again. We read a few blogs about hitchhiking and it said your could be waiting long, be discouraged but have to be persistent.

So were and it only took us 15 minutes before a big truck rolled to the side of the road and picked us up. Jana didn’t speak too much Spanish and I had to do the job. The guy was super nice and took almost all the way to Salta where our nice CouchSurfing host Rosa was waiting for us to take us to her house.

Crossing into Argentina – 5121km to the End of the World

It’s time to start the last chapter of my adventure – Argentina. One month left and the plan is to do 5121km south (3182 miles for you Americans) and then 2043km (1270 miles) back north to Buenos Aires.

The distance and the time frame is not the hardest. Jana had the craziest idea – hitchhiking. 

– No way, I said.

I was terrified. Even with all my love, faith and confidence into my free-spirited, adventurous and brave friend Jana, I thought she had an insane plan and I was about to become a part of it.

– Com’n now!!!  -said Jana – we are not paying hundreds of dollars for bus tickets in Argentina. And… she was right.

It was the craziest idea for two girls to travel “a dedo” – hitchhiking across a huge country where you could only hear about people being robbed.We asked for a cardboard in the border town of Villazon (Bolivia), bought a thick black marker, drew “HASTA EL FIN” and headed to the border.

HASTA EL FIN (To The End) had a lot of meaning for us. It was travelling to the End of The World, being  at the very end of out trip, and coming to the end of our personal journey. And… one, two, three – awh!!!

THE BORDER CROSSING: was the easiest I have experienced in Latin America. Exit stamp – boom, chit-chatting with the border officials, enter stamp – boom and we were walking towards the sign that said “5121km to Usuaia” – our destination.

US DOLLARS IN ARGENTINA: OJO!  Before you cross into Argentina be aware of the monetary system. Full-fill your pockets, money belts, bras, and underwear with US Dollars. Also, the closer you are to the border, the better is your exchange rate. But, careful, don’t change all of your bucks because the exchange rate jumps up and down.

GETTING US DOLLARS IN VILLAZON: There was just one ATM that would give you US dollars in Villazone. If go to the main park plaza, then one block down and one block up towards Bolivia, there is going to be one ATM hidden under the trees that will give you US Dollars. Get your pepper spray out and go in groups or at least couples.

Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia

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Well, this is something you must see and you should but don’t spend 4 days there. We did and all I can remember now about it is being squished in a dirty jeep with seven others, getting out to pee in the open desert, taking picutures and seeing lagunes, after lagunes and after lagunes.

A two day tour would be a great trip. Good thing my funniest friends Jana whom I volunteered with in Ecuador and I got lots of beer. Otherwise we would be bored out of out minds.

When we finally got back to the Uyuni village, we couldn’t wait to get to a clean place, take a shower and get rest from a 4-day sitting in a car.

We took a bus to Tupiza where we had an intense preparation for expensive Argentina. We did all the laundry, went to a beauty salon and caught up with blogs.

WHERE TO BOOK A UYUNI TOUR: We did it on the tourist strip, south of Plaza de San Francisco. Look well for deals and bargain! The more people you get, the most likely you will get the price down. If you have an Izraeli friend, ask the m to get a deal. We paid 700 bolivianos for 4 days each.

TAKING BUSES IN BOLIVIA – TOURIST VS LOCAL: Well, if you freak out about your life a lot then take a tourist bus. However, I am not sure what the difference it makes if a non-tourist bus-driver hits you and your tourist bus would get crashed. The tourist bus from La Paz to Uyuni was full of gringos. It felt disgusting. On the way from Uyuni to Tupiza we took a local bus and were just fine. So, it’s up to you. I can’t give an advise on this one but I think you can see what my opinion about this is. Why pay more if you can die either way? 🙂

La Paz – Bolivia

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Running to catch a bus from Copacabana to La Paz, we tacked into a small mini van and were on the road to the capital. It took about 5 hours and around 10pm we arrived to a bus terminal of dirty, loud, crazy, scary and ugly La Paz.

I refused to plan or book any hostels so my friend Isa and I crossed the road from the terminal and headed to the first sign that said “hostel.”

Little we knew that the whole city and country was about to be closed for a day of census. That meant we only had two hours to find a place to stay, something to eat, and get newspapers for the next day of doing nothing.

The next day was spent in the hostel hanging out with other people, surfing the net, drinking beer and chewing one-day-old soaky french fries. That one day of census also put us a day behind with a travel plan. Another day in La Paz needed to be spent to get to know the city.

There is one “must” you need to do in La Paz – go shopping. Bolivia is quiet cheap and before Argentina it might not be a bad idea to be loaded with a pair of cute jeans. And don’t forget to check to witch market for special aromas for love and happiness! With that cute outfit and love luck, you might be out of South America with a cute boyfriend. Ay-ay-ay!

HOSTEL IN LA PAZ: Bash and Crash Hostel (if you get an Inca card, you can get a special discount)

PLACES TO SEE: El Mercado de las Brujas

Copacabana – Bolivia

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PLACES TO STAY: El hostal Andino (15 bolivianos per night) – walking up the main street like going to the mercado.  In Copacabana it’s worth climbing up the the top to view the lake.

BOATS TO ISLA DEL SOL: 25 bolivianos. North part is the best

Copacabana, Puno York – from Peru to Bolivia

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Two months in Arequipa, Peru flew by. They were full of joy, happiness, amazing work with children, teaching salsa, but sadness and difficulties at the same time. I got too overwhelmed with the everyday life and was ready to leave.

Before crossing the border with Bolivia, we headed to Puno on the south of Peru with Vincente and Motta to see my best Arequipeno friend Manu. We took a boat to the Uru floating islands, ate a humongous trout and went to the most unusual Birthday party in the middle of nowhere with lots of pigs.Then, Vincente, Isa and I took a bus to Copacabana. On the border I was asked to pay $56 to get a visa. I am happy I did not mention that I live in the USA.

Otherwise, I would have paid $150.

Copacabana seemed like a pretty nice little town with Lake Titicaca view allover. Unfortunately, it was full of gringos like us. We didn’t really feel the difference between Peru and Bolivia until we went to a restaurant to have lunch. The service was very slow, the portions were tiny and the prices pretty high. Who said that Bolivia was that cheap?

After a night in Copacabana, we said goodbyes to Vincente and took a boat to the Isla Del Sol. (Island of Sun). It was great but the whole way through we basically slept on a 4-hours boat ride. The guide was great, we learned a lot though.

When we got back, had to catch a bus to La Paz.

In the world’s deepest canyon! – Cotahuasi, Peru

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HOW TO GET TO COTAHUASI: You would need to get to Chuquibamba and from there take a local transportation that leave at 6am from the mercado (infront of the green little tienda).

TO GET TO CHUQUIBAMBA: We took Transportes Alex (the cheapest at that time), but Transportes Reyna and Transportes Eros Tour go there as well.  The price was about 35 soles, 5 hours.

LODGING: There is no official lodging. You have to knock on the doors at the village. They charged us 15 soles for a matrimonial bed and 10 each for a double.

                                           BRING LOTS OF WATER!!!!

Have you even been so thirsty that you feared not to make it?

Kelly and I decided to hike the deepest canyon of the planet. We left at 6:30am with a block of salty cheese, six pieces of bread, two mandarins and 1.2 liters of water each.

The morning was pretty chilly but as we walked and the sun was climbing up, we kept putting more sunscreen, taking more cloth off and drinking more water. Up and down the hill, the trail didn’t seem difficult but the sun was killing us.

After 7 hours of hiking I asked Kelly:

¨How are you doing?¨ ¨

¨So thirsty¨´ said Kelly. Her eyes were saying it all.

´¨Do you still have water? Drink it´¨ I said, ¨´we are close¨´

¨¨I am not going to finish my water¨´ said Kelly.

According to the map, we were supposed to reach a village a long time ago, but the road seemed to continue on and on. Throu my mind were going three things:

-Water

-Fear

and… how are we going to survive?

We were thinking about the last mandarin we have left, a bit of cheese, warm coat and towels to cover ourselves during the night, and water from the river. The worst feeling was the THIRST! We were dehydrated from toes to ears, our brains were exhausted and lips dry.

I looked at Kelly and all I could think was: ¨´we are close, we couldn´t have missed it!¨

¨´watch my bag, I will be back¨, I got the last bit of my energy and went back on the road. I climbed up.

´¨A village!´¨ I started waking faster. There was a facet. With hunger and thirst, I opened it up and got my hands full of water!

We had to find lodging. After knocking on a few doors, I finally found a man who was willing to host us. I asked for a 2.5L bottle of water, drunken half of it and run back with it to where I left Kelly.

We were saved!

The next morning we left at 5am to make the same route back to another village to take a bus. That time, we had enough water but were terribly existed from the hike. In 24 hours, we walked 42km.

I think that was one of the hardest hikes I have done! But having a good friend near and a beautiful view made it unforgettable!