03.02.2013 - 03.02.2013
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We had an earlier start this morning. Martin picked us up at 8.30. This was still a sleep in comparing to when we go to work. Neither of us slept that well last night as there was torrential rain hitting the roof and it kept us awake. We were however excited about another day of adventure. Martin had told us that we were in for another day of colourful scenery today. So we headed north to Purmamarca. The names meant purma (desert) and marca (city). This little town’s main attraction is Cerro de Siete Colores (the hill of seven colours). It is 2324 metres above sea level.
We headed into Purmamarca and had a walk around this little town. We visited the main square and the church.
Inside the church grounds is the algarrobo tree which is believed to be 700 years old.
There is a 45 minute hike that you can do that takes you around the back of the town where you walk amongst the coloured hills. It was absolutely beautiful.
We then had lunch in a lovely little restaurant. I had a nice chicken dish but Shane went for a Llama schnitzel which he said was nice.
After lunch Martin advised us that we were now heading up to 4170 metres above sea level to cross the mountains to visit the salt flats. He prepared us for this high altitude by providing us with coca leaves to chew. It had been some time since we had chewed coca leaves, I don’t like the taste much, it is quite bitter, but if it helps prevent altitude sickness then I don’t mind. For those that don’t know the coca leave comes from the coca plant. This is an important cash crop in South America to produce cocaine. However the alkaloid content of the leaves is low so chewing the leaves or drinking coca tea does not produce the high that people experience with cocaine. Not sure what would happen if Shane had a drug test for the Army Reserves. Coca leaves have been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. So with a cheek full of coca leaves we set off.
Once again the scenery along the way was spectacular. We climbed through the mountains on really windy roads until we got to our highest point.
We then started heading down the other side of the mountain to the famous salt flats. We could see them between the hills.
When we were in Bolivia 2 years ago we had travelled over the salt flats, however this was a new experience for us as due to the rain this month, the salt flats had water on them. You needed to have your sun glasses on it was so bright. They mine the salt so we could see piles of salt and also trenches that create purer salt.
After spending about an hour wandering around parts of the salt flats we headed back over the mountain to our destination for the evening which was Tilcara which is 2500 metres above sea level. Just outside Tilcara there were yet more colourful hills and this time it was called the Painters Pallet.
Tilcara is another lovely little town.