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Salta adventures - Northwest Argentina

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ARGENTINE TOURS - SALTA THROUGH THE VALLEYS OF SILENCE. The experience the 26 participants of Adventour 2003 went through was as deep as the precipices of the altiplano, and as strong as the solitude of "La Puna".

Salta horse riding Purmamarca Salta and Jujuy ravines
Salta and the northwest

Famous train tours in Salta
Folklore music from Salta


1. The average temperature is around 16C, with a low of 10C and a maximum of 24C.

2. The essence of this region -northwest- is that many of the smaller towns have a pre-hispanic foundation with some incaic reminiscence.

3. There are 3 main very large areas to focus on as far as tourism goes; the southern part of Juyuy (Valle de Lerma); the puna from Salta (Valle Calchaquies); and de puna from Jujuy (Quebrada de Humauaca).

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A typical tour in Salta: Valley of Silence

The full moon is so bright we don't need any lights. Our own shadows follow us, crawling on the hills. On the other side, huge cliffs sink into the dark. We have been walking for four hours, almost without speaking. Only the sounds of our steps are heard.
There isn't even any wind. We are descending the winding path that leads to the Condor refuge where we'll spend the night. On the banks of the Colorado river, in San Juan, the refuge stands on the sides of one of the hills.

The path ends in the river, which is almost dry at this time of year. After crossing it, we climb the last slope. It's a short but exhausting stretch. We need to get our breath back. In the 3,000-meter-high refuge, after some hot food the last vestiges of urban life that still remained in our minds surrendered to the king of the place: Silence. Sunlight helped us see where we were.
And we understood that in San Juan there's no flat place that hasn't been made by man's hand.

After a good breakfast, we went to the school where teachers and students had prepared a touching welcome-farewell. We shared some joyful moments and continued for Iruya. We crossed the river a couple of times and, two hours later, got to a stone beach where the cañadon opened and we could feel the sun for the first time.

Three hours later, we got to Iruya, "the place of grass" according to the Omaguaca translation.

Founded in 1573, Iruya lies at 2,700 meters above sea level. It's located in Salta but it is more direct to arrive through Jujuy. Its stone streets are very, very steep. Surrounded by rivers, it is isolated for short periods during summertime due to overflows.

We had something to eat and rested for a while. We rode our bikes down till Chuapi Rodeo, halfway between Iruya and National Road 9. It was a fast ride; at 40 kilometers per hour, we arrived in 20 minutes. The tents had been set up next to a stream.

The full moon appeared behind the 5,000-meter-high Morado Mount. The fire, the food and the wine helped us warm-up. Four musicians, on their way to Iruya, shared their voices, guitars, "quenas", and "charangos" with us. The night was magical.

Almost all the area of "Quebrada de Humahuaca" was inhabited by "omaguacas" Indians, who formed different tribes such as "purmamarcas", "jujuys", etc. In 1470, the Inca Tupac Yupanqui conquered the Argentine North.
In 1535, Diego de Almagro was the first Spaniard to enter the area. Sharing the land with the Indians wasn't easy. In 1630 the first rebellions broke up, which followed until 1665. At 6:30 am, the thermometer in my watch read 8 degrees below zero. The few bottles that were still on the table from the previous night were frozen.

It had been very cold. From a tidy hut, about 200 meters away, an 80-year-old woman was coming down. Supporting herself on a stick, she walked slowly, followed by two dogs that played with each other. Her skin had been roughened by the sun and the dry air. She protected herself from the cold with a colorful "poncho" and a hat.

She sat down to rest next to a stream, while she watched us lift camp.

It was impossible not to think about the contrast between the two worlds: hers and ours. From the evident: comfort, technology, customs up to the less evident. In fact, customs (hers and ours) could just be an anecdote. It occurred to me that perhaps the biggest contrast was the conception we have of time and how to use it.

As we got away towards the Quebrada, I couldn't stop thinking about this old woman, her slow step helped by a stick, the yellowish grass covered with frost, the dogs playing.

Perhaps, on Judgement day we'll discover the non-evident and know the truth. We left Chaupi Rodeo, passed by Iturbe and continued to the North until Road 40 to the "Salinas Grandes" (Big Salt Plains). Apparently, this road follows the old Inca's Way.

The sensation in the salt plain is strange: it has the consistency of dry mud, the noise of sand, the whiteness of snow and the size of a desert. At 4,200 meters above sea level, where the slope starts, we could see the Quebrada, 2,000 meters below.

An hour later we arrived to the town. We didn't need to pedal; however, we did need to use the brakes at all times. If silence reigned in the valley, in Purmamarca the king was color.

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