As it turned out, leaving Salta was not that easy, only after asking four times for the way could we head north, to San Salvador de Jujuy and our next destination: Purmamarca and Humahuaca. We could not help but thinking of our friend Jody who described exactly the same experience in her travel notes.
Purmamarca is famous for its “Cerro de los Siete Colores”, an incredible sight. A wide cliff facing the village offers a spectacular sight: thin layers of different shades of red, brown, purple and white seemed to be painted onto the cliff. To get an even better view we climbed a small hill and shot photo after photo. There a large group of young Argentineans had settled, drinking Mate, playing the guitar and also enjoying the view. While there, we dropped by the village church from 17th century which stands peacefully in the shade of a gigantic tree.
In that small village, everything reminded us of Bolivia: the people, the way they dress, the kind of souvenirs they sell, the adobe houses, simply everything! Before we left, we had lunch in a Parilla frequented by a mix of local workers and young Argentinean tourists enjoying barbecued lamb served with maize and potatoes, some people had wine with their meal. Why do we mention this? It was served in a tetra pack!
Going north on route 9, we stopped at La Posta de Hornillos, a beautifully restored way station, part of a chain that ran from Lima to Buenos Aires.
The tiny village of Maimara is a bit further north and found its way into the tour books because the village cemetery is not only picturesque but squashed on a small hill just on the edge of the pueblo. Going through the village, Heidi spotted a poster advertising a festival that included a rodeo with local gauchos. We decided to go for it. This local fiesta was such an experience that we will give it more attention in a separate paragraph, called “Rodeo de gauchos”.
Right after Maimara, the scenery changed and the valley’s barren hillside turned into a magic display of colours, dark red or pinkish hills and whitish cliffs with brown tops are often twisted into bizarre formations. The Quebrada of Humahuaca has gained so much fame that is was included into the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
In Humahuaca village, we stayed in a very unusual hostal, the Kuntur Wasi. It is built like a typical Andean vivienda, made of small blocks of stone. These are painted white inside the rooms, which by the way are very tastefully decorated. Some have a small enclosed balcony with an incredible view of the Quebrada.
The village offers a few places worthwhile a visit, although we thought that the huge Monumento a la Independencia on a hill seems somewhat oversized. When we headed for the 17th church we found ourselves in the midst of a major event. Not only was the village observing the day of a local saint but two young priests were about to be ordained this day with two bishops present. Villagers told us one of them had come all the way from Misiones! The things that was most striking was the mixture of Christian symbols and those typical for the ancient civilisations of the Andes, like feather headdresses or costumes representing local animals.
Next morning we eagerly set north to see more of the Quebrada Humahuaca, but soon realized that the most beautiful part must be between Humahauca village and Tilcara in the south, so we turned around. We took photos till we were exhausted from stopping, climbing up hills and driving on. Besides it was time to move on to arrive in Tucuman before the car rental closed. We did not want to pay for a garage, since the car’s stereo would be easily accessible through the plastic sheet replacing the window. Besides, we wanted to know how much of the credit card deposit the company would keep.