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Steak, Vino and Empanadas!...With a Dash Through Chile

Our quick stint in San Pedro de Atacama and then Northern Argentina..where we ate like KINGS!


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We arrived for a quick stay in San Pedro de Atacama from our Salt Flats tour. The town is firmly on the tourist radar and is a popular destination and stop off for those touring the salt flats compared to returning to Uyuni.

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The big thing that is mentioned frequently is you will know when you have crossed the Chilean border...the roads are paved. That is true the roads are paved compared to off roading through a national park. I honestly had the impression when I first read this that Bolivian roads in general are not paved (this is not the case and they are paving more all the time).

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We arrived in the desert town and were craving a shower. It had been two full days without shower facilities and we couldn't wait to get rid of all of the dried salt off our skin! Our hostel had amazing facilities, a full kitchen with all of the basics, cable TV and free laundry facilities and clothes lines. It was a great spot to get ourselves set up again. The first thing we noticed when we got into town was that things were not cheap...I have the feeling that it is a part of being in Chile...to be honest I knew this before we arrived in town due to the prices of all of the hostels. We were stung with $52NZD in ATM fees when we withdrew money. Ouch! It was pretty painful.

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There are numerous activities and attractions you can see in San Pedro. We arrived when it was a full moon so sadly one of the most famous ones, star gazing was out for us. The place is famous for being a desert town and having clear skies the majority of time. I managed to convince Lewis to come to Valle de Luna with me. Sadly we were both let down. We were hoping to see the moon rising over the Andes behind us but sadly this occurred at 10pm and we had to leave at 8pm. :( I think the reason that Valle de Luna was not more exciting was we had just been through the salt flats and the scenery and sunsets we had were truly breathtaking. If we did things the other way round and saw Valle de Luna before the national park then I think it would have been more exciting.

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The valley itself is meant to closely resemble the moon or to be honest a modern day mars. It looked a lot like bird poo covered rocks in places and our tour had bus problems. Our favourite part was the sunset which was magical that night. The only other thing we considered doing was visiting Laguna Cejar (a lake that has as much salt as the dead sea). We opted out in the end as the entrance fee for a couple of hours was really steep and getting salty was a little underwhelming for us.

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We had a long bus ride to Salta Argentina through the Andes. The views along the way are beautiful and you pass the hills of seven colours. I was really underwhelmed by the hills and the colouring can be seen in a lot of the Salta area. We had no problems with customs and immigration. If you are from NZ there are no fees to pay. It was plan and simple and the whole bus was through within an hour...we had been warned that it could take anywhere from 2-3hours even if there wasn't a bus. Unlike coming into Chile there were no food checks, just a x-ray of your bag. If you end up taking a bus from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta do not be concerned which bus company you take they are all pretty much the same. We went with Gemini (the cheapest) and we had a great trip. I asked the competitor what the difference was and was told there isn't any...you are paying for the name.
We arrived to rain in Salta...I can't remember the last time it rained but still it was a little sad.

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We were staying in an AirBNB with our host Vicky. It was great to be out of a hostel again and we weren't complaining. We had one main task to complete in Salta on our first full day...we had to find a venue to watch the All Blacks take down Australia..surprisingly finding a bar open at 1pm near the main square was ridiculously difficult. There aren't really bars in Salta, just restaurants and nightclubs. We stumbled across a Kiwi on the same mission as us and ended up watching with him and a few Aussies. It was a little awkward to say the least when we started cheering in a quiet restaurant. It was at this point that we discovered that a bottle of wine was the same price as a bottle of beer! It is crazy cheap for wine in a restaurant here.

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My main goal while in Salta was to find amazing empanadas. Empanadas were originally from Salta and theres are meant to be the best in the country. I have to say that Salta has accomplished that. In Salta City Patio de Empanada is a little area where stalls all open out into a seating area. Each stall is run by a different business and all they serve is empanadas! They are tasty. If you are there then this a great little adventure to have.
Lewis and I decided that steak was a must for us now we are in Argentina. We ended up heading to Viejo Jack's. A paradilla which is popular with families. It was awesome to see the families all sitting and having there Sunday meal. I loved watching their interactions. One of the famous steak types is Bife de Chorizo...and this is what we ordered. The steak was cooked perfectly and it tasted amazing! Lewis and I shared one steak which would have been 1kg and it cost us less than $50NZD for the meal.

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Another exciting find in Argentina is that everywhere sells Milanese...or crumbed schnitzel. They put it in there sandwiches which are sold every morning. Sandwiches are a big thing here and are made in baguettes. They are simple, cheap and so delicious. We would have them whenever we needed too.
After one lunch I convinced lewis to walk up the Cerro de San Bernado hill...little did lewis realise that the hill was made up of just under 1200 steps. We made it to the top in the rain so sadly our view was gray and dismal. The city itself is beautiful. There are gorgeous old churches and buildings everywhere. They look after them really well and try and keep them in all of there glory. The city is easy to walk around and not once did we have any issues.

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Argentina was a welcomed retreat from Chile. It seemed again a little less touristy. Salta is a city in its own right and tourism is not it's primary source of employment. It is great little stop and there is plenty to see and do around the way. Try and make it there if you can.
Our next stop is Vino country. We were heading south but still in the Salta region to Cafayate. A little town that is still mainly off the tourist radar. We can't wait!

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A few tips so far if you are in Argentina:
1) Check out the blue market...highly illegal but it will make your budget go that bit further and is better here than Mendoza.
2) Eat Empanadas and Steak
3) Pay the porters at the bus station that get your bag..they expect it.
4) Dulce de Leche is everywhere. Expect pastry and caramel for breakfast.

Posted by chellebelle 15:15 Archived in Argentina Tagged rain hills bus salta colours vino andes san_pedro_de_atacama customs empanadas valle_de_luna gemini Comments (0)

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