Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Argentina - Day 6 - November 4th - Salta/Jujuy Province

I wanted to write about my Argentina trip in chronological order because it seemed the most logical thing to do. Then I realised the best parts of my trip all occurred in the middle or towards the end of my vacation, and it just wouldn't do to let so much time pass by before I could capture it in the blogosphere. So bear with me as I jump around.

I spent a total of 15 days in Argentina, flying into Buenos Aires for two days before flying off to Las Cataratas del Iguazu for another two days, then off to Salta for four days before returning to Buenos Aires for the remainder of my trip.

One of the most memorable moments was when I was in Salta. I'd decided to splurge a little and hire a private independent guide to drive me around, opting to do a two day tour of the Andean region north west of Salta. We started out early, driving to Jujuy using the beautifully scenic and less travelled route winding through the mountains, before heading to Purmamarca for lunch, then the Salinas Grandes, and then back to Purmamarca to spend the night before continuing further north the following day.

As was the Argentine tradition, dinner was to be a late affair. Before dinner though, my guide wanted to show me a surprise. In order to see the surprise though, we had to go someplace completely dark. So we walked past the cemetery to the beginning of the hiking path which goes through the mountains.

Now, I do not like complete darkness. Not one bit. I feel as if I look at it for too long, I'll see something staring back. It's completely irrational, I know, but I do not like the dark.

Still, I figured I could trust my guide. If he hadn't done anything to me yet, and even though I'd fully paid up, I was pretty sure he wasn't going to hurt me.

So, I followed him into the darkness. Then, he said, "look at the sky."

And I did.

And it was the most amazing sight I had ever seen. The night sky, filled with hundreds, no, thousands of twinkling stars. The sky was entirely clear and it was just breathtaking.

We returned to that same spot after dinner an hour later. This time, there were even more stars. Las Tres Marias (The Three Marias, as Orion's Belt is known in the Southern Hemisphere) had come out, and Venus was shining as brightly as ever.

As I spun around just trying to take it all in, I noticed a shooting star, blazing a bright but short-lived trail. Shortly after that, I saw another.

No, I didn't make any wishes. At that moment, I had everything I wanted.

As if the sky wasn't magnificent enough, I was treated to flashes of lightning far off in the distance.

I stood there for half an hour, utterly entranced despite the cold. I felt as though I was looking at the twinkling lights of a city at night, except for the growing ache in my neck.

This, alone, was worth the cost of my guide. I definitely wouldn't have seen this had I been on a conventional group tour. Heck, it was worth the cost of my entire flight!

It was truly spectacular. I only wish I had the words to describe just how awe-inspiring it was.

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