Jul. 31, 2018

Tucuman and the tour thru the clouds

July 31- Yesterday we left Salta at 10 am and rode the flecha bus 4 hours south to San Miguel de Tucuman. It was beautiful ranch country we travelled thru with stunning views and interesting small towns along the way. We arrived in Tucuman around 2 pm and caught a taxi ride with a demon driver that scared the crap out of both of us as he whipped thru traffic like a bat out of hell to get us to our hotel, Hotel Francia.

We had a very frustrating first hour as we tried to check in and communicate with the hotel personnel. The room they took us to first had two twin beds in it, then he was trying to explain that we had to pay for breakfast and that we could just push the beds together. I finally had enough and put my foot down. "NO!" I said, " this is no bueno! " We went back to the front desk and I pulled up my confirmation with booking.com to show them we had reserved a queen bed with free breakfast included. They finally got us in a queen bed room and free breakfast after consulting the management. We were tired and needed showers, so hopped in to find out there was very little water pressure. Then when you turned on the hot water and added cold, it was ice cold, even if you barely had the cold running. Very frustrated now we just crawled into bed for a nap.

When we got up at 6 pm, we had planned on eating dinner at the hotel restaurant and have a drink at the bar they advertised on their site. We went to the first floor and saw the sign on the closed doors: restaurant hours: 6 am- 2 pm daily. What?? Where's the bar then? Oh, that closes at 2 pm as well! Grrr! As our frustrations mounted, we went to the lobby and used google translate to talk to the front desk guy.
"Where do we go that's close by here for dinner? "
He typed in "across the street on the corner, 1812 restaurant."
Thumbs up. Ok.
We walk to 1812 restaurant and sit down. The waiter hands us menus, no English spoken here and the translator doesnt work without Wi-Fi, so we play charades again, a game we are getting very skilled at now... All they have is snacks until 9 pm, then we can order dinner. What?? That's 2 HOURS AWAY!! Well, they don't serve dinner til late in Argentina, and by now we were really hungry. As we plodded grumpily back toward the hotel, a restaurant popped into my field of view.
"Hey, let's check out Shiitake..." As we get closer, to our horror, it says, "vegan restaurant" in small print below Shiitake . Holy shnikes! Can this day get any worse?! Well, I'm hungry enough to go vegan, so is Nate, so we venture in and grab 3 small containers of take out from a buffet line of meatless foods...
We return to our room and dig in.
Nate says, "I know I give vegans alot of crap for eating that way, but I have to give them props, this is actually REALLY good!"
I nodded in agreement as I shoveled the tasty food in faster than I could swallow.
We were both so full, ready to burst, and fell asleep soon after, content with full bellies of super scrumptious vegan food...
We awoke early, intent on a day of exploration of Tucuman. I had found this flyer the night before about a classic car ride tour. I asked the front desk about it. They said the owner of the hotel would be in in about 30 minutes and we should return then. So we went and found coffee after the terrible metallic tasting coffee we had for free at the hotel's breakfast bar.
We returned and met the owner, who also owns and operates antiquetour.com.ar and set up a tour at 2 pm. We chose the "Tour thru the clouds" adventure. We were told to return at 2.
So we left and went exploring on foot to see old architecture. We stumbled upon Tucumans historic house where we saw the signing of independence and many artifacts. We were mesmerized by amazing architecture and the bustle of a city with 1.2 million people.
We returned to the hotel and waited for our ride. Let me say, after our initial experience checking in and the dinner dilemma the night before, we found the gem hidden in this hotel. The antique car tour was absolutely amazing! One of the highlights of our trip!
The owner pulled up in a red 1929 Ford Model A vintage car. Everything except the brakes in it was original. He had it in convertible mode. It was 10 degrees Celsius outside (50F). We had layered clothing on luckily! He opened the door and said, "from here on you will call me Perkins." With that, we were off on a grand adventure !
We traveled into the foothills and soaked in the views. It was foggy and raining slightly but we wanted the full experience so we kept going with convertible mode. Perkins gave us an entertaining time, telling us history and cracking jokes. There was a Christ statue at the beginning of our trip in the median, arms wide open, Perkins said to take note and he'd tell us more later.
We stopped and took alot of pictures and discovered our trekking poles work great as selfie sticks, which we utilized for attaching our Go Pro to record some of the drive.
We reached the top of the mountain, San Javier, 3,000 feet above sea level. It was chilly, but we were loving it!! We ate tenderloin and tybo cheese sandwiches washed down with irish coffees at the eco lodge. The tenderloin had been marinated for 2 days in vinegar and spices, then cooked a slow cook method specific to Tucuman. It was a very great sandwich!! So full of flavors that popped in your mouth with every bite!
We went further inland into the hills to some small villages and summer homes. There was a huge statue of Christ on top of the hill overlooking Tucuman. He had two fingers held up as he overlooked the valley.
Perkins said, "you know what we say of this Christ statue here?"
" No" we reply.
"Christ on the hill is looking down at the Tucuman Christ in town. They are talking to each other." He pauses briefly, and I think he's about to tell us a religious quote.
He continues, "Christ on the hill is yelling, "hey, you got 2 dollars?!" And the Christ down below has his hands outstretched and says, " no! I got no money!! "
We all laughed.
We had hot tea and Argentina treats that tasted like marshmallows squished between soft graham crackers at one of our stops. Beautiful area, very rustic and charming. We drove thru lemon plantations and sugar cane fields, stopped at a crumbling concrete shell that had been destined to be a high end university, until the government shut it down. We got an amazing history lesson on Argentina and Tucuman.
People everywhere were waving and smiling as we drove by. Little kids and adults alike crooned their necks as we passed by. Once back in town, Perkins stopped and poured Nate and I two glasses of wonderfully sweet champagne, which we sipped as we rolled thru the city streets, smiling and waving like celebrities all the way back to our hotel.
A truly epic adventure, very worth taking! It was incredible!! Pictures will be found under the photos pages in the blog menu.