The Amazing North of Argentina.

Dreams come true. South America. Part 3. Northern Argentina

A thousand and a half kilometers from Buenos Aires, on the border with Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay, perched on the topography of the Andes stretches the province of Salta. It is an enticing mountainous region with a capital of the same name. The city of Salta is the tourist gateway of the entire northwest. From here the adventurers spread out in all directions, and here they return closer to society and comfort, museums and restaurants, small comfortable hotels.

The capital of the province is the city of San Salvador de Jujuy. On many Russian-language maps and travel guides, the province is called more modestly – Jujuy. Although, if you say so, the locals will not understand you. They do not even call it San Salvador, but simply – Jujuy.

In this part we will talk about the amazing nature of Northern Argentina, where we arrived by plane from Puerto Iguazu. Part 1 and 2 see here First of all, I’d like to tell you where it is. Here’s a map of all of South America. Here are the countries our route takes us through – Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. In parts one and two we talked about Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls. The plan was to fly to a town in northern Argentina, Salta.

At the airport, we were met by a representative of the car company Sixt. We spent so long and so thoroughly looking over the Chevrolet car (we read on the internet that tourists sometimes came across cars with scratches and damages, for which they had to pay later), photographed the tiniest scratches, that the hands of the representative started to shake and he refused to give us a pre-booked car. He wanted to leave already. We understood that we had overstepped the mark and gladly took our Gnu Antelope as well as the GPS, which was of great help to us later. Immediately we went to the supermarket, having bought on the way maps of roads in Salta and Argentina, without which it is simply impossible to travel. In the supermarket we tried for the first time the national pastries of Argentina – empanados. They were with meat. Twelve of them plus a big bottle of Pepsi. Incredibly tasty and a lot of them. The last few pies were literally shoved in. It cost about 220 rubles. Happy and satisfied, we bought 4 days worth of groceries for the trip by car, plus 2 gas bottles. Went to the bus terminal, where we bought tickets for the next 5 trips. All the way to Santiago, Chile. We walked around the city looking for a place to spend the night.

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“La Linda”, which means “beauty”, is the affectionate nickname given by the people of Salta to their city, the capital of the province of the same name. It is a beautiful architectural ensemble inherited from the colonial era. Today the city has 450 thousand inhabitants, but the historic center is quite visible. July 9 Square, the cathedral, the cabildo town hall and the Church of San Francisco. Often there are monuments to national heroes Occasionally there are Indians Walked through the souvenir stores. And the next day we went into nature – began to make a ring around the south of Salta. With the help of GPS it was easy enough (the country is unknown!) We left the city. On the right and left were low hills covered with jungle. Then we entered one valley, then another. The climate is drier, the altitude is higher. We passed several picturesque valleys – Quebrados. These gorges of unique beauty. Branched cactuses of different shapes and heights from 2-3 to 10 meters. On the way we met the natives who make various souvenirs from the cacti and use them as wood in everyday life.

We visited the “Encantado” canyon, which means “Enchantment Valley” or “Enchanted”. There walked sheep, beautiful flowers bloomed and begonia bloomed among the crevices of the rocks of unrepeatable shapes. Then we drove along the scenic road through Los Cardones National Park. It is so named after the hairy and prickly cacti of the cardon species, reaching a height of 3-5 meters, growing here in great abundance. We passed by the town of Cachi, where we talked with the locals. Cuesto del Obispo and Quebrada de la Flechas are a land of amazing sandstone shapes. We walked narrow picturesque paths between rocks. But even here there are flowering plants. At dusk, we turned off the road and set up camp. The car was parked under an acacia tree and the tent was next to a prickly cactus. In the light of a wonderful sunset, next to the horses grazing in the meadow, we ate dinner on an improvised table. On large flat rocks stood Argentine wine, olives, cheese, bread, and smoked sausage. Nearby stood an ancient clay oven, in which we lit a fire and enjoyed the crackling of logs and drank Argentinian tea. We fell asleep to the cries of wild donkeys coming from across the river. We woke up at dawn. Parrots chirping, donkeys screaming, llamas wandering near the tent, Argentine lizards crawling underfoot… Argentina’s wilderness. The first rays of sunshine illuminate the neighboring mountainsides. We boil tea on the stove, have breakfast, and pack our backpacks. The road beckons. In the town of Molinos, we toured the picturesque church and central square. Large and small towns necessarily have Catholic churches from the Spanish rule and one or two areas of buildings that are 300-400 years old, left by the conquistadors. Cities are oases in the vast Argentine pampa. Lots of greenery and flowers.

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We reached the gas station in Cafayate and turned north through “Quebrado de las Conchas,” an astonishingly beautiful gorge of surrounding rocks, covered entirely with a forest of tall cacti. The Rio Grande River has cut through the rocks for 130 kilometers. It is here that such outlandish plants grow. Mother Nature sculpted such amazing rocks. Finally we visited the gorges “Devil’s Throat” and “El Amphiteatro” – interesting places with amazing acoustics. We stopped at a small town La Vina. A monument to the Indians. Here we saw a miracle of Argentinean technology – a four-wheeled and four-seater bicycle. The dirt track turned into asphalt, and we raced at a speed of 130-150 kilometers per hour to Salta. The roads, thank God, are great in this country. In our hotel we ate dinner with our food and slept like a corpse. The next morning we drove from Salta to the north along the still deserted highways, taking the following route: Salta – Jujuy (it is pronounced in Spanish) – Purmarca – Umuaca. We liked the town of Jujuy for its architecture, palm trees in the central square, cathedral, orange trees and fountains. Scenes in the streets of the city. On a Sunday afternoon, to the beat of a drum, a group of schoolgirls, dancing and singing songs on religious themes, make their way to a nearby Catholic church, where they sit waiting for the priest to preach. It’s hot. Siesta – no one is seen on the streets. All the inhabitants are resting for a few hours. This is the custom in countries with hot climates. Only the cozy cafes are open. Surrounded by blossoming magnolia trees. The road beckons forward again. Quebrada de Humauca is a picturesque gorge overgrown with small and large cacti. Along the way, we pass local gaucho shepherds moving their herds of cows and horses. We turn off the main highway in the direction of the town of Tilcara to see the ruins of an ancient Indian fortress, now converted into a museum – Pucara. But first we refresh ourselves with local delicious cabbage and potato pies. Pucara is located in the middle of a wide valley on a high hill covered entirely with cacti. Some of them are in bloom at this time. The outdated cacti are very unusual. On the top of the hill, which offers a magnificent view of the entire valley, there are several cult constructions of the ancient Indians. Time seems to stand still here. Very strong energy. Many tourists for a long time sitting or lying on the rocks – charging. But we don’t have time for that – we rush further north, closer to the Bolivian border.

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In the town of Umuaca we had lunch and started to explore an interesting church, picturesque houses, crooked streets, souvenir shops and exotic vendors, locals dancing on a Sunday afternoon, when suddenly it started to rain heavily and we decided to go back. We were only 140 km away from the Bolivian border. On our way back to the town of Purmarrka we stayed a little longer, walked along the main street and the surrounding area. We admired the colorful mountains and local souvenirs. At this point we turned off in the direction of the Chilean border and raced as fast as we could, because the day was already drawing to a close, and we didn’t know where we would spend the night. Higher and higher. The height was 4250 m already, it was cold, windy and the sun was sinking to the horizon. We go down by a good road to solaris – salt desert, formed due to arid climate on the place of huge lake. Before reaching it, we turn off onto a dirt road and rush forward. On a huge plateau we meet some small buildings consisting of 3-4 earthen houses, but no people in sight. Finally, a woman comes out and tries to sell us some llama wool clothes. A strong wind is blowing. Tourists rarely come here. The locals live very poorly. We buy some woolen hats and socks. We drive on. Nearby, wild donkeys and vicuñas graze. A vicuña is a species of cloven-hoofed animal in the camel family. GPS goes off at some point and then shows strange data. It’s completely dark. Our driver is worried. We calm him down as best we can. It’s a beautiful sunset. On the GPS we set the nearest accommodation, and in complete solitude, among the wilderness of South America, we barely notice the turn and the sign of the possible overnighting place – “El mojon”, which means “tavern.” We enter the grounds. A tiny church, a museum, a tiny hotel under renovation, a restaurant, and the poor adobe houses of the locals. We call people. No one comes out. We call more. A native comes out. Calling Sandro. He says we can’t spend the night in the church or the museum. Our salvation is the restaurant. It’s quite a remarkable structure. All the walls are covered with a lot of messages from tourists who have been here. But we are the first from Russia. The bar counter and 5-6 tables are made of thick boards made of salt. The thing is, there is no other building material in these parts. And there is a huge salt desert nearby. You can cut whatever you want out of the salt. Doors and walls are made of openwork cactus wood. In the kitchen we found the original pottery, which Olya used to set the Christmas table. We opened a jar of red caviar from Sochi, cognac from Sochi, olives, cheese, and sausage from Argentina. Olya went to the children and Sandro’s wife and filmed them playing soccer under a lamp. She treated them to some Sochi candy. A picture of one of Sandro’s sons. And here’s the owner of the place himself (on the right). We were celebrating Christmas at the salt table. (The last 4 pictures were taken by Felichita). Sandro told us that he is a descendant of one of the local Indian tribes, he built a hotel and restaurant in this place about 7 years ago. But, generally speaking, he wasn’t much of a talker. And outside the door the bright Argentine stars were shining, the full moon was peeking out from behind the cactus, and the clanking of the vicuñas could be heard in the night. We went to sleep right on the floor between the tables. We got up at 5:00 a.m. Dawn was greeted on the road. The first rays of sunlight gently illuminated the slopes as we entered the town of San Antonio de los Cobres in one hour.

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