South America by Train – heading to Salta

By Gerald Bailey
Three nights in Buenos Aires, a 5.30am wake-up call, and we’re now awaiting take-off for our flight to Salta, in the north of Argentina.

It’s really been “all go” since our arrival late on Monday afternoon.   The flight over was actually a lot less demanding than we had expected because the plane was only about one-third full, so everyone managed to spread themselves out a bit.

Peter Lauffer, our tour guide, met us at the airport.   He’s Swiss, but lives in Ecuador.   Speaks 3 or 4 languages and specialises in organising tours in South America.   He was joined in Buenos Aires by local guide Anahi, a bubbly and enthusiastic young woman who succeeded in making our visit memorable.

We experienced Buenos Aires as a city of demonstrations and as a result, traffic gridlock.  On Tuesday, a large crowd had gathered opposite the Cathedral, which was the first stop on our city tour, awaiting the arrival of a crowd of farmers protesting at the minute return they receive for their crops because of the amount taken by “middle men”.   Their protest was to take the form of a distribution of free food, and hundreds of locals had turned up in the hope of receiving a share.

We visited the very impressive Cathedral, where once Pope Francis had presided, before proceeding to the most astonishing cemetery, where the aristocracy of Argentina had all tried to outdo each other in the opulence of their family memorials.   Not content with statuary, imported Italian marble and space enough to accommodate a dozen or more coffins, some even had elevators to other levels.   We saw, and photographed, the most visited site, where Eva Peron (Evita) is buried.

Lunch each day comprised a three course meal with a generous allocation of wine – a bottle between every three people.   It’s usually Malbec – which varies a bit in quality.  But Tuesday’s provision, coming on top of jet lag, forced many of us to have an afternoon nap……

Which was just as well, because the Tango performance we were taken to in the evening lasted until 11.30.   A second large meal meant that the performance didn’t actually begin till 10pm.   It was a non-stop display of the development of the Tango down the decades, brilliantly performed by a group of dancers.   The men were decked out in suits and ties, the women with quite a lot less, though what there was stunning.

Yesterday, we went on a boat trip up the River Plate as far as a huge delta containing hundreds of holiday homes. Another generous lunch was followed by a train and bus ride back to the city.

The weather’s been great – quite a lot warmer than we’d anticipated – and the spring growth further advanced than at home.

Buenos Aires is described as a very European city – in fact it seemed more European than many cities in Europe, if that’s not a contradiction in terms.   Hardly a non-white face to be seen.   No Orientals, Middle Eastern or African Americans, significantly, no Indigenous people.

Our group are  getting on well together.   They’re commendably punctual and patient. We had a “getting to know you” session on Tuesday and as usual, all sorts of connections emerged.   Interestingly, there seem to be a preponderance of nurses and teachers in the party.

Flying over farm land, we’re now approaching some cloud for the first time.   Apparently, some rain is likely tomorrow, which will be a rest day, in preparation for travelling to higher altitudes.

 

Gerald Bailey, Tour Manager