Sunday, February 2, 2014

Up and over the Andes

We leisurely packed up camp, said farewell to our new friends and started the ascent towards Paso Jama and into Argentina.  A few more drastic alterations to the carburetor and we were able to climb up to 4700masl passing close to the Bolivian border and Salar Tara with another amazing laguna with flamingos.  As we travelled parallel to the peaks bordering Argentina we saw the huge grey weather systems.  Little did we know that we would soon be heading straight for them.  We rounded a bend, travelled 10km more and suddenly were getting pelted with rain watching lightning strike the land too close for comfort.  Deciding this was not fun at 4000 + meters we turned around and looked for a potential camping spot.  It was only then that we watched closer and realised the storm was passing, so after 30min and attempting to make a shelter from the wind out of rocks, we continued towards the border.  Amazingly we missed every shower that was in the area and at the border made an easy entrance into Argentina.  The late start, engine difficulties and delay with the weather meant that we camped close to the border behind the petrol station to avoid travelling in the dark.  

Our stone wall wind barrier and passing storm looking towards the border.

The passing storms
 Up early the next morning we headed towards Susque to get fuel and lunch.  We met the very friendly manager of the hotel/restaurant, Paul, and he drew us a map explaining the best things to see in northern Argentina.  Heading further into Argentina we continued at a high altitude and had expected to get very wet during the day however the rain was only falling in the distance and we enjoyed watching storms pass us by!  Salinas Grandes is an impressive salt lake.  With all the rain that had been falling in the area there was a thin film of water over the salt crust which gave the effect of walking on water! There is a lot of mining in this salt lake, however there is one section for tourists where you can walk on the salt lake and local artisanal products are for sale made of salt.

Salinas Grandes with a film of water

The green on the right is where salt has been removed to make art

What the ...??

Just chilling at our table and chairs made of salt on the Salinas Grandes

Some of the local art work

The storm approaching...

 Initially we thought of camping near the salt lake, but then decided to push on over the 4175masl pass while we had all our layers on.  Hoping to avoid the storm approaching we left the salt lake and up the pass. At about 4000 masl we drove into the clouds and were met with heavy mist and rain.  This would not have been to much of a problem if we were not stuck behind 4 car carrying trucks going about 10 km/h down the switch backs. When we eventually descended below the mist and clouds it was a beautiful valley drive to the town of Purmamarca, being drenched and cold we decided to look for a room for the night.  After a short drive around town we found a cosy little room and had a hot shower and went and got some dinner. The town is famous as it lies at the base of the hill of the 7 colours. Rather exhausted from the days ride we decided to have an early night, well that was not on the cards for us, as we soon discovered our room was directly below the restaurant and bar where some people were having a party until 7 am the next morning, not impressed !! and to top it off when we got up in the morning we were greeted to vomit all over and under our door.
The switch backs and finally out of the clouds

Hill of 7 colours

 Using Paul's map again we headed down Route 9 towards Jujuy,and took the camino Cornisa route towards Salta. WOW what an amazing road and scenery, so green and so many bugs, birds, horses, cattle and pigs on the sides of the road quite a change from the deserts we have been going through.  
As suggested we went for lunch at a restaurant next to the dam for some fish and chips, delicious and the surroundings were just so peaceful and beautiful we decided to camp by the dam for the night.

Man make fire !!!

The rest of the drive through to Salta took us through some amazing winding roads and forest which we thoroughly enjoyed. Arriving in Salta we went in search for a place to stay for a few nights to update the blog and get some much needed washing done !

We found Hostal Andino for 180 pesos per night for the room in a very  relaxed and clean hostel with kitchen, braai and pool!

In Salta we have explored the town which has a very European / Spanish feel to it and visited the MAAM Museum made famous for housing the 3 mummified children found at the top of the 6700 masl volcano in the province. They are apparently the best preserved mummies in the world and date back 500 years to an old Inca ritual. 

Chilling in the park or playing volleyball on a saturday afternoon

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