Notes from a traveller: part six

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Kaye has itchy feet. Again. Read why – and where they’re taking her – only on Just About Travel

Continued from 2 May

When I signed off my last letter, I was about to leave San Pedro de Atacama – aka the driest desert in the world – in Chile, for Salta in Argentina’s indigenous north west region, by bus.

The journey from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta

The journey from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta

The 10+ hour journey was spectacular taking in the otherworldly colours of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, hillsides and postcard pretty hamlets that have more in common with Argentina’s Andean neighbours – take a bow Bolivia and Peru – than they do with the rest of the country. However it was also a somewhat scary journey, particularly when crossing the border between Chile and Argentina. Turns out I didn’t have the required immigration card – reader, I don’t recall ever being issued one – which resulted in an immigration nightmare. Out of nowhere, the stern faced police and their sniffer dogs circled around me barking strange Spanish words which prompted panicked visions of the sorts of violence extortion that dominate South American news coverage back home.

However eventually, after they deduced that my Spanish was really not up-to the challenge of it, I was waived on and allowed to rejoin the bus which sailed onto Salta.

Landscape shot between San Pedro and Salta

Landscape shot between San Pedro and Salta

Speaking of Salta, I had been unsure whether to add it to my Argentina bucket list or bypass it in favour of returning straight to Buenos Aires but believe me: I’m glad I did. The charming colonial town certainly packs quite a punch with its various churches packed around cobbled squares thrown into relief by the steepness of Cerro San Bernado (for spectacular views of Salta and the surrounding region, take the cable car to the top from Parque San Martin). Just don’t make the mistake – as I did on day one – of exploring in the afternoon for Salta is a siesta city. Translation? Everything – churches, cafes, restaurants and shops – shut down between midday and 5pm. The locals return to the squares every evening though to eat empanadas (Salta is said to produce the best empanadas in the entire country) and catch a pinar (folk music concert).

Gorgeous Salta

Gorgeous Salta

Underrated Salta is also the gateway to gorgeous Cachi valley which offers travellers the chance to fill up the space on their cameras with Facebook worthy photos of gorges, bridges, striking cactus plants and snowcapped Andean mountains.

Colonial Salta

Colonial Salta

Sounds breathtaking? It is. If you’re reading this note, I take it you’re interested in travel meaning chances are you might be cursing my name by now and feeling a tad green over the landscapes I’m seeing and experiencing. I get that: whenever people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them that I am freelance travel journalist, they immediately assume that my life is a non stop conveyer belt of holidays, hotels and free meals and find it fascinating.

The verdant Cachi Valley

The verdant Cachi Valley

It’s time to set the record straight: I still work a solid nine hour day just like a lawyer, doctor, teacher, shop assistant et al. The main difference is that I get to select my hours and rather than be office based, I write alone on my bunk bed in my hostel dorm room (that I have paid for) wearing denim shorts (the traveller’s default uniform) with my laptop on a pillow in front of me.Trust me: there are definitely more glamorous, not to mention easier ways, to live and work and for my part I still long to be liked and accepted by the London job market.

Asado (barbecue) time...

Asado (barbecue) time…

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Catching a pinar (folk music concert) is a Salta must do

But the fact that that I am not and that I am instead here embracing Argentina is hardly a reason to hunker down in bed with a ginormous box of Quality Street. And whenever I do feel a wave of weariness or homesickness creeping up from somewhere one evening, I know that the next morning I get to wake up to a new experience where everything and everyone is exciting and that alone is enough to keep me smiling. Bottom line? Despite the downsides – the uncertainness and crippling insecurity – I get tremendous pleasure from travelling and writing, both of which give me a great buzz.

As does my beloved Buenos Aires. It was Jorge Luis Borges – Argentina’s most celebrated writer who famously said “I cannot believe that Buenos Aires had a start – she seems as eternal to me as air and water” but they’re words that resonate with me. I’ve been fortunate in my line of work to travel a lot but out of all the destinations I’ve been to, Buenos Aires remains one of the most beautiful and seductive – if troubled and tormented – cities on earth.

I could barely contain my excitement as I fiddled with my in-flight socks on the flight (I’m at an age and stage in life where I couldn’t face the thought of another epic overnight bus journey and have started to catch pan continental flights as frequently as I would the tube back home), the following thought ran through my head: I’m coming home.

Talk soon!



To be continued on 13 May

To read part one of Kaye’s ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, please click here

To read part two click here and here

To read part three, click here

To read part four, click here

To read part five, click here and here

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