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April 24th 2013
Published: April 25th 2013
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Mendoza -> Salta, then Purmamarca & Humahuaca


Salta - 9 de JulioSalta - 9 de JulioSalta - 9 de Julio

the main square
Ah Salta, you have made up for the bus trip from hell to get here.

Leaving Mendoza at 8pm last Friday we were in good spirits after having spent a nice week in Argentina's 4th largest city and wine capital. Soon though, our spirits were dented as not long after a somewhat passable dinner was served, a loud clunking sound started emanating from the back of the bus. It was not a good sound, and was even louder when the bus changed directions between lanes or around corners. The drivers soon took notice and started stopping the bus to check on it every 30 minutes. After a few hours we found ourselves in a very small & dusty truckstop of a town disturbing the local mechanic from his friday night beer drinking (it was midnight by now). With a solid crowd of onlookers who had left the bus to see wtf was going on, the poor bugger was soon covered in dust as he crawling under the bus to find the problem. In the end it was an inside flat rear tyre and it took him a good hour to first take off the the outside tyre and replace the inside flat one. There was a sizeable pile of busted bus and truck tyres outside his shop, so it looked like it was a common occurrence for him.

Shortly after, everyone was herded back onto the bus and we were off. We soon noticed that the temperature in the bus was abnormally hot, even for Argentinian standards, as on each bus we have caught it is either really hot, or really cold with no happy medium. But this time it was really hot. I compare it to sitting on one of Sydney's shitty trains in the middle of a really hot summers day. It must have been at least 35 degrees, and this did not change for the next 17 hours! The air con was working upstairs in the semicarma section, but not downstairs in the cama section, it was horrendous. After 8 hours or so, it was morning and breakfast was being served, the steward asked us 'todo bien' (all good), and it was here i wish we had the balls to say 'no its not f*****g todo bien!'

2.5 hours late, and after cooking in our own juices for more than 21 hours, we pull into Salta and gladly get out of the oven we had called home for the best part of a day. A quick taxi ride and we were soon in our hostel, La Posada Don Simon, a nice little place that is run by an old spanish couple with a crazy siamese kitten called Lola. We find that our room is actually a twin with bunkbeds, but we dont care, the room is cheap and the mattresses are hard, the best we have had since leaving the posh place in El Chalten.

We take it easy for a few days getting over our trauma and explore the city and walking up Cerro San Bernardo, a small mountain that provides great views over the valley that Salta lies in. The weather is fantastic, with high 20's during the day, and low teens at night and no humidity. It gets to 45 degrees in summer, so our timing is good. As in Mendoza, clouds do not really exist here, with just a few puffs hovering under the peaks of the surrounding mountains, and the sky is an incredible deep blue. The city is one of the few in Argentina where you can heavily see the influence of the spanish architecture with some impressive looking cathedrals and main buildings. We are close to Bolivia, and it is noticeable in the people as well as the food. The empanada's are the best we have had yet, and there are other local dishes that we have not heard of like Tamales, Humitas and Locro. Everything is a bit cheaper then the rest of Argentina and soon we find ourselves mesmerised and courted by the city.

On our third day we did a tour to Purmamarca, Tilcara and Humahuaca in the far north near Boliva and across the Tropic of Capricorn. We had looked into doing it ourselves via public transport, but it was difficult and not that much cheaper, and we are glad that we did the tour. It was 12 hours and we a fantastic guide, Pierre, a Frenchman who had fallen to the allure of Argentina. He effortlessly switched between spanish and english informing us of the people, history and landscape. The area is a UNESCO world heritage site due to its rich Inca Altiplano history and landscape, which is comprised of the most amazing coloured mountains. In Purmamarca there is the cerro
Cerro de los Siete Colores Cerro de los Siete Colores Cerro de los Siete Colores

The mountain of seven colours
de los Siete Colores (the seven coloured mountain), a crazy mountain that looks like an impressionist painting hovering over the town.

Tilcara is the site of an old Inca village that had been partially, and painstakingly reconstructed by two Italian Archaeologists early last century. The site is impressive with some original remnants of the village remaining, and some enormous cactuses that tower some 5 metres and more above the site. Humuahuca is 3000 metres above sea level, and has a very strong Bolivian influence. It is here that we ate Llama, cooked as a stew in white wine. It was not too bad, similar to lamb or maybe mutton, but probably a one off for me unless necessary. Wandering around the town after lunch, we walk through the markets that have the most amazingly coloured garments made from Llama and Alpacha wool. We purchase what is supposed to be used a table cloth, but it is far too nice for that purpose.

The next day we visit the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology (MAAM), where they exhibit the Inca archaeological heritage found at Mount Llullaillaco, a 6700 metre site in the province in Salta near Chile. Included is three Llullaillaco Children mummies who were found 15 years ago in a tomb and were in near perfect condition due to the cold weather they were situated in. Only one is displayed at a time, and we see the Lightning Girl and it is eery at how well preserved she is. Apparently they were sacrificed as per the Inca tradition, they were fed a strong alcoholic drink and went into a permanent sleep, and the look on the faces is quite peaceful, and not tormented like we initially thought they would. There are many colourful and beautifully crafted artefacts on display made from precious metals, shells and feathers that have not faded after 500 years.

That night we head out to the bar scene with Andrea, a really nice Italian that we had befriended at the hostel. We get served some pretty pathetic attempts at a cocktail in the first bar, and quickly high tail it to the next. It is much better, with a local band playing folk music that stirs the locals into a frenzy, with 2 old men dancing with 20 young women! 2 bottles of Cafayate Malbec, and many hours later we stumble out and make the long walk home accompanied by a stray dog that tries to barge her way into the hostel. We sleep in the next day, but are told by the owners that the pooch was still outside the door in the morning...


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The artist's palette The artist's palette
The artist's palette

Cemetery in Quebrada de Humahuaca
Cemetery in Quebrada de HumahuacaCemetery in Quebrada de Humahuaca
Cemetery in Quebrada de Humahuaca

that is one big cactus


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