Argentina’s Andean Northwest

Just when we thought we had seen about as many eye popping landscapes as one could expect in a lifetime, we entered northern Argentina. And this wasn’t even the world renowned Patagonia in the south. Breaking all records to date, we crossed the border from Chile to Argentina in ten minutes at an efficient and modern facility. So it doesn’t have to be difficult with numerous trips to the copy machine accompanied by solicited bribes after all.

The Quebrada De Humahuaca, a canyon which snakes its way north toward Bolivia is a harsh, vivid landscape scoured by the river with eroded, colorful formations. The valley is Unesco World Heritage-listed with constant color palette changes from whites to reds to blue greens. With a little imagination we saw formations resembling all kinds of prehistoric beast skeletons. Picturesque indigenous towns like Humahuaca where we stayed are scattered along the valley floor.

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This adobe church in Susques Argentina was originally built in 1598 and recently impeccably restored. Very unusual.
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Dropping into the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
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Then there was a blue mountain!

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…and some little gnome houses or something..?

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Humahuaca, a quiet little town.
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Indigenous inspired art.

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On to Salta (population about 500,000) with its museums, lively plaza cafes with live folkloric music. With so much to enjoy in this friendly city, our time there will be forever tainted by the US election results. Once awaking to the results on November 9 and nearly vomiting, we ventured to Museo De Arqueologia De Alta Montana (MAAM) with an exhibition on Inca culture and the child sacrifices the Inca left on some of the highest Andean peaks. “We’re from Estados Unidos,” we replied when asked by the ticket agent. When she hesitated as if to take a reading of our emotions on such a significant day we told her that we were very sad today. “We are too.” she said. Then we both started to cry right there at the ticket counter. Perhaps viewing the mummy of a six year old who was sacrificed to please or appease the gods 500 years ago on the peak of Llullaillaco, (6739m/ 22,094ft) volcano was not the best distraction activity for the day. Later that day in a cafe a TV was replaying “Trumps greatest hits” rolling through every vulgar quote of the election season. Every head in the cafe was glued to the screen with many shaking their heads in disbelief. It was then, and is now as we’re writing this several days later, unimaginable how that many Americans could fall in line for the biggest con of all times. We are utterly repulsed and deeply saddened as is everyone we meet from all corners of the globe.

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Salta at night.
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What’s not to love about a pink cathedral?
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A little side hike.
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Garganta del Diablo (throat of the devil).

 

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El Anfiteatro (the Amphitheater)

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Geoforma del Sapo (Toad).

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Las Ventanas (the Windows).

South of Salta through Quebrada de Cafayate winds another wildly landscaped visual feast of richly colored sandstone. We continued on into the Valles Calchaquies with wine tasting in Cafayate, Argentina’s second center for quality wine production. The good life is forever present in wine country, with a relaxed existence revolving around wine and good food.

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A Cafayate vineyard
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Fermenting Tanks
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Old School Fermenting Barrels

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Proud of their indigenous and their wine!

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From the crisp hill town mountain air in Tafi del Valle through yet another wildly stunning mountain pass to Chilecito, Argentina’s Northwest is a display of nature’s magic in the arid Andean highlands stretching west to Chile and north to Bolivia. The area contrasts geographically with other regions in Argentina and also differs in that it has a very Andean feeling with its indigenous heritage, Quechua language in some areas, handicrafts, Inca ruins, coca leaves and llamas.

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Ruinas Indigenas de Quilmes a Pre-Columbian Ruin

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In Chilicito an historic mining cable car from the beginning of the twentieth century with detachable cars similar to modern day high speed chairlifts.
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Eerily similar components
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The cable is still in tact for the full distance.
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The biggest difference between this antique and a modern day ski lift is the distance of the run. This one runs a full 25 kilometers (15.5 miles!)

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