Turning 21 in Northern Argentina

Noa Leiter
June 18, 2019

On May 31 I turned 21 years old. For young adults in the United States, this marks the end of being legally too young to enter clubs, buy alcohol, and smoke (in some states)─it marks true freedom. Unlike at home, it’s just another birthday here in Argentina…which doesn’t mean much, considering that Argentines love to celebrate.

Three of my friends and I were traveling in the northwest of Argentina for the big day. The north is filled with insane geological wonders and small, welcoming cities─there are no lack of places to go and things to see. We began the journey in Salta, sleeping at a cute, clean hostel called “Hostel in Salta.” Starting bright and early Friday morning, my birthday, we made a 10-hour loop, driving south to Cafayate, looping through Cachi and back around to Salta. Unlike most places I’ve traveled, the trip was focused on the journey, rather than the destination. Every aspect of the route was incredible; we passed through canyons, forests, mountains, and so much more.

Between Salta and Cagayate, we stopped at El Anfiteatro (The Amphitheatre) and La Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). Both are immense, deep red natural rock formations right off the side of Route 68. El Anfiteatro received its name because of its insane acoustics. You can typically find local musicians inside playing folkloric music, and we were lucky enough to encounter a guitarist during our stop!

Once we reached Cafayate, we ate lunch at “Las Nubes Bodegas y Viñedos,” a winery and vineyard tucked right outside of the city. We treated ourselves to a cheese sampler, empanadas, humitas, and of course Torrontes, one of my favorite Argentine wines. Our table looked out over the vineyards, which sat below the skyline of the Andes Mountain Range. It was lovely! After lunch, we made our way to Cachi, where we quickly stopped to look around the little town, and then drove back to Salta. The entire journey was stunning─no aspect of the route failed to wow me.

When we got back to Salta, my friends surprised me with a reservation at Chirimoya, a delightful vegetarian restaurant. We arrived at the restaurant only a half hour before closing, so aside from one other man finishing up his meal, we were the only ones there. My friends sent me to stand in the bathroom as they "did some stuff," and I returned to a table decorated with cupcake streamers and "21" balloons. They each wore tiny silver sparkly birthday hats and adorned me with a ridiculous yellow light-up crown. Although our waiter definitely thought we were absolutely loco, he joined in the fun and wore a tiny party hat too.

I ate delicious mushroom risotto for dinner and the waiter surprised us with a vegan flan for dessert! The flan had sparkly green 21 candles and everyone sang me happy birthday. When I blew out the candles I made three wishes, instead of the conventional one that I make every year in the U.S., because it is an Argentine tradition. Another birthday tradition here, which we didn’t partake in, is that the ears of the birthday girl/boy are pulled (softly) as many times as she/he is years old. I also learned that in Argentina it is considered bad luck to wish someone a happy birthday or celebrate a birthday before the individual’s actual birthday.

After blowing out the candles, we tried the flan. Unfortunately it was extremely wacky tasting─kind of like a flavorless jello with nut butter and dried fruit topping. We each took a few bites, nibbled on the toppings, and moved it all around the plate to make it look like we ate it. I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard at how much we didn’t want to eat the dessert.

After paying the bill, we hailed a cab, and returned to our hostel. Exhausted from the day, we all passed out almost immediately. I fell asleep feeling very loved and thankful for the friends I have made abroad. It definitely wasn’t the 21st birthday I had imagined growing up, but it was perfect in its own way.

Noa Leiter

<p>I am a junior at The George Washington University majoring in psychology and organizational sciences with a minor in Spanish. I am passionate about sustainability and over the last three years I have been working to both decrease my own ecological footprint and advocate for sustainable development on campus. I am also an art enthusiast; I love exploring galleries, finding new street art, as well as creating my own photography and multimedia projects.</p>

Home University:
George Washington University, The
Newton, MA
Explore Blogs