Monday, 21 May 2007

Cachi

We spent the weekend down in Cachi, a town about 4.5 hours from Salta up on the altiplano. It's mostly famous for the drive there - a single lane hugging the cliffs with a deep valley below. Apparently parents hold their children up to the window during the trip if they're crying, and the view stuns them into silence! The bus spent most of the time grinding through the gears and beeping its horn round any corner in case someone was coming the other way.

The town itself is very cute, with lots of adobe style buildings and a small church. The main timber in this part of the world is from the Cardon cactus (it's a very dry area) and most of the church was made from this, including the pulpit and confessional.



The town also has quite a cool museum, housed in an ornate white building. As well as an extensive collection of petroglyphs (rock carvings), it has a good collection of cacti and murals.





The other thing this area is famous for is sun-dried produce, particularly pimenton (paprika/capsicum). As the area is so dry and sunny, huge amounts of vegetables are spread out on any available flat surface (roofs/roads/paddocks) and left to dry out, leading to some great photo opportunities and tasty spices.



Some more photos from the weekend are up here: Cachi

Friday, 4 May 2007

Saliñas Grandes

Our first major weekend trip was a roadtrip/ tour around the saliñas north of Salta. Our guide/driver Sergio was very knowledgeable about the area telling about all sorts of stuff from local geography and religion to agribusiness while negotiating the roads for 10-12 hours.
First stop was Purmamarca and the seven coloured mountain: a very cute little town in some very spectacular scenery. The adobe architecture with thick walls is characteristic of the area to protect against the extremes of temperature experienced between day and night.



From here we climbed about 2000m to cross up onto the altiplano a high altitude plain that resembles a desert.


The saliñas are huge salt flats. They are still used to mine salt by collectives of indigenous people as they have been doing since the times of the Incas. Sadly their health and welfare has changed little since then either. Inspite this harsh environment they can't afford to change to methods that would protect them better from eye and skin disease from the extreme sun exposure. On a lighter note the scenery is mind bendingly spectacular.





We saw our first herds of llamas and vicunas this day too.


We came back via the mining town of San Antonio de los Cobres. The sort of place you wouldn't be surprised to see tumbleweeds blowing towards you like in the movies.


From here we came down the valley famous for the Tren de los Nubes (Train to the Clouds) stopping at the important pre-incan ruins of Tastil.


To see more photos go to our photogallery

Thursday, 3 May 2007

In Salta

Well, we've actually been here close to 3 weeks and I've just been slack about writing.

In our defense we have managed to find a place to live, applied for an internet connection and found a local food cooking class in between work and Spanish lessons.


Salta is a very friendly city accustomed to passing tourists and a few expats. It has lots of colonial buildings and some hills around three sides of the city - see picture - making me feel like I'm happily back in Gifu. To the north and west the hills climb steeply up to the Andes and altiplano. Needless to say the list of places to visit and go walking on the weekend is becoming very long!


The hospital were I am working, the Hospital Militar (right), is at the north edge of the city centre and less than 10 minutes from our flat. The ward I am on is not part of the army though and looks after people on an type of old aged pension called PAMI. The hospital is relaxed and friendly. I am getting used to not having all the comforts of home, like being able to find out a patients blood sugar or oxygenation without ordering it with the morning blood tests. In return my colleagues are being very helpful - only laughing at the more extreme episodes of my culture shock and correcting my Spanish. They're all great and I am optimistic this is going to be a great place to hone my clinical skills.
Thanks to Dad for the Google pictures. With any luck we´ll get some of our own up soon. :-)