Purmamarca and Tilcara

After our adventures in the desert, we returned to Argentina. We had a couple more days before we had to be in Bolivia, so we decided to take our time going north. Our bus ticket from San Pedro de Atacama would take us all the way back to Salta, but the bus stops in Purmamarca and Jujuy on the way to Salta. We decided to ask the bus driver to let us out at Purmamarca so we could explore some of the smaller towns in the north.

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In Pursuit of Wine in Cafayate

Cafayate is a wine region in southern Salta province. It is located at 5,500 meters above sea level which makes the wines produced there some of the highest altitude wines in the world. The valley has mild weather with low humidity, receiving less than one inch of rain per year, and is most known for the Torrontes grape. We had heard that Cafayate was similar to the Mendoza wine region in Argentina but lesser known.

From Salta city to Cafayate, there is a four-hour bus that costs 350 pesos ($9.37) per person. We took a bus on Tuesday with Roderick at 1pm and arrived at the bus station in Cafayate just after 5pm. On the bus ride, Roderick booked the Backpackers Hostel on Booking.com, but when we showed up, we were told there were no rooms available. It was clear the hostel did not have a system for dealing with day-of bookings since the person doing check in did not have a computer and kept insisting no one had told her we were coming.

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Hiking to the Waterfalls of Rio Colorado

On Wednesday, Eric and I set off from Cafayate for a hike to the waterfalls of Rio Colorado. We had read many blog posts and TripAdvisor reviews of this hike advising that it was a must-see and indicating there was a guide option available for ~$10, but that many people had elected to do it without a guide. There are seven waterfalls along the trek of increasing size, with the seventh, most impressive, waterfall having a fall of 20 meters. We caught a taxi from our new hostel, Casa Árbol, for 150 pesos ($3.94) to the trail head and were immediately accosted by people trying to sell us a guide. They handed us a sheet of paper that indicated the cost for waterfalls 1-3 was 250 pesos ($6.58) per person; waterfalls 1-5 was 350 pesos ($9.21) per person and waterfalls 1-7 was 500 pesos ($13.16 per person). Normally hiking doesn’t come with a fee, and if it does, it’s nominal, but we were looking at more than $25 for this hike, which seemed a bit crazy considering we saw Iguazú Falls for just over $35.

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Finding Friends in Salta

We arrived in Salta tired and hungry having long ago exhausted the multiple sandwiches and snacks we had brought with us on the bus. We had expected to arrive at 7am and have the whole day ahead of us, but instead we arrived at the bus station at 2:30pm. Eric and I had a hostel booked for the night, but the two French girls did not, so they decided to tag along with us and see if there was room for them at a reasonable price at our hostel. It was only on this walk to the hostel that we thought to exchange names, despite having first met each other 40 hours before and spent 28 hours in a bus together. That might have been a small personal failing, but you can meet so many people on the road you never see again, that sometimes names aren’t that important. We’ve noticed it’s not unusual to chat with people for quite a while before asking their names, even though that would be one of the first things we asked at home.

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Bus del Infierno

Our two weeks in Paraguay are over and we are a little sad to be leaving. While we’re not sure we’d use valuable vacation time to make a special trip to Paraguay, we are really glad we came here and would wholeheartedly recommend it to other travelers.

Our next destination is Salta. There are no direct buses to Salta from Asunción, so we have to change buses in Resistencia. On the map, Resistencia looks very far out of the way since Salta is a little north of Asunción. In fact, it looks so far out of the way we explored other options including crossing to Clorinda, just across the river from Asunción and catching a bus there. There is a city bus to Clorinda, but it can take two hours to cross as it winds through all the city streets first. There is also a ferry from Puerto Itá Enramada in Asunción, to Puerto Pilcomayo just outside Clorinda. Allegedly there’s a shuttle into town, but if you missed it, you’d be 10km from anywhere. The final argument is there’s only one bus from Clorinda to Salta (leaving at 1:50pm), but it goes through Resistencia anyway, so it’s a lot easier to just get a bus from the bus terminal in Asunción to begin with.

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Iguazú Falls

We arrived in Puerto Iguazú around 9:30am and went in search of food and WiFi as we realized neither of us had downloaded the map of Puerto Iguazú for offline use. (If you have never used Google Maps in this way, check it out! It’s invaluable for traveling.) The cafe on the corner had counter service with tables outside and coupons for an hour of WiFi. We shared a potato tortilla and used our hour of WiFi to download the maps and research how to get to Iguazú falls. For once, Eric looked pretty perky after getting off a night bus.

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Night Bus # 3

We’re starting to feel like pros at the whole night bus thing. Our next destination was Puerto Iguazú, the Argentinian town next to Iguazú Falls. It’s twelve hours away from Concordia, and we thought that amount of traveling should definitely be done over night. The discounted bus tickets we acquired three days ago in Concordia had us leaving at 8pm and arriving in Puerto Iguazú just after 8am the next day.

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