Friday, May 10, 2013

Apple Obsessed via: San Pedro, Salta, Cafajate and Tucuman

I can’t lie. From the moment my daypack was stolen with my computer charger and camera charger, I could think of nothing else but getting to a place where I could replace them. I was possessed, cranky and inconsolable. We realized quite quickly that replacing my computer charger was next to impossible until we made our way to Buenos Aires which was very far away and there were a lot of places we had intended on visiting before getting there. Argentina is a very large country and we had planned on spending at least a month or more exploring it.

(As an aside, it was also amazing to be in countries indifferent to the existence of apple products! It was truly culture shock of a new kind to ask electronic stores if they had any apple products and to realize that they had no idea what I was talking about. They are all walking around with smartphones and tablets of all descriptions, but none of them had the — oh so familiar — apple icon shining back at you).

There were moments I was ready to get on a plane and return to a world that had apple stores in every mall. It got that crazy. But sanity prevailed and Marc kept us on track, though he was pretty worried about me, and my crankiness …

Now back to the actual story … We got on the bus in Calama right after being robbed — there was nothing else to do — and arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile a few hours later. The town was as charming as advertised and we tried to enjoy it for the next two days. My mood took a toll on my photo taking from this point on, so I have little to share. A sign I guess that my heart was not in it. And, of course, I had no charger so I was not sure how many more pictures I had before my camera would stop responding.

After San Pedro we updated our itinerary to include larger towns — that may have an apple reseller! The first of these destinations took us across the Chilean border into Argentina to the charming city of Salta. The bus situation improved 100 fold since leaving Bolivia and our trip to Salta was very comfortable. On the way we saw some amazing scenery that we managed to take a few pictures of even in our state.


And Salt flats

And beautiful green valleys

We had booked two nights at the Hotel Ghala, located conveniently a short walk from the central bus station. The walk took us past a beautiful park around a small lake with food and craft vendors lining the pedestrian pathways. We loved it immediately and after finding our huge room at the hotel to our liking, we immediately booked another two nights to give ourselves a chance to thoroughly explore the city before heading to our next destination.

It was evening when we left the hotel to walk the few blocks to the Plaza de Armas. When we hit the square, it was already dusk and the beautifully lit Cathedral was breathtaking. In fact, everything was breathtaking. There were beautiful shops with interesting high-end souvenirs and lovely restaurants with outdoor seating. The temperature had risen several degrees and it felt like summer finally.

We managed to find a tourist information office open with a very nice English speaking person behind the desk. We asked our usual tourist questions and then asked the million-dollar question — ”Is there a computer store in Salta that sells apple products?”

Her answer was actually shocking and very sad for me. She went into detail about the new laws put into place a couple of years ago by the new President. The new law states that any electronic product sold in Argentina (all of Argentina) has to be at least in some part manufactured in Argentina. For that reason, Apple does not have any Apple stores in Argentina (and we soon learned in all of South America). There are some resellers and some online sites that purportedly sell Apple products, but the prices are very high and you really never know if you will get what you thought you were purchasing.

A cloud was forming over my head as we left the tourist information booth. We sat down for dinner at a very nice outdoor café. A glass of wine was in order. We decided we would spend the next day investigating for ourselves (the woman we spoke to gave us some leads on a few stores to visit to see if by chance they had a charger or knew where to get one). If our search did not bare fruit (of the a Apple variety), we were going to get on with enjoying Salta and forget about my charger for a few days. We spent the entire next day walking all through the downtown area of Salta with only blank faces staring back at us as we asked if they carried Apple accessories. With that we accepted defeat. I did manage to find a charger for my camera that day so at least I was back on track with my picture taking!

We spent the next two days enjoying the city. We walked the pedestrian malls, visited the Cathedral and a few other Churches that were open. We had some lovely meals. We did some window-shopping as well and enjoyed the warm weather. Off of the pedestrian mall, was an extensive covered market full of everything from clothing and shoes to restaurants and a fruit, vegetable and meat markets. We took a walk down a few of its bustling narrow streets and enjoyed a cold beer and empanadas. On the food front things were improving with each day. We were certainly not going to starve anywhere in Argentina!

We stopped at an empanadas bakery and ordered a dozen with a large bottle of coke. Then proceeded to eat them all in one sitting with the entire litre of coke! Yummmmm!

The covered market was incredible.

A view of of Salta from up high.

Our four nights in Salta passed very quickly and we made plans to take a bus into wine country. A small town called Cafajate (pronounced Cafachate) was our next stop. When we lined up to get on our bus, we saw a familiar face! Peter, who we had met and shared a wonderful day with in Tupiza, was standing in front of us with his wide brimmed sombrero on his head and a big smile on his face. He was headed to Cafajate as well with a ticket on the same bus! As always, Peter was a great source of information and we learned about a great day trip offered in Cafajate that we all decided to book once we got there.

Like San Pedro in Chile, Cafajate is a quaint town full of small shops and restaurants — and wine. After arriving in the bus station, we went our separate ways to get settled in our hotels and made plans to meet for dinner in the square. Peter had last been in Cafajate 12 years ago, but little had changed, and he felt at home immediately. Our hotel, Cerro de la Cruz, was a bit of a walk from the bus station, but it gave us a chance to see what the residential part of town was like. We got settled and met Peter later for a very enjoyable dinner in the Plaza de Armas. Cafajate is famous for their Torrontes white wine, so we of course had to give it a try.

The tour we all took part the next afternoon was, by far, the highlight of our stay in Cafajate. The surrounding countryside is breathtaking and we spent four hours taking it all in. Here are the highlights in photos.

Our hotel

I think this was a restaurant. It was closed when I was walking by it, but I had to take a photo!

Cafajate is full of small wineries. This is one of them.

We left Peter in Cafajate two days later and boarded a bus headed to Tucuman, yet another large Argentine city where we hoped to find my charger. Another long bus ride where a very hot and humid city awaited us — without an Apple reseller!!!

We had a comfortable night at a nice hotel in the middle of downtown Tucuman. By the next morning we realized it was time to stop the bleeding and go straight to Buenos Aires — which was a 17-hour bus ride away. That seemed like complete torture, but what could we do? My addiction to my computer had gotten the best of me. I was miserable and it had worn us both out.

To worsen our mood even further, we ended up walking to the bus station that morning in the midst of a rain-storm. There was kind of a flash flood going on, and the streets were immediately running with a foot of water everywhere we needed to cross a street. When we got to the bus station we literally had to wade through this rushing flood of nasty water carrying our travel bags over our heads to get across the street. We were soaked once we got there and sat down to catch our breath and change our shoes. It was definitely a low point. I sent Marc off to find us the best and most comfortable bus for our trip to Buenos Aires. And he came back with good news. We booked ourselves on an executive level (big leatherette seats that folded almost into beds, with meal and wine service onboard) bus which left a few hours later.

It took at least 17 hours, but we did make it to Buenos Aires. I even managed to sleep through a good deal of it. And thanks to Laura at the Park Silver Obelisco Hotel I had my new charger in hand within 6 hours! But that was a great story in itself so I will leave it for the next post.

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