A Travellerspoint blog

Salta to Tilcara

semi-overcast 31 °C
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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.

Posted by shaneandnicola 14:34 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Cachi to Salta

sunny 37 °C
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This morning Martin picked us up at 9am to head for Salta for the night. It was only about 150 km but would take us 4 hours. We were in for another morning of spectacular scenery. The weather turned on another great day and we had a great view of the mountains. We headed just out of Salta to get a picture across to the snow.
We then headed into Los Cardones National Park. This national park is named after the Cardoon Cactus. They were everywhere.
They only grow at a certain altitude. We stopped to have a wander around the cactus.
On our way back Shane was about to walk right where there was a snake. I didn’t get a picture as I was more interested in getting back to the car. As soon as we told Martin he was pretty excited and jumped out of the car to go and have a look. He reported back that it wasn’t poisonous.
We continued driving through the national park until we reached Piedra del Molina, the highest point at 3457 metres above sea level. The view was lovely, Martin had said that quite often this point is covered in cloud and you can’t see a thing.
There was also a little chapel up there called San Rafael.
We then headed out of the national park along the Cuesta del Obispo. This is a 21 km mountain road built between 1928 and 1931. We stopped to take a look at most of the road that was ahead of us, it was pretty windy and all dirt.
We were thankful that the weather had been good as there were still some small rock falls that we had to go around. Martin had said that it is pretty dangerous in wet weather.
We finally got to the end of this road only to find yet more colourful scenery.
We arrived in Salta just before 1pm. Salta is located in the Lerma Valley at 1,152 metres above sea level at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Salta was founded in 1582 by the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Lerma, who intended the settlement to be an outpost between Lima, Peru and Buenos Aires.
We checked into our hotel that is not far from the 9 de Julio main square and headed off to get some lunch. We found a place that did empanadas and we got a variety of cheese, chicken and meat. Empanadas are a bit like cocktail pasties but the dough is different. They are really yummy. We then had a walk around the main square to look at the Salta Cathedral.
There were some old colonial type buildings all around the square.
At 4pm Martin picked us up to show us around a bit more. He took us to the San Bernardo Convent,
San Francisco Church
and we then headed up the San Bernardo Hill to get a view of Salta.
We are heading out again tomorrow but will be back in Salta again in a couple of day’s time.

Posted by shaneandnicola 15:23 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Cafayate to Cachi

sunny 32 °C
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Today Martin picked us up at 9am to head off for Cachi. It was only 165 km away but took us most of the day. We travelled along Route 40 but it was all dirt road and extremely narrow at times. We were lucky that it had not rained for a couple of days so we were able to get across the river beds as at times you cannot complete the journey.
We did not know what we were in for scenery wise but it was quite different to anything else we had seen. We travelled into the Calchaqui Valley, it is best known for its contrast of colours and unique geography. We drove through the Quebrada de las Flechas (broken arrows) which originated 15 to 20 million years ago. The wind and rain has eroded the formations into arrow tip shapes. Apparently they shot several scenes of the Star Wars planet Tatooine here.
There were also homes in the middle of nowhere, you wonder how they exist in that harsh environment.
There was even a cemetery in the middle of nowhere, but it had a beautiful backdrop. Because it is so dry there they can only use fabric flowers but it was lovely and colourful.
We stopped at Molinos for lunch. We went and ate in a little restaurant that the locals eat in. It was fairly basic but the meal was lovely. It was called Carne con Arroz, like a beef stew with rice. There was a lovely little church there and there was some type of religious ceremony going on for the gauchos (cowboys).
We also visited a conservation refuge for Vicunas. These animals belong to cameloid family and are like llamas and alpacas. They have such dainty little faces.
We continued our journey on to Cachi. It is found in the northern part of the Calchaqui Valley at the foot of the Nevado de Cachi (mountain with snow) at 2531 metres above sea level. It is a quaint little town with colonial type white buildings, adobe houses and paved streets. Cachi means salt in quechua language due to the fact that the natives mistook the top of “el nevado” with a salt mine. We drove up to the Cachi cemetery where you overlooked Cachi. Then from the cemetery you can also see "el nevado" which is at over 6000 metres.

Posted by shaneandnicola 14:44 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Iguazu to Cafayate

semi-overcast 30 °C
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30th January – We left Iguazu Falls behind us for now to move on to our next destination. Our flight was due to leave at 11am but they changed the time at the last minute to 12.40. So we hung around the hotel relaxing for a bit longer than planned. Our flight to Salta took 2 hours. We had Martin awaiting our arrival. He is going to be our personal guide for the next 4 days around this part of Argentina. He turned up in a nice new 4 wheel drive to take us in. So we headed off for our first destination which was Cafayate. This was a 3 hour drive along Route 68 as we had stops along the way.
As we entered the last half of the journey, the terrain began to get hilly and really colourful. We could see the sedimentary layers in the rock that underlay the bushes and trees, but there had been sufficient upthrust that the layers ran at a 45 degree angle.
In several places the road had been washed away by the force of the river. They have had to make other bits of road to go around the washed out parts.
Now we entered the Quebrada de Cafayate proper, and colours became varied, with reds, browns, and off-whites visible; the rock formations became more sensational as well.
Along the way we stopped to see:
The devils throat
The Amphitheatre
A view across the valley from the Three Crosses Lookout
And The Castles
We then arrived at our hotel that will be our home for the next 2 nights called the Killa Hotel. It is not far from the main square.

31st January – Today we spent the day looking around Cafayate. Cafayate is located at the central zone of the Valles Calchaquies in the province of Salta. It sits 1683 metres above sea level. The town is an important tourist centre for exploring the Calchaquíes valleys, and because of the quality and originality of the wines produced in the area. The town was founded in 1840 at the site of a mission. There is not much to see in town, but it does have a lovely square and the Iglesia Cathedral which is a slender Cathedral located opposite the main square. It was built between 1890 and 1895.
We then headed out to visit some bodegas (wineries) and a goat cheese factory. Our first stop was at the Cabras de Cafayate goat cheese factory.
When this farm was originally set up for goat farming the intention was to use the manure to fertilize the vineyards, after a while they decided to use the milk to make cheese. We had a trip through the goat farm and the cheese factory and at the end we got to taste about 10 different varieties of cheese. We bought a nice garlic and herb goat cheese and some bread to have for dinner tonight.
We then headed to our first winery Bodega Vasija Secreta where there was a little museum to go through. We could not believe the size of some of the wine barrels. We did some wine tasting and bought a lovely bottle of GataFlora Torrontes.
Our next stop was Bodega Domingo Hermanos. This family winery cultivates Torrontes and Malbec, the flagship grapes of Argentina, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay. Some of these varieties we had never heard of before. They sell the wine in 5 litre bottles. The vineyards have more than 300 sunny days a year and extremely dry weather with rainfall average of 150 millimetres a year.
We then moved on to Bodega Finca las Nubes - José Luis Mounier is one of the most respected winemakers in all of Argentina. José Luis farms his wines organically and doesn’t believe in using herbicides. Finca las Nubes means "farm of the clouds", it is located on the slopes and it is literally high enough to be in the clouds on some days. We again did some wine tasting. We decided to have lunch at the bodega as it had a lovely view of Cafayate.
Shane had some of their Rosade (Rose) with lunch. We had tamales for lunch along with a lovely platter of meats and cheeses. Tamales are a traditional dish usually made of a starchy corn based dough which is steamed in a corn leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Our tamales had beef inside. They were beautiful.
After lunch we had one last stop at the Bodega Nanni, this was again a family winery, representing 4 generations dedicated to the production of organic wines.
It was a really relaxing day today. Although there was not a lot to see visiting the local wineries to see what they had to offer was really interesting.
We are now sitting outside our room eating our cheese and bread drinking our bottle of wine where we can see the top of the church with the mountains in the background. Another good day.

Posted by shaneandnicola 13:51 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Iguazu Falls

sunny 36 °C
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28th January – Today we said farewell to Uruguay and were ready for a day of travel. It was sad to leave after our fleeting visit. Had we known how lovely it was we would have arranged a longer stay. It is certainly not a third world country. The people were really friendly and it felt safe. So if ever you are in South America, make sure you put Uruguay on your list. We headed off to the very modern Montevideo airport for our flight back to Buenos Aires. We flew Aerolineas Argentinas for the first time. Nice plane with only 2 seats on each side of the plane, this made it quite spacious and we even got a snack box with a fruit box, crackers, chocolate biscuit and muesli bar. This was only a 45 minute flight. We did however have to go back through immigration and customs (more stamps in our passports), pick up our bags and then book in for our flight to Iguazu Falls. This is something that we have been excited about for ages. The flight to Iguazu Falls took 1 hour and 35 minutes and we got another snack box although this time there were 3 seats on each side and it felt a bit more cramped. The plane even flew over the falls so that we could see it from the air. It was spectacular even though we were quite high up in the air. At the bottom of the picture you can even see the walkway that goes out of the river to the falls.
We arrived at our hotel the “La Aldea de la Selva (which was again booked by the argentinian travel company). It backs on the jungle and all the materials used to make the lodge have been made by local and regional manpower. The dining room is terrific all of the lights are suspended from tree roots and all of the chairs are made from tree branches. They are very unusual. To get to our room we walk along paths through the jungle.

29th January – Today we visited the Argentina side of Iguazu Falls. Wow is all you can say really. It was absolutely spectacular. I have seen Niagara Falls and Victoria Falls but this was even better. Shane said "Santa Maria holy mother".
Iguazu means big water. These falls are located where the Iguazu River tumbles over the edge of the Parana Plateau 23 kilometres upriver from the Iguazu's confluence with the Parana River. Numerous islands along the 2.7-kilometre-long edge divide the falls into numerous separate waterfalls and cataracts, varying between 60 to 82 metres high. The number of these smaller waterfalls fluctuates from 150 to 300, depending on the water level. About half of the river's flow falls into a long and narrow chasm called the Devil's Throat. The Devil's Throat is U-shaped, 82 metres high, 150 m wide, and 700 m long. We headed off at 7.30 this morning for the entrance to the national park. There, there was a sign stating it is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
Most of the visitors to Iguazu Falls were heading straight to the main attraction “Garganta del Diablo” the devils throat, so we headed off away from the rush and walked the upper trail where the walk ways take you along the upper lip of the falls to visit the “two sisters” waterfall followed by the beautiful Cataratas Falls.
We then headed along the lower trail where there were panoramic views of the Cataratas Falls and the surrounding vegetation. You can see a boat at the bottom of the falls. We were doing that trip at midday.
By the time we reached there it had become very hot and humid. We were dying to cool off and it wouldn’t be long before we had that opportunity as we took a high powered boat onto the water and got totally wet. The boat took us right under some of the waterfalls. It was fantastic. We also got a good look at the devils throat from the water.
Upon disembarking the boat we climbed up 200 metres of steps to be met by an open vehicle that took us for a ride through the jungle. We then stopped for lunch. It was important to watch out while having lunch for a creature called a coati. It is a member of the racoon family and they have become used to visitors and try to eat your lunch. They have really sharp claws.
We then headed for the main feature of Iguazu Falls – the devils throat. To get to the walk ways you need to catch a little train, it was actually good to be off our feet. The walk ways cross the upper river from island to island to reach the viewing platform. The amount of water going over the falls was unbelievable.
We could not believe the number of different butterflys and birds flying around, including lots of vultures.
By the time we had stood in awe of this amazing place it was time to head back, so we got back on the train. Unfortunately it broke down half way back and we ended up having to walk back to the entrance in the heat, it didn’t matter though as we had had such a great day. It was a long day as we arrived back at the hotel at 6pm. Best day so far. We will be heading off tomorrow but will be back in a few weeks time to visit the Brazilian side of the falls.

Posted by shaneandnicola 04:17 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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