Jujuy road trippin’

Salta

Salta

On the bus from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile to Salta, Argentina (35000Ps – 11h) I met a french couple, Laura & Damien. They would meet up with 2 friends of Laura in a hostel in Salta. I was going to meet Wancy in another hostel named ‘La Posada de Don Simon’.  Wancy is a lovely girl that that I met in October 2012 in Jordan and who I visited in Australia back in February.  When we realised that both the hostels were one block from each other, we checked out both and decided to stay in ‘La Posada de Don Simon’ runned by an adorable couple with friendly room rates (140 pesos/double room) and an exquisit & fresh breakfast! Highly recommendable!

Salta

Salta

Once checked in, I strolled around the city and realised that Salta had a big European touch! We met Laura’s friends Virginie & Pauline later that evening and I met Wancy the next day. We all wanted to explore Salta’s surroundings and decided to rent a car. We searched all over the city for a descent & affordable rental and finally found one with Localisa, a rental company who did a 3+1 days promo. And so we rented a Renault Kangoo good for 7 people to hit the road!  Great start of my Argentinian adventure…

With Damien, Laura, Wancy, Virginie & Pauline @ Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas

With Damien, Laura, Wancy, Virginie & Pauline @ Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas

Salta got it’s name from the Aymara word ‘Sagta’ meaning ‘the very beautiful one’, is surrounded by “Quebrada’s” meaning ‘gorges’ and got some of the best preserved colonial architecture in the country.  The most significant buildings in Salta are grouped around ‘Plaza 9 de Julio’ with for example the Cathedral, the Cabildo, the San Francisco church,…  We all visited the Museo Arquelogico de Alta Montana as well with its collection of exhibits gathered from the high-altitude Inca shrines including the 3 famous mummified children that were found in a 6700m high site on Mount Llullaillaco.  Impressive how The Lightning Girl, The Boy & The Maiden were preserved till today!

The wine region of Cafayate

The wine region of Cafayate

Roadtrippin’, day 1.  We started to drive south to Cafayate what brought us in the incredible ‘Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas’ with its amazing colors & the  beautiful Colorado river providing infinite photo opportunities around every corner!  Cafayate is located at the feet of the Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas where the valley widens up at the bottom of the hills.  It is home to Argentina’s finest vineyards & wines. We strolled around this pretty town & absorbed the atmosphere. One thing I have to mention is that we had lunch at the plaza in a place called ‘Las Marias’.   I’m not a difficult eater but this place served really the worst food ever!

With Pauline, Laura, Virginie, Damien & Wancy @ Parque Nacional Los Cardones

With Pauline, Laura, Virginie, Damien & Wancy @ Parque Nacional Los Cardones

Roadtrippin’, day 2.  Our first stop today was ‘Parque Nacional Los Cardones’, huge altiplano’s covered in cacti where we had great fun strolling around between the cacti and enjoying the scenery. A bumpy dirt road brought us to the pittoresk town of Calchi, located in the Alto Calchaqui valley and resting at the feet of the Nevado del Cachi, a chain of mountains composed by 9 peaks from which the Labrador Gral. San Martin stands out with its 6380m. Most of the 5500 inhabitants of Cachi are descendents of the Diaguita-Calchaqui culture with some influences of the Incas. On the way back home we drove again through the beautiful ‘Parque Nacional Los Cardones’ and reached Salta right after sunset.

With Tenna, Jakob & Wancy @ Salinas Grandes

With Tenna, Jakob & Wancy @ Salinas Grandes

Roadtrippin’, day 3.  Damien, Laura, Virginie & Pauline were leaving today. Wancy & me would stay 2 more days to explore the northern regions of Salta. Having 5 places left in the car, we decided to put a rideshare ad on the couchsurfing website. Jakob & Tenna, a Danish couple from Copenhagen, who just started their 6 months journey in South-America responded & as agreed we picked them up the very next morning.  Jakob & Tenna stayed in the new, remote Loki hostel, 30 minutes out of town but it happened to be on Ruta 51, the road to take to follow the route of the famous ‘Tren a las Nubes’ (‘Train to the Clouds’). This scenic, dusty road wind its way through ‘Quebrada del Toro’, a gorgeous gorge with colourful mountains all around & brought us in 3h to the small town of San Antonio de los Cobres where we had lunch. After visiting the ‘Viaducto La Polvorilla’ just out of town, we headed north on Ruta 40, a dusty road who brought us in a vast but beautiful desert landscape for about 2h till we reached Argentina’s salt flat ‘Salinas Grandes’.

The Seven Coloured Hill

The Seven Coloured Hill

Not quite so big as Salar de Uyuni but still… Salinas Grandes hasn’t a crystal white surface either, but the composition of the surface was fascinating.  Watching sunset on the salt flats was a unique experience, one to never forget.  We had now to drive one more hour to the small pre-Hispanic town of Purmamarca down in the valley where we chose for the budget friendly but nice hostel ‘Bebo Vilte’ (50Ps)  Jakob’s purpose to join us was mainly to see the famous ‘Cerro de los Siete Colores’ meaning the ‘Seven Coloured Hill’ with it’s sedimentary rocks of different colors illustrating various geological era’s. He was impatient for the sun to rise!

Humahuaca

Humahuaca

Roadtrippin’, day 4.  As soon as the day broke, we all walked to the famous ‘Seven Coloured Hill’. located right in town.  Wancy’s purpose of this trip was the pittoresk town of Humahuaca, that we reached after driving north for 1h through the colourful ‘Quebrada de Humahuaca’.  Humahuaca is a sun drenched land, located in the river banks of the Rio Grande in the Jujuy province on an altitude of 2940m, filled with memories of cultures past that continue their influence on architecture, traditions, legends & beliefs related to nature & local heroes.

Local dansers in Humahuaca

Local dansers in Humahuaca

The rustic adobe houses, the narrow cobbled streets and the old colonial street lamps created the illusion that time had stopped.  We were lucky to be right on time for the daily mid-day event.  The old clock Cabildo of Humahuaca, now inside the City Hall, has an image size of San Francisco Solano giving his blessing to all who are there at 12 o’clock. It is the first image of a Saint articulated worldwide and was inaugurated in 1940.  The statue is made of bronze, measures 1.80 meters in height and pays homage to passage to the priest Francisco Solano Humahuaca from the sixteenth century.

The statue of San Francisco Solano

The statue of San Francisco Solano

The statue faces the Belgrano Square which is in the centre of the main city.  We also walked up to the ‘Monumento Independencia’ where a statue is exalting the virtues of the native culture.  East of the river that runs through town, we followed a small dirt road for about 10km to Coctana. According to Lonely Planet, Coctana is one of the most extended ruines of pre-Colombian times. We saw just an old, ghost agricultural village.  Quite nice scenery but not worth the detour at all!  Jakob & Tenna stayed in Humahuaca to catch a bus to Bolivia, Wancy & I drove back for about 3h to Salta where we catched a nightbus to Cordoba.

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