Monday, 27 December 2010

Salta: Approach and Retreat

and the pool was - empty.

We came to taste, but you spat us out.

We don’t do cities very well, cities are for cars not people. Salta as written up by the guide books suggested it might be different. I’m always sceptical, but susceptible to a good suggestion. We knew that the municipal camping boasted the largest swimming pool in south America, and it had been recommended by several people. However we take bets when we see the words ’Balneario’ - a place for swimming - as to whether there will be water in the pool, river or hole. Or will it be reverting back to bush, with a tree growing out of the base. Empty, cracked and broken is the norm. Salta looked a likely place to for a lay up, a town to investigate, a chance to take a breather, collect some ideas and to buy the work’s Secret Santa gifts.
The main drag through town bisects the place, leading directly to the municipal camping, which makes for simple navigation. We’d had a short day, which is useful, cities have a habit of being able to anything between 10-50% to the end of the day.

We ignore the ‘No Cycling’ signs, just like the motorists ignore the ‘no overtaking’ signs, and run down the autopista. It’s fast and furious and drops us exactly where we want to be. Too good to be true? You bet! The vast camping and leisure complex is closed, something about ‘peligroso’. The latino catch all, or excuse that may or may not mean something is dangerous. Interestingly, the cyclist who had given us the recommendation had stayed there last year and had watched the pool attendant sling a bag of chloride on his back and proceed to walk up the pool emptying it, so chlorinating the water. Maybe health and safety has started to make an incursion here.

So our nice simple plan is confounded, and our usual city suspicions are confirmed. We’re now sent on a wild goose chase, being directed in various directions to the varying locals idea of a good campground. The result is a tour of the industrial belt, the airport district and the motel land. Finally 35kms later, we’re somewhere well to the south of Salta, down a dead end road, beside the local penitentiary. A base to explore a city by car, it might be, on a bike it is not. It only proves that cities have sold their souls to the internal combustion engine.