Trip to Humahuaca and staying the night in Purmamaca

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April 12th 2013
Published: April 18th 2013
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12/4/13 Free day in Salta

Unfortunately despite having a free day we had to get up and check out of the hotel by 10, so no real lie in. We had to move to a different hotel and ended up at the Posadas del Sol which was a large place but really close to the main square, it was nice enough even though it was full of business groups having lectures on catering!

It was colder today and raining on and off which was a shame but we went to visit the MAAM – High Altitude Archaeological Museum, which is where the Lllullaillaco Children are kept. These are the mummies of 3 children discovered during an archaeological dig on the mountain of the same name. Only one is displayed (in a temperature controlled glass case) at a time in order to preserve them.

The whole museum is about this find, its meaning and the grave artefacts that were found with them. There were English explanations as well as Spanish and through this we were really shocked to find out that these children were actually buried alive! It was part of an Inca ceremony called the Capacocha. Children of the nobility were specially selected to take part, dressed in their finest clothes, ‘married’ and paraded around, then given an ‘alcoholic’ drink and when asleep buried in these holes. We were totally shocked! The belief was that they were not dead but were reunited with their ancestors and then continued to watch over the town and their families. It was thought that this would ensure, good harvests amongst other things and would seal pacts between rival clans etc.

The Lightning Girl was the mummy we saw, she was only 6 years old and so named because at some point over the centuries a lightning bolt had struck her body and burnt part of it. The amazing thing was how well preserved she was, her mouth was partly open and her teeth were all there. The only comfort I took from it all was that she clearly had not struggled or fought as she was peacefully sitting, so presumably she never woke up before she died. The other mummies were a 7 year old boy and a 15 year old girl. All of them bore the trappings and markings of high caste children.

We also watched the videos the museum were showing, which had English sub titles and talked about the discovery and preservation and what they had learnt from it. There was also interviews with local Indian people and one lady said, the children were not sacrifices they were merely sleeping, so the beliefs clearly persist to this day.

It was a very unsettling visit, fascinating but disturbing.

Next we walked down to the Cable Car station and went up the mountain overlooking the city. If I had any doubts about the size of the place, going up there really gave you a great view and Salta is huge! Unfortunately due to the dodgy weather the mountains surrounding the place were really shrouded in mist and partly obscured which was a real shame.

We just had a lazy afternoon doing next to nothing and had a parillada for tea – definitely the last one, the sight of those wobbly, flobbly intestines are just too much to take and I had to hide them under a serviette so I could eat the rest of it!

Oh yes, I keep forgetting to mention about the hoardes of wild dogs that there are everywhere in Argentina! We’ve kind of got used to them now, but they are everywhere, they come up to you hoping for food but fortunately aren’t aggressive. Most of them look as if they are getting enough food but the odd one is all skin and bones, Its’ quite sad as well as a bloody nuisance!

The other weird thing is the lack of plates, for breakfast the bread and stuff comes on a plate or in a basket but you aren’t given anything to eat it off – just the table, It’s really really odd!

13/4/13 Trip to Humahuaca and getting dropped off at Purmamaca.

Up at the crack of again for a day trip all the way to Humahuaca , a tiny village up in the mountains. The trip was pretty interesting, with lots of stops to see various sights, nice mountain scenery, a stop at a museum – which was a rebuilt village, with tiny one room houses and a stop at Purmamaca where we are staying the night and everyone else had a 20 minute look around and souvenir shop from the many craft stalls. Then it was onto Humanacca where everyone else had the tourist lunch and we opted out and wandered down the street and came across a tiny café. Outside was a parrot just perched on a jumper (that was for sale) shouting out Hola. We went in and another couple of tourists did also, the only other person turned out to be a wandering minstrel, who after he had eaten got his little guitar out and sang and played – presumably to get some cash to pay for his food!, lucky we just happened along then!

We walked around the town very slowly as the altitude was really getting to us (about 11,000 feet), found the local market, which was surprisingly huge with old train tracks running through it, but most of it was closed, saw the statue of the native founder of the town, sat in the square watching the western backpacker wannabe hippies making things to sell and playing guitars and then it was time to leave.

We stopped again to visit the church at Uquia as it is famous for its 9 paintings of angels. The Spanish ordered the local people to paint them, the locals had no idea what an angel looked like and were told they are like us but with wings. The result is 9 angels all in Spanish dress of the time carrying guns, with wings – utterly bizarre but great! Apparently this style of painting is very rare and apart from this church only the Vatican and one other place has them……I’m not surprised!

The final stop for us was by the roadside overlooking the cemetery of Matimara, which was quite a sight with its giant mountains in the back ground. There were a few ladies giving out small ‘gifts’ and notes asking people to send clothes to the town, selling trinkets and homemade jams and in stones on the hillside a sign saying ‘visit Matimara’, so clearly no one does and it seemed really sad.

We were dropped off at Purmamaca and found our ‘hotel’ which was locked and after lots of door rattling someone arrived and it turned out you had to go through the shop next door to get into it. We then had a proper look around the village which didn’t take long as it is a small place and found the place a 15 minute walk up the road where the bus would allegedly stop the next day.

That night we ate in a restaurant which had a band playing, I really love pan pipe music I must say – but no cd’s on sale unfortunately. It turned into a really good night as even when you finished your food you were expected to stay and enjoy the entertainment, so we did. At one point (everything was in Spanish) each table was asked where they were from – about 90% were from Buenos Aires, when it came to us and we said Ingleterra we were given a rousing round of applause, which took us back a bit but was really nice all the same. By 10pm we called it a night and after a bit of knocking managed to get back into our hotel.

I got no sleep that night due to the waking gasping for breath syndrome, it’s scary!

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