A Weekend of Colour and Salt

Written by Michael Curcio & Nicola Williamson
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Over the weekend we decided to go to Tilcara as we told this was a must by a friend in Argentina and, is very close to La Quiaca. Tilcara forms part of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, which is north of Jujuy and snakes its way up towards Bolivia. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site because there is a large population of indigenous people and the landscape is majestic. It was a rather pleasant bus ride with mountains bordering either side of the road. The farther south we got, the more colorful the mountains became: reds, yellows, and oranges rippling up and down through the face of the mountain.

Hey look, there goes the Tropic of Capricorn, which you will pass on your way from La Quiaca to Tilcara. When we arrived we were greeted by the smell of the most amazing Tortillas being cooked on BBQ's and the sound of folklore music being played in the square- a big change from Quiaca! The main change though was trees and flowers..... lots of them! We walked a rather steep hill to a hostel that again was recommended called Malka, which was truly fabulous. The place was run by some old time porteños turned hippies, who have grown tired of the bustling and chaotic Buenos Aires life and, had looked to seek a quieter life in the mountains. In a quiet corner town, the small cabins and lovely breakfast and even Yoga, just in case that's your thing, gives the place a homey and rustic feel.

By now we had grown a wee bit famished and stopped to eat at a local restaurant, which was probably the best place to go for a very local vibe and not much money at all. Afterwords, what shall we do? We pondered. Off to Purmamarca la tierra de colores. It certainly lives up to its name because the mountains could properly be described as a rainbow. We hiked up some of the surrounding mountains to see the breathtaking view and then chilled out in the market square, surrounded by mate drinking musicians who were strumming some local songs. The market it self was an array of colours due to the arts and crafts for sale from the area and Bolivia too. After heading back and reading a bit, we finally met our two lively dorm mates and chatted in Spanglish a good bit. All of us practicing our respective foreign language. Before we knew it, it was time to get some grub and we went to a fancy restaurant featuring Miguel, a local who played all sorts of folklorian music on all sorts of instruments, including a Mac and weird fluteish and guitarish things.

Whew, good day. Time to sleep and the next morning heralded in a beautiful day, started off with a lovely breakfast with our new friends. After a long chat about the Middle East we decided to hike up the Gargantua del Diablo or throat of the Devil! Although up hill, the walk was very pleasant and we saw the most stunning scenery surrounded by mountains of all colours and huge cacti. Once at the top we could see for miles and chatted to a few weary hikers. Following the walk we grabbed a tasty tortilla from one of the BBQ's on the roadside and then headed off for the Argentinean salt flats!

In Purmamarca again we found a driver and a couple to share the ride with. And off we went up to the mountains in search of salt. We were certainly not disappointed. But first we had to climb the mountain through a series of switchback to 4,170 meters above sea level. Although a wee bit nippy, the view was, like always, wonderful. Although a fraction of the size of Bolivia's salt flats, we were not disappointed, and as we grew closer the noise in the car stopped as we all looked in amazement at the flats. After walking around barefoot we all bore the sign of walking around on the salt with white salty ankles and feet! Although a little out of place, but not that surprising though as we are in Argentina, there was even two football posts in the middle of the salt flats....not really sure who would want to play on salt though, when there are so many fields and open space surrounding the area! Guess it is good for practising technique...

As we hopped back in the car, everyone was tired and it was a pretty relaxing ride as we went back over the mountains and down in the land of colors. After resting a wee bit, we headed out on the town to go to a restaurant that was jamming the night before. As we got chicken and fried cheese, yum, we were entertained by the “Cuatro Diablos” who played quite a range. And by range I mean from “Hey Jude” to “The Sound of Silence” to local songs from el Campo. The food and wine was fantastic and we decided to hit the sack early because we had to get back to La Quiaca for Classes tomorrow afternoon.

The next day, we headed on back to La Quiaca and while there were less trees, it was none the less good to be back.

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