Gone are the traditionally dressed women of Peru and Bolivia, who carry their babies on their backs in bright woven blankets. Here the people dress stylishly (putting my travelling ´wardrobe´to shame) and children are wheeled around in pushchairs - the first I`ve seen in South America. There are designer shops and malls everywhere and the prices are expensive. It has definitely been a shock to the system arriving here from Bolivia, where hostels are three times the price and my first bus journey cost 50 pounds - ten times what I`d paid in Bolivia. The money situation is also crazy. There is a severe shortage of coins in the country, which everyone needs to get around on the buses, so paying for things with notes is a nightmare. In the queue at the supermarket the other day I heard the checkout girl ask every single person in front of me whether they had change. Needless to say most didn`t, so it`s normal to get slightly more or less change than you were expecting as the cashiers round up or down.
Things seem quieter here, more ordered and less chaotic. Cars aren`t constantly beeping their horns. There are traffic lights and, what`s more surprising, drivers actually observe them.
Also noticeably absent here are the child workers, who are a common sight in Bolivia, where eight-year-olds are left in charge of internet cafes and six-year-olds will tug at your sleeve to buy something while dragging their even younger sibling behind them.
The thing I can`t get used to to at the moment though is the Argentinian accent - which replaces the ´ll´sound [pronounced`y`in most Spanish speaking countries] with a `ch`- and the speed at which people speak. My Spanish, which I had been getting by with in Peru and Bolivia is now completely useless, as even when I can make myself understood I find people´s replies incomprehensible.
On my first day in Salta I went to the market, looking for a cheap lunch. Thinking I`d ordered one empañada I was then surprised to see a plate of 12 arrive at my table. Either the girl who served me enjoyed the joke or I have eaten so much in South America that I now look like someone who can polish off 12 empañadas in one sitting...