The extremes of temperature and the altitude are getting a little crazy…actually the weather here at the moment is really hot and sunny in the day and then pleasantly chilling at night time! I left Salta yesterday morning at the very unsavoury hour of 7am. Craig however, had a 5.20am bus for 27 hours to Iguazu so really shouldn’t complain! I spent yesterday in a big red van/car with our guide, Jorge, a lovely guy who was a little preoccupied with reminding us every half hour which Ruta we were on and how high we were, and Charles and Becky, a brother and sister from New Mexico who have done a lot to restore my faith in the American public! We started from Salta armed with water and bags of Coca leaves. We then followed a long winding road for 150km to San Antonio de las Cobres at about 3700m above sea level through stunning rocky scenery with mini frozen waterfalls. From there we headed across to the mini Salinas Grandes, took lots of silly photos, then had the world’s curviest road dropping over 2000m in less than 30km!
We ended up in the tiny adobe-brick housed town of Purmamarca at the bottom of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a wide gorge that stretches north to Bolivia through crazy striped rocks, yellow, green, pink and red, and slopes peppered with giant cacti called Cardones. The three of us found a small hostel at the back of a restaurant for the night and feasted on Llama steaks whilst listening to folk music and samba rhythms. About 10.30pm when the restaurant owner got stuck in with his accordian as well, it seemed like time to go to bed.
Charles and Becky left on another tour this morning so I strolled around the town taking photos of the rock of seven colours that looms above the houses and then decided to get the midday bus up to the next village. Waiting at the bus stop, I bump into another English girl, Hayley, who I’m now staying with in Tilcara, (travelling is so wonderfully random) although given that I made her walk about 20 minutes up the only steep hill in town to reach the hostel I picked (and I’m making her walk 5 hours tomorrow on a trek) she may not be my friend for much longer! Tilcara is a really sweet town, bigger than Purmamarca and the hostel is awesome, lots of pine wood, a garden, soap and a towel in the shared bathroom…seriously these things become very important when you start opting for budget accomodation in south america! We went to the bus station diner for one of the best and cheapest meals I’ve had in days and then headed up to the prehispanic ruins at Pucara, 1km outside the town. From the top of the maze of stone walls and forests of Cacti there were beautiful views across the valley. We made friends with a school girl from Salta, Antonela, whose friends had deserted her on their geography school trip and we took her back to her bus at the end of the afternoon. I like to think she gained some considerable kudos by hanging out with two older English girls…well maybe! Well there are some american girls in our hostel too, so the plan for tonight involves cooking, it involves wine and then who knows..but in a town this small there surely can’t be that much trouble to find?