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The Argentine obelisk at the Tres Hitos (Three Milestones) monument at the border with Paraguay and Brazil

Compared to the spectacle of Iguazú Falls, the town of Puerto Iguazú is uninspiring. The only other notable attraction is the Tres Hitos monument, which we visited on our final day there.

Our accommodation was quite small and didn’t have a day room available for us. As a result, we spent the afternoon lurking in a café to benefit from the air-conditioning while waiting for our overnight bus.

For logistical reasons, we had to take two buses to get from Iguazú to our next base, at Salta. For economic and sightseeing reasons, I booked two overnight buses with an intervening day in the town of Resistencia.

Bus travel in Argentina is comparatively luxurious. As far as I know, the UK’s National Express service has nothing to rival the relatively inexpensive comfort available. Our overnight trip from Buenos Aires up to Iguazú had been pleasant. The meals were pretty bad, but they filled us up and the stewardess kept us plied with included alcohol. We slept well enough on the wide, well-upholstered recliners on the supplied pillows and blankets. Apart from the food, it wasn’t so different from a Business Class flight.

It turns out that we had lucked-out on that first trip though. The journey from Iguazú around to Salta was far less enjoyable; when booking, I had missed the caveats discreetly tucked away at the bottom of the list of onboard services.

We boarded the first bus still a little grimy from our day in the tropical heat. We were on the lower deck, which we discovered has no overhead storage for your hand luggage. It was a little too warm and there was an occasional whiff of exhaust fumes, which made me wonder about the vehicle’s state of maintenance. It turned out that this service, while it provided the same large, comfortable seats, did not include a stewardess, or food and drink, or blankets, or pillows, or any soap or paper products in the toilet.

Early the next morning, we arrived in Resistencia ravenous and breakfasted on orange juice, coffee and medialunas (small, sweet, less-flaky croissants) as well as some little cakes. Not the healthiest breakfast, but one of things you accept on the road is that you make the best of what’s available.

Public sculpture in Resistencia, Argentina

Coya, Toba and Mapuche. Nestor Vildoza, 2012

The town is noted for its public sculpture. Over the years, it has gone out of its way to promote the creation and display of sculptures in public spaces. We spent half a day exploring to see what it was all about. I was underwhelmed; the official sculpture park was undergoing renovation, so it was partly closed and in a bit of a mess. The many pieces on display along the streets were mostly small, neglected and often vandalised. It felt anticlimactic and a little sad. Though, perhaps, that was more to do with our state of mind and limited time.

We managed to occupy the day though, albeit spending the last few hours at a table in the Resistencia bus terminal, an open-air shed filled with ticket offices and convenience kiosks.

Our onward bus proved to be as bad as the inbound one. We did get fed this time, though with nothing more than a crustless, white bread ham-and-cheese sandwich, squashed securely to a polystyrene tray by the enveloping clingfilm, served with a gulp of coke. (Seriously, you know the little paper cups your dentist has for you to swill with? The cups were that size!) We were downstairs again and this time it seemed that the air-conditioning could not be reduced. There were no blankets or pillows, so we did our best to sleep in the bitterly cold conditions.

We did not arrive at Salta in the best state.

The apartment was every bit as nice as it appeared online, however, and our host was a delight. He was taking a week’s vacation, while we rented his home. We had great views, stylish furnishings and a really comfortable bed. After showering away two days’ worth of grime, I took a nap.

One of the best examples of layering we saw near Cafayate

The multicoloured layers of rock exposed by erosion. Shell Canyon, near Cafayate

When I woke up though, I knew it was going to be a long week. Somewhere along the way, I must have picked up a virus and I spent the next several days feeling exhausted and foggy-minded; generally fit for nothing apart from lying around feeling sorry for myself. Brett was a trooper and kept me fed and watered while working on his own stuff.

About halfway through our stay, I felt recovered enough to start exploring. We started with an easy trip to the nearby High Altitude Archaeological Museum (MAMA) which preserves the Incan mummies recovered from mountain-peak temples. Much of the descriptive text was also presented in English and there was a video which did a lot to contextualise the sacrificial ritual. It wasn’t clear whether the youths who became the mummies entirely understood what was to happen to them, but the broader society did not perceive this as sacrifice, rather as becoming a bridge to the gods; a great privilege.

We also took an excursion through the geological rainbow of Shell Canyon towards Cafayate. Unfortunately, the day we chose was overcast and drizzly so the colours, which would stand out dramatically in the sun, were quite muted.

We didn’t get to explore the Incan ruins in the north of the province, which had been my goal for the week.

So, that was our time in Salta; mostly mundane reality getting in the way of living the travel dream. Onwards to Córdoba!