baby blue, but you can´t tell in this pic
Salta has been a nice change of pace from the other places in Argentina we have visited. It’s hot. After being in the cool mountainous south of Chile and Argentina (minus Santiago, which was also hot), each time we step outside we feel as though we are melting in the 90+ heat. This is both a blessing and a trial—while we are glad to finally shed our outer layer of fleece, it is just too hot to walk around all day. Taking a clue from the locals, we’ve learned to disappear inside in front of a fan during the hot afternoon hours. From about 1 or 2, right after lunch, until 4 or 5 many people seem to vanish and shops are closed, but by evening time the parks are hopping and residents are out and about eating ice-cream on double-scoop Siamese cones and running errands in shops that have just opened from their afternoon hiatus.
It’s not just the weather that’s different. The colorful American-colonial look of the town gives off a warm and inviting atmosphere (as opposed to the proper and somewhat imposing European-style architecture of Buenos Aires). The streets in the old area of town, where we have done most of our roaming, are lined with smooth stucco’d walls of buildings; I assume each one holds a sunny courtyard in the middle. Many of the buildings are painted white, but others glow in baths of yellow, red, or peach paint. Even the churches have taken a dip in the paint bucket, and my favorites have come out baby blue, pink, and red (with white and gold trim).
We found a good way to keep cool was to go to peruse the Museum of High Altitude Archeology for a while, taking advantage of the blasting AC. This museum houses interesting information about archeological finds in the region including video presentations, expedition paraphernalia, and, of course, archeological finds. Artifacts included gold llama figures, dolls (to help transport souls), etc., with the most popular finds being three mummified children who had been sacrificed to the gods. Now, there weren’t your usual wrapped in cloth-oh-no-we-need-Brendan-Fraiser’s-help Egyptian mummies. The mummies in the museum are small, shrunken children, hunched over in the fetal position, dressed in ceremonial clothes, with their exposed skin pulled taught over what is left of their former selves. Hair is still attached, eyes are closed, and strange expressions rest on each face. (Yeh, they were a little creepy to look at.) Each one is housed in its own room; each room includes artifacts found with the mummy and a likely story of the child’s health, age, and social status and reason for being sacrificed. The expedition gear included things like snow suits and cramp-on as the religious burial sites are located high up on mountains. It can be assumed that these children were important sacrifices due to the effort of getting them up there to perform the ritual in the first place. The museum also housed a small but thoughtfully stocked gift-shop with various hand-woven textiles, jewelry, and the usual museum fare. Also, if you get up early and make it to the museum during the first hour (9-10 am I think), admission is free and you can spend your eight extra dollars on humitas and ice-cream cones.
On the gastronomic side of things, we have finally found tamales and tried the humitas. The tamales are cube-shaped with the cornmeal dough more loosely packed and less fine than those I am used to eating at home. Sadly, there was no salsa verde to put on top, but they were tasty nonetheless. Humitas are essentially tamales with no filling, though sometimes there are little pockets of warm melted cheese hidden in the cornmeal dough. We’ve been getting them dulce, or sweet, and they are quite delicious. The first day we tried them in a little restaurant, but then we discovered the food court at the local market. There are dozens of stalls selling tamales and humitas (4-5 pesos each), 3 empanadas + a glass of coke (5 pesos), and personal pizzas with a puddle of grease in the center (10 pesos). They all sell the same thing, and all at the same prices, but we stuck to the same stall near the entrance each time we went for our daily dose of greasy goodness. Our limit is a couple tamales or empanadas a piece before we start to feel the oil oozing through our veins. The humitas aren’t as oily, but with all the cornmeal dough and cheese they are a bit heavy. Oil aside, the snacking is good. And Salta has been a satisfying stopover on our way North.
the red one
the pink one