18 hours on a bus. I phoned Patty before we left Mendoza, and got some of it straightened out. It seems the school doesn’t really have a job for me since they didn’t get as many students as they wanted this month. I was (hopefully) filed into that category of “one of those people who say they are interested, but never show up” - something that happens to schools regularly down here. Anyway, they will still help me find a place to stay, which is all I care about. The job, which would probably work out to paying me $1-&2 per hour like the one in Honduras was not my primary concern. I will check in regularly to confirm accommodations...

The bus trip was long and uneventful. We had the best seats - upstairs front row. The guy that took the 4th seat in that row was a little strange - he took the most panoramic seat, and then closed his curtains and slept for most of the trip... He was nice and we talked a little in Spanish (he spoke no English) when he woke up. He was 19 and coming back from Mendoza - he either was at school in Mendoza and was now going on a vacation, or he had been on a vacation in Mendoza and was now going back to school. My biggest problem in Spanish is that I understand a bunch of the words, but I don’t get exactly how they go together.

going, vacation, Mendoza, Salta, School, finished, happy,
Is he: Happy to be finished school in Mendoza and going on a vacation in Salta?
Did he: Have a happy vacation in Mendoza and now that it is finished he is going back to Salta to go back to school?
Or of course it could be something more obscure like: He is happy that he is studying in school in Mendoza but he is originally from Salta and he would love to go on a vacation one day when he finishes school.

Anyway he was nice. The scenery was quite desert-like. It changed a lot, sometimes hilly and sometimes sandy and sometimes rocky and sometimes the ground was white with a salty crust. We read a lot and Aodhan drew a lot. We slept and woke and slept and woke and read. They served us ham and cheese sandwiches several times and we had packed a lunch with some fruit and things from Mendoza. We slept most of the night, but they woke us up every couple hours by stopping and turning all the lights on and announcing different cities that people were getting on or off at.

We finally arrived in Salta at 7:30 a.m. There were people there to take us to hotels - each with a fantastic description and a price that was better than the last. We had to wait at the bus station until almost 9 a.m. for the ticket window to open so that we could get out tickets for Arica. I put the kids in an internet cafe with all the luggage, and they were thrilled. I found a bank machine and got out some cash. When the booths opened, I found out there were two bus lines that went to Arica, Pullman and Geminis. They both left Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings. It was Saturday, so I had had to get the bus the next morning, or I would have to wait until Tuesday. I talked to both companies and they were the same price, and both had nice new buses, and neither took credit cards - cash only. I was thinking that I preferred Geminis, and the Pullman guy finally got around to telling me that his bus was full. Then I found out that there was only a few seats left on the Geminis, but that I had to go back to the bank machines and get cash to pay the $230 for the tickets. I ran over and got the money and got my tickets - I didn’t want to be stuck somewhere with five suitcases any longer than I had to be.

We got a nice little hostel for $30 (for all of us). We walked all around the town. Salta was a bit boring for us. There were things to do like banana boating and paragliding etc, and there were tours of all the little villages around and trips into the mountains, but we were already quite tired. We went to the grocery store and bought food and cooked a home-cooked meal that night, and packed a lunch for our 24 hour bus ride to Arica. I bought bife lomo (filet mignon) and cooked them and I made chicken soup and a lovely stir fry. I packed fresh oranges and apples etc.

I booked a taxi for 6:15 a.m. and then changed it to 6 a.m. because I really don’t want to miss that bus and be stuck here until Tuesday.

In the morning at 6:30 a.m. when the taxi still wasn’t there, I was began to calculate how long it would take me to drag 5 suitcases, two kids and a bag of food the 5 km to the bus station. We made the 5 minute ride to the bus terminal at about quarter to seven, and unloaded all my bags, noticing that my largest suitcase had a big tear in the corner where he had squashed it into the trunk of the taxi against something sharp. Hope nothing falls out of the 7 inch tear! A porter grabbed my bags and insisted on putting them on a cart to take across the driveway to my bus. At that point, I decided I could use someone to cart the bags even if it was only for a few meters. So then this enterprising dude tries to charge me three times what the taxi driver charged to go across town. I basically told him to go stuff it, and gave him a more reasonable tip. He tried to intimidate me and badger me a bit, but my evil glare of hell cooled his jets a little and he slunk away with his tail between his legs, muttering under his breath, I’m sure damning me to some worse hell than I could imagine.