Population of Argentina:40million.
Population of dogs in Argentina: about the same.
Number of piles of dog poo dodged each day: hundreds.
I kid ye not, there are millions of dogs here, most apparently strays but they also appear well fed and cared for, and I have been known to save my brekkie on numerous occasions to feed a few.
Much to our relief, Argentina is much cheaper than Brazil. After living Richard Branson´s lifestyle on Oliver Twist´s budget, it was time to reign in our spending a little. We decided to explore the city by subway to save money (one journey on the tube is only .90 pesos, which is less than 20 pence), and bumped into a Brazilian guy who we´d met at the bus station the previous day who obviously had the same idea. Luckily Adriano, as he was called, informed us that he was a "Paulista" (resident of Sao Paulo) just before we were about to launch into a tirade about how awful a city it was, and our least favourite place in the whole of Brazil. For once, I managed to stop myself from putting my size 8´s in my mouth.
We explored the city with Adriano for several hours, before breaking off on our own to go for lunch. We wandered down by Puerto Madero, a port which is similar to London´s Docklands, with huge skyscrapers and flats alongside the river, combined with swanky restaurants and bars.
Much to our delight, it was possible to get a delicious 3-course lunch with complimentary champagne and a bottle of wine for about 25 quid for both of us!
Compared to the aformentioned deep-fried everything in Brazil, this was absolute heaven, with perfectly-cooked steaks and luxury chocolate deserts. What with the beautiful view over the river and lovely hot sun, this had definitely been the best food we´d sampled so far.
After lunch we continued exploring the city, although after all the wine and champers it ws pretty hard not to crack up at the most inappropiate things, and we ended up having to leave the cathedral in a hurry as we had a fit of the giggles...
That evening the hostel had organised a pub crawl, and we should have realised from this title that it was going to be a trashy affair aimed at 18-year olds. When we realized that the meeting point for this bar crawl was the local town square we were not impressed, and I was suddenly overcome with memories of getting bladdered on Diamond Whites down Danson park.
The bars they took us to were actually pretty nice, but there were a couple of irritating Americans who were cramping our style. As I was also a bit hungover from lunchtime and tired from all the sightseeing I was not in the mood to suffer fools, and dealt them a swift blank.
The evening culminated in a visit to a club called Lost, appropriately named as I managed to lose Liam when I went to the toilet (yes, I know I´ve done this several times before girls), then also managed to lose our Mastercard. . Doh!
The next day we visited the Eva Peron museum, which was really interesting, and crashed out in the sunshine for a while in the botanical gardens. We also went to San Telmo and watched some live tango shows in the main square and wandered around the markets and antique shops.
As we are returning to BA next week before travelling south we will visit the Boca neighbourhood and Recolleta then.
From BA we travelled to Rosario, where it rained non-stop for 2 days. Apart from Che Guevara´s birthplace and the memorial to him we didn´t find too much to excite us here, so continued north to Salta.
Salta was fantastic - we explored the city, went up in a cablecar to get a panoramic view (and almost lost my lunch in the process, it was wobbling around so much), and booked a trip on the "tren a la nubes" (train to the clouds) and to the salt flats.
We were picked up from the hostel at 7am, along with a group of 6 Irish nurses (who looked at me blankly when I did my best Catherine Tate impression, you know the one where she does the ginger irish nurse) and a few others. It was such a good day, through miles and miles of mountain ranges and desert, before visiting San Salvador and San Antonio Des Corbres, where llamas wandered about, and the people looked tiny and ancient. They are descended from indigenous tribes, and live in the middle of nowhere. One of the towns (I forget the name) had a population of 26 people! It´s amazing to see a lone old lady walking through the desert with only a goat or two for company, wearing full traditional costume, with nothing for miles around.
We invested in a couple of knitted woolly hats made from llama wool complete with ear flaps and llama patterns which we bought from the local women, as it was pretty cold due to the high altitude (4200m above sea level at the highest point), before we headed for the salt flats.
The salt flats were an incredible sight, just pure white plains as far as the eye can see. As you can imagine, we had great fun messing about taking photos of us all sprawled out on the salt, plus a few funny ones of the men who work at the flats, collecting the salt for processing.
As these guys work here for long periods, they wear balaclavas and glasses to protect them from the wind and bright sunlight reflecting off the salt. All very practical, but absolutely hilarious to look at.It was like chilling out with a gang of terrorists. They were a bit camera-shy though, so I had to buy a little piece of the slate they were carving llamas into just so they would let me take a few snaps of them. Maybe they didn´t appreciate us rolling about with laughter at the sight of their get-up...got a few choice piccies though! Unfortunately most internet cafes won´t let you upload pics so I haven´t figured out how to share them with you yet. I then got terrible altitude sickness (payback for laughing at those guys), which didn´t ease offf until we came back down.
We also went to a traditional BBQ, where we ate more lovely steaks (we´ll probably be digesting all this red meat for as long as it takes to pay for this trip), and danced (badly) with some locals to their traditional music, before hitting a club called Babylon with the Irish and a few others.
We also went to a really great archeological museum in Salta. Digging old stuff up for fun has never interested me that much, but this place was awesome, and housed perfectly-preserved remains of 3 inca children which were over 500 years old. As they had been offered to the gods on the top of a mountain, the conditions meant that as well as their skin, every hair, eyelash and fingernail remained intact. It was as though they died yesterday, and was a little creepy but fascinating too.
As this seems to be a record-breaking post, I´ll sign off now (well done if you made it this far!), and just say that we are now in San Juan. Tomorrow we are visiting the Valle De La Luna (Moon Valley), which is a huge Unesco National Heritage Park, where you can see ancient eerie rock formations. Then we will travel south to Mendoza, the main wine-producing region.Hmm, a few wine-tasting tours are in order methinks...