Namibia, at last!
Namibia, at last!

The whole reason for coming back to Argentina was to visit the far northwest provinces of Salta and Jujuy.  We started in Salta and worked our way northward to the Bolivian border.  Salta was a fairly typical large Argentine city.  It has a nice central plaza, some popular pedestrian malls and ample treats to snack on.  We spent a few days there just taking in the city and its sights.  One highlight was the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña de Salta which displays Incan artifacts including three frozen mummies that were discovered on the summit of a nearby volcano.  Many other  Incan mummies have been discovered but the ones on display in Salta are the only ones preserved in low-pressure and sub-zero temperatures.  Photography is not allowed in that museum so you will just have to visit Salta to see them.

Salta’s food scene was pretty entertaining and surprisingly different from what we saw further south in the country.  For lunch our first day I tucked into a nice big bowl of locro pulsado which is a corn soup with various types of meat and potatoes.  There is also a thriving street food scene in Salta.  Pochoclo (sweetened popcorn) is certainly the king of street snacks but we also saw candied nut vendors, hotdog-encased-in-pancake-batter vendors (don’t ask) and juice vendors.  There was no problem keeping ourselves fed in Salta.

Locro: a corn and meat soup
Locro: a corn and meat soup

From Salta we headed north to Tilcara.  This was supposed to take about three hours on the bus but we ended up killing a full day thanks to the Argentine equivalent of labor day.  Argentines and their holidays…  Tilcara is a small town at the southern end of Argentina’s Quebrada de Humahuaca.  Quebrada is the Spanish term for a steep valley or ravine and, in this case, the geography gives the place an abundance of water for farming.

Purmamarca and its famous colored hillside
Purmamarca and its famous colored hillside

The main attraction in the Quebrada are the colorful mountains that surround the valley.  Purmamarca, a small village about 30 minutes from Tilcara, has a particularly famous “hill of seven colors” that overlooks the town.  We popped in for half a day and had a look around.

A short hike outside of Purmamarca
A short hike outside of Purmamarca

From Tilcara we made a one-day side trip to the remote village of Iruya (population ~1000).  The road into Iruya, called the Obra del Condor, is one crazy mountain road.  It ascends gradually to over 13,000ft before plunging through dozens of switchbacks into the valley.  The town itself is “muy tranqillo” and I believe that donkeys outnumbered cars in the streets.  Smarter donkeys were found napping in the shade under the new pedestrian-only suspension bridge which connects the two halves of the town.

Iruya, Argentina
Iruya, Argentina

After one night in Iruya we hopped a bus back to Humahuaca (bags on the roof, of course!) and made a quick connection to La Quiaca on the Argentine-Bolivian border.  We had heard that is best to get an early start at crossing into Bolivia so we wanted to get as close as possible.  More on that adventure in the next post.


Northwest Argentina
Lots of fruit to choose from at Salta's market
Lots of fruit to choose from at Salta’s market
A very enthusiastic pizza vendor at Salta's central mercado.
A very enthusiastic pizza vendor at Salta’s central mercado.
My very first humita!
My very first humita!
The central plaza in Salta, surrounded by citrus trees
The central plaza in Salta, surrounded by citrus trees
One of Salta's pedestrian streets
One of Salta’s pedestrian streets
Pochoclo con miel: Sweetened popcorn, a favorite snack of Salteños and Amy
Pochoclo con miel: Sweetened popcorn, a favorite snack of Salteños and Amy
Locro: a corn and meat soup
Locro: a corn and meat soup
The place to eat in Salta
The place to eat in Salta
Dog that joined us while we enjoyed a coffee in the plaza.
Dog that joined us while we enjoyed a coffee in the plaza.
Hot dog vendors are also everywhere in Salta
Hot dog vendors are also everywhere in Salta
Purmamarca and its famous colored hillside
Purmamarca and its famous colored hillside
A short hike outside of Purmamarca
A short hike outside of Purmamarca
Amy insisted that I pose like a cactus
Amy insisted that I pose like a cactus
Who needs barbed wire when you've got a bunch of cacti on hand.
Who needs barbed wire when you’ve got a bunch of cacti on hand.
The wood of a cardón cactus
The wood of a cardón cactus
A cactus with moss growing on it.
A cactus with moss growing on it.
Nice view from our room in Tilcara
Nice view from our room in Tilcara
Waiting on the bus and having a staring contest with this guy.
Waiting on the bus and having a staring contest with this guy.
The start of the crazy road into Iruya.
The start of the crazy road into Iruya.
Lots and lots of switchbacks.
Lots and lots of switchbacks.
A great view just outside our room in Iruya.  Also a good place for drying laundry!
A great view just outside our room in Iruya. Also a good place for drying laundry!
Our favorite dog in Iruya.  Amy named him Banana because he wouldn't eat the banana she gave him.
Our favorite dog in Iruya. Amy named him Banana because he wouldn’t eat the banana she gave him.
Home cookin: lentil stew and big bread
Home cookin: lentil stew and big bread
Somebody likes belly scratches
Somebody likes belly scratches
Iruya, Argentina
Iruya, Argentina


Paso Jama

Argentina, Chile Comments Off
May 162011

Before heading north to Bolivia we wanted to make one last stop in Argentina to explore the northwest.  Buses from San Pedro de Atacama to Salta, Argentina go via the Jama pass.  The road is relatively new (constructed in the 1990′s) and climbs east from San Pedro to a maximum altitude of 4,400m (14,432ft).  The total trip takes about 12 hours but the scenery along the way is absolutely incredible so it is hard to be bored.

Vicuñas
Vicuñas

After clearing the Chilean border formalities in San Pedro, the bus started its slow crawl out of the San Pedro basin.  Being an Argentine bus, we were able to enjoy a delightful selection of films including direct-to-DVD favorites such as “Blood and Bone” on the climb out of San Pedro.

We reached border about three hours into the ride and then got to unload (people and bags) for the usual border antics.  An exceptionally lazy working dog made a humerous attempt at sniffing all of our bags before he went back to sleeping along the road.  All in all, we were stopped at the border for about an hour.

Once we were on the Argentine side of the border drove for a few hours more across desolate terrain and salt flats.  We passed through Salinas Grandes (Argentina’s baby version of Bolivia’s Salar) and then down through dozens of switchbacks into the Quebrada de Humahuaca.  We pulled into Salta about 9PM and made our way to the hostel.

Paso Jama
Volcán Licáncabur
Volcán Licáncabur
Vicuñas
Vicuñas
Altitude!
Altitude!
Argentine customs facility just after the pass.  The Chilean equivalent is located in San Pedro.
Argentine customs facility just after the pass. The Chilean equivalent is located in San Pedro.
Pulling in to Salinas Grandes
Pulling in to Salinas Grandes
Starting the descent into the Quebrada de Humahuaca
Starting the descent into the Quebrada de Humahuaca

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