Salta, with its population of 420 thousand people in practice was the biggest city in Argentina (except for Buenos Aires, of course) I’ve been to. Like most towns in Argentina here was quite hard to see interesting and beautiful buildings excepting 2-3 churches and some administration buildings in centre of town. The vast majority of residential buildings are low-rise, up to 3 floors, and judging by the hostel, some have inside open space. What made the town different from the others though, was that it was alive. In the afternoon the streets, especially the main one, get so busy that you should carefully choose your way. At every step you take there is somebody selling something and trying to announce that action with repeated shouts. It rained one of the afternoons and that opportunity was immediately turned to account by some enterprising people. Umbrellas and raincoats popped out in the streets as if they were in a storehouse until then. ‘Ai Pelotas, Pelotas Ai paragua, paragua’ was sung by many voices. Unfortunately for the retailers, the rain did not lasted for long and I was surprised how one of them palmed off his raincoats under the last raindrops.

But no matter what the weather is, the business must keep going. The main goods that were sold those days were everything connected with school. The beginning of the school year-1st March-was near and everybody was preparing feverishly. The queues in front of the school-appliances shops were longer even than the ones in socialistic time. It was like they were giving everything for free there. Colourless folio for wrapping notebooks and sheets with different characters were sold the most. The majority of tradesmen were young boys who were doing their best to shout louder than their experienced colleagues. The same man who was selling raincoats was now lively advertising his new commodity-a plastic alphabet puzzle. Another guy a few steps further has gathered a whole crowd for a demonstration of seals with letters and numbers. If you did not know what he was selling, you could tell he was presenting an incredible invention. And amid all that bustle mothers are breastfeeding their babies sitting on a bench or just wherever they find, children are chasing each other and the others are just trying to continue their way.

I spent whole 3 days in Salta mainly because I needed a rest and I also had to make it clear to myself what I want to do from now on. I checked bicycles’ prices again but they were much higher that the quality. The idea of passing Altiplano by bike seemed more and more insane and impossible. Ascent to 4500m altitude with 40kg luggage, from which 15kg water, having in mind the awful non-asphalt roads and the bad quality of the bicycle, which by the way did not have a front carrier, and most of all-having no training -definitely it wasn’t a good idea.

The other thing that made me stay longer was a problem with my stomach and I wanted to wait and see if it was going to pass or not. What was more-both the personnel and the guests of the hostel were really cool, at least until these noisy Israeli arrived. It was one of those days when the earthquake happened. I was lying in bed when the room suddenly started swinging. It wasn’t up and down or back and forward, but lightly like a boat. Tough the movement was strong, I wasn’t afraid. I don’t know why. I got up from bed so I could run if something started crumbling or falling, but in fact nothing more happened even though it continued for around twenty seconds. My Japanese roommate didn’t even think of getting up from the bed.

On the fourth day I was ready to go but this time south-towards Cafayate. I planed coming back to Salta after that. I had never hitchhiked in this part of Argentina and I was a bit worried. The population here was relatively poorer and it was much harder to find someone with European origin. Anyway, it was time to continue.

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