frenchmen and flaming cockroaches

I had planned a relatively quiet final night in Salta. Brought some rice and vegetables and a bottle of beer to have in the hostel. I should have known better. Whilst having a quiet read on the patio I ended up collecting a group of people and before you can say ‘alcoholic travellers’ five of us decided to have a final night out on the town. Now having met quite a few Frenchmen in my time I have never known them to be piss-heads in any sense of the word. My opinion has been completely changed by Victor who came out with us in Salta. We had a lovely meal involving quite a bit of wine then walked on to the bar district and upon installing ourselves in a table he had ordered us flaming cockroaches, cuba libres, beer and speed (local version of red bull) and soon was challenging our Dutch friend Martin and a local Argentian guy to competitions in downing pints of beer! We ended up in a club dancing to the wee hours before staggering back to the hostel where upon Victor had us in hysterics as he was unable to climb into the top bunk bed for about 15 minutes! Very funny evening.

San IgnacioThe next afternoon I left Salta on a marathon bus ride to get to a small town in the Northwest of Argentina called San Ignacio where I wanted to visit one of the best preserved Jesuit Missions. Okay, ready for a spot of history? After the Spanish first conquered they way across South America, wiping out most of the idigenous Inca tribes, who to be fair had been imposing their religion, language and military superiorness on a large part of the continent themselves, they encouraged religious groups to come over from Spain and settle in their new backyard. So over came the Jesuits and built huge impressive missionaries around Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina where, together with slaves, local tribes called the Guarani they farmed, produced fantastic music and art and were generally having a relatively good time of things with a minimum of religious indoctrination. Unforatunately they did a little too well for themselves and in 1767 the Jesuits were all turfed out of South America. The ruins of San Ignacio mini are just behind the present day town and I spent the afternoon wondering through the tree overgrown walls and amongst the ruins of the great catherdral there that took 30 years to build!

San Ignacio is, to put it mildly, a sleepy kind of place and finding myself at a loose end with no internet cafe for the rest of the day I took a walk out of town to visit the house of the famous Uruguayian writer Horacio Quiroga )okay, I´d never heard of him either) but the house was lovely, set in the jungle and bamboo forest on the outskirts of town with beautiful views down to the river. Spurred on by the distant views of the shores of Paraguay I decided to walk the 2km down a red dirt road to reach the river. 20 minutes later I was regretting this detour as the road and the jungle seemed neevr ending and the sun was getting rather low in the sky. Just then I rounded the corner to see a green lawn behind a beautiful yellow sandy beach and the jungle fringed shores of Paraguay with the sun setting beneath cirrus clouds over the distant hills. Really beautiful. A big black and brown dog trotted up and adopted me while I sat watching the sun go down. Obviously mindful of my safety on the way home my new friend decided to accompany me all the way back into town and gave me several reproachful looks when I eventually had to abandon him to go back to my lodgings. He sniffed in disgust at the crackers I offered in consolation and trotted sulky off in the other direction!

Following the advice of my footprint guide I ended up finding the house of a local artist and her daughters and sent the night in their spare room. A curious bathroom in a brick square in the centre of the courtyard was interesting, sweaty and smelly as I was I decided to wait until Iguazu to have a shower. In the evening I sat in the living room by the fire chatting with her friends and kids drinking vegetable soup until bedtime. A little bizarre but nice all the same!

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