Second part of our round trip through the region of Salta. Digression about contact with the local people. Adventurous ride through the dessert. A salt lake. Siete Colores. Purmamarca. Horse riding.

Travelogue Argentina 2003
Salta – Part 2

Here I want to include some information about the Argentine people. Wherever we went there was a warm welcome. I have the impression that it is easier here to get in contact with the locals than it is in Central America . There I always felt a cultural barrier that caused a distinction in “us” and “them”, here in Argentina there is nothing like that. Whoever you meet will have great interest in you and likewise be willing to help you and / or tell you something about themselves or the country. Though there are cultural differences which may result in conversations that wouldn’t happen in Germany or similar western countries. E. g. the waiter in the restaurant of the hotel where we stayed after the car accident. He asked where we were from and we told him that we were from England and Germany. But where we were living, he asked. London and Munich I said and explained him, that we were only friends and travelling together, and that we would have to separate again in a week. He asked his questions so innocent and friendly that it only seemed nice. Nevertheless I told him, that we now would like to eat and indicated that his interest was turning a little to intimate. Some time later he returned and asked whether I would be sad when Priti would leave and I said, yes, we had a nice time together. He then asked us so spontaneous that we answered, whether we were singles. A question we had not even asked each other. From the answers the concluded that there was no reason for us not to get together, asked about flights between Munich and London, recommended calling each other and writing emails … finally he came a last time and wished us that we would never have to separate … He did all this in such a nice way that we were only amused though none of this was any of his business.

A little problematic is the contact with the kids here, some of them are the only obvious sign of poverty though it seems to be not as bad as in parts of Central America. Every once in a while a boy or a girl will come and ask you for some money. Some time ago I decided for myself that I would never give money to begging kids, but I give them some bred, a croissant or some sweets I carry for this purpose, if I have nothing else to give. I would love to give them something healthier but it is simply not possible to always carry fruits with you and which kid likes healthy stuff anyway? Most of them are quite happy with this but in some faces I saw a deep and touching sadness that made me wonder whether there wasn’t a better possibility to help. But I can’t keep buying fabric llamas I don’t need. So I do hope that by the way I travel some of the money gets through to the not so rich people. And maybe we all should think about the less fortunate at the end of the year and consider if we couldn’t use a donation receipt for our tax declaration …

Okay, back to the story. The mechanic came, found the problem, started to repair it but gave us the other car anyway. We had planed to get till Purmamarca in the first day but decided to stay over night in San Antonio de los Cobres. Here I drank my first three (and maybe last) cups of Coca-tea which is said to help compensate the effects of a height of 4000m. It tasted like peppermint tea and had no noticeable effects. In the night we watched the wonderful moon and the stars, at this height and only 10% humidity a very nice thing to do.

NB: I have don’t have pictures of this part of the trip as my %$§#%$-camera has a defect I discovered only a month later. Fortunately Danial Quadt allowed me to use some of his photos after he travelled the same region.

The next morning we went on, our first goal were some salt lakes. We went route 40 north but then decided to turn left, using a road we had only seen on a little map in the Rough Guide. When Priti finally found the description of this road it seemed to late to turn arround. The unpaved road was okay but really tough for a Polo. We often asked ourselves where this way would lead us, whether we still were on the right route, what happened if the car broke down. I always cared that we were in a walking distance (less than 20km) from the next settlement (a single house in the middle of nothing), that we had enough fuel and water. In spite of all worries the trip was amazing and a real adventure, we even so an ostrich (the smaller but still big South American version). At one of the settlements we stopped to take a picture. Immediately one of the inhabitants came and greeted us. He was obviously drunk, had his mouth full of coca leaves and I could not understand any of his words. From his gestures I finally concluded that he wanted something to drink. I was sure that he wanted alcohol, but now I am sorry because he maybe only wanted some water (coca is often used against thirst). Quite a distance later we met two cyclists (in the middle of the desert) who told us that in some 20km we would reach paved road again. They spoke normal Spanish, so I could understand them, and we gave them some water (they had gone without to the desert) and sweets (sugar also helps against the effects of the height). I tell you, I have never been so happy seeing a paved road when it finally appeared and wiped away all our worries.

The salt lake was impressive but most likely nothing against the salt lakes I want to visit in Bolivia. Then we entered the next Quebrada. This region has lots of different kinds of ore (e.g. copper) which give the mountains colours we never saw before: yellow, orange, red, purple, greyish blue, green. (more “wow”s and and again I need to put you off with the promise to put photos on my website)

Siete Colores
Siete Colores (© Daniel Quadt)

In Purmarca at the end of the canyon we had a late lunch and recovered from the exhaust and the impressions of the tour. Then we went on to Humahuaca through another canyon that is much more inhabited than the other two. There were some excellent views but in my opinion it couldn’t compete with what we had seen before. Because I had been driving (which was quite fun) all the way because Priti hadn’t taken her license I was so tired that I went to bed without dinner and slept some twelve hours. Priti was lucky enough to see some impressing live music and dance.

street through the mountains of the Salta region
Street through the mountains of the Salta region (© Daniel Quadt)
Panorama between Cafayate and Salta
Panorama between Cafayate and Salta – I did not get there unfortunately (© Daniel Quadt)

The next morning we returned because we had decided to skip the village of Iruya though it is said to be really nice. With the Polo this would not have been possible anyway and with the bus we would have come back only in the evening and would have had to go then by the car all the way to Salta. As soon as we reached the part of the road to Salta that we hadn’t seen the night before we got another impressive change of landscape and drove through jungle covered mountains saw animals and lovely lakes. Lucky and tired we reached Salta being sure that our way to visit these places with a rented car was the best possible decision.

Next morning we went horseback riding in San Lorenzo through a beautiful village. It was easier than expected but we only went slow and I hardly could get my horse to trot. I really liked it and might ride again as soon as I get the possibility.

Priti and Volker riding through the surroundings of Salta
Priti and I riding through the surroundings of Salta

Now it is Friday evening and our time in Salta comes to an end. Priti is going to fly to Buenos Aires tomorrow and I will do some rafting and then take the night bus to the Bolivian border.

Read about it in my next report.
All the best from Salta, Argentina


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