On a warm Friday evening in April, after a twelve hour journey back across the Andes from San Pedro De Atacama in Chile, the bustling frantic streets of Buenos Aires didn't initially feel too far away as we pulled into the bus terminal at Salta. Car horns were honking and locals all marching alongside a parade of vans playing drums and shouting about equal rights... Ahh, back to the city, I thought, but I soon learnt there was a very different 'onda' in this city.
Waking up the next morning it was apparent that the incessant tango of Buenos Aires had faded away here in the north of Argentina. Instead a more laid back 'charango' folk music filled the air, deeply rooted in Spain and the Andean cultures of the bordering countries of Peru and Bolivia. I have read in guidebooks that the peña is to Northern Argentina what the milonga is to Buenos Aires, and this I feel is a good way to begin summing up the cultural differences between the two cities. The lyrics of the peña discuss the importance of territory and rural life rather than the stories of heartache and romance that so often fill the tango. One of the popular dances I got to witness was the 'chacarera' in which couples group in the shape of a star, stomping their feet as they circle around each other.
Ask anyone in Buenos Aires who makes the best empanadas and nine times out of ten they will tell you to head north to Salta or Jujuy. Empanadas salteñas contain a more hearty, meal-like filling of knife cut meat, chunks of potato, boiled eggs and the delicate seasoning of spring onion.
It's not just the cuisine and music that sets the cities apart – you feel a lot closer to nature as the Andes gently hug Salta and it's surrounding barrios – in some directions lush green mountains, others with a splattering of cacti and the odd llama, vicuña or donkey. It's a very different way of life out in Northern Argentina, to Buenos Aires but the two cities appear to balance each other perfectly in their distinct outlooks.