After our city tour, we climbed the mountain behind our hotel by bicycle (as always during the hottest part of the day) to 1445 m/4470 f from the town, which is at 1271 m/4160f. At the top of the hill (which most people reach in a gondola) we had lunch.
Then we went to the Sheraton Salta's spa and Jacuzzi where we met the gregarious 15 year old from Patios de Cafayate and another couple. When we arrived at the Jacuzzi, two women got out and sat nearby. We chatted with the teenager and the couple in the Jacuzzi. When we got out, the two women jumped up and practically ran after me. They said in English “Not all Argentineans are stupid” and one of the women touched her right forefinger to her right cheek, under her eye and pulled down a little. I said “I don’t think Argentineans are stupid.” There was no animosity and they walked away and so did I, shrugging.
When I got back to our room, I related my encounter with the women to Dimitri. He said that the gesture they made is equivalent to saying “you can’t put anything over on me”. I spent that evening worrying that somehow I had offended the women and I was creating an international incident. The next morning at breakfast the women came into the dining room and gave us a friendly greeting. I was perplexed; they didn’t seem to be acting as if I had offended them. As we were leaving, I went up to their table and asked if I could join them. I told them that I was worried that I had offended them. Fortunately Dimitri joined us because their English was limited and they didn’t understand me. With Dimitri’s help, we learned that the women had been listening to our conversation in the Jacuzzi with the teenager and the Argentine couple. They thought the Argentines sounded dumb and they wanted me to know that all Argentines aren’t that dumb. The gesture, in that instance, meant “watch out”, presumably for people like that. Phew, international incident averted. But it’s kind of weird to me that they would bad-mouth their fellow citizens like that.
The anthropological museum near our hotel in Salta was good. It is small and the exhibits are well displayed. The neighorbood around our hotel had nice houses that looked middle-class to us. They were probably houses of the fairly well-off.
In Salta, we had to decide whether we were going to stay in Argentina for a few more days or beat it back to Chile before our auto insurance ran out. The tourist brochures say that Salta gets 360 days of sun a year; we were there during the other 65 days and Dimitri was looking forward to the dry desert of Northern Chile. I wanted to slowly see more of Northwest Argentina. So, for about AP $55/ US $20 we bought another month’s auto insurance. (The same insurance had cost US $50 for a month when we had bought it in Santiago!)
Salta was such a change from the Argentine pampas; it was green everywhere. On our last night in Salta we ate dinner at a local (non-touristic) restaurant, Jovi Dos ( Balcarce 601, Salta, Tel (0387) 432-9438) where we sat next to a family celebrating their mother’s/grandmother’s birthday. They took pictures with us and were effusive in their welcome. Our meal of lamb in the oven with oven-roasted potatoes cost AP$55/US $18 (this is a favorite meal of ours and hard to find in restaurants).
To read about our second stay in Salta (in June, 2008), click here.