January 25, 2012

The North of Argentina and its colors

There are several things I like about backpacking,but most of all I love being in contact with other backpackers and listening to their stories.

Our adventure this year was to the north of Argentina. My husband had been talking about visiting this part of the country for 4 years and this year it worked out. Once more, we traveled with our kids ( now not kids anymore ), each  with a backpack (thanks Marcinha for lending us your backpack).

We started our adventure by car. We woke up very early in the morning and went by Piracicaba to pick my daughter up. Our plane left Brazil from the International Airport of Guarulhos. The first delay from a series, the flight from SP to Buenos Aires with Aerolineas was ok, apart from the snack they serve. It's not that it's bad but the thing is they never vary the snack, it's always the same thing, a ham and cheese sandwich , alfajor and a candy. We got a connection from B.A. to Cordoba and guess what, the same sandwich again.

We got to Cordoba at night and what a night! Nearly 40 degrees Celsius, BOILING. As you can imagine, not a perfect night for some rest and sleep. We met some interesting people there, two from Brazil and a group from Israel. The center of Cordoba is very beautiful with interesting historical buildings to visit. I've been told there are lots of beautiful places to visit nearby if you have more time. Well, not our case, the following day after walking around the city for the day, we got a "coche cama" bus to travel north to San Miguel de Tucuman.

Once we got to Tucuman, there was endless RAIN. Rain, rain, rain. We walked around the city centre which is quite nice but decided to got to Cafayate on the same day, to try to escape from the rain. The trip towards Cafayate is breathtaking. The bus goes up a green mountain in an endless zig zag. Cafayate was a wonderful surprise. We had planned to stay for 2 nights but ended up staying 3. The hostel (Rusty-k) was the best one I've stayed so far, extremely clean and with a wonderful backyard covered with vines. We enjoyed the atmosphere with very pleasant dinners my husband cooked. What to visit? We chose to visit a vineyard about 8 kms from the town where they produce the great wine YACOCHUYA. Although they have no wine tasting, it's worth the visit. The view is stupendous. We went by taxi but decided to come back on foot to enjoy the scene. Well, the first 5 kms was just fine, but the last 3 ...  We got back to town, exhausted and my tennis shoes came apart. I had to buy new tennis shoes .The next day was dedicated to trekking at the "Quebrada de las Conchas" , a wonderful area full of mountains and red rocks. Good points about Cafayate, beautiful and pleasant city centre, we found a great restaurant which serves typical food (Los Hornitos) such as fantastic empanadas, great places to visit, delicious wine and perfect weather.

I was definitely sorry to leave Cafayate but it was time to move again. We traveled further north to Salta, which would be a stopover towards places such as Humahuaca, Tilcara and Purmamarca. The trip from Cafayate to Salta should definitely be done during the day due to the BEAUTIFUL, unrivalled scenery. Salta
was another place I enjoyed. The city centre comes to life in the evening when the historical buildings are illuminated by different coloured lights. The main square is THE PLACE where everyone wants to spend hours just strolling and observing people go by.

We then travelled to Humahuaca. The village is interesting , however, I was expecting more from the pictures we had seen. The highlight there was a very pleasant lunch we had at the oldest restaurant in the village, "Pinocho", where we had a delicious meal and the pleasure to listen to a group of musicians playing music and reciting poetry.

At Humahuaca we bought a bus ticket to Purmamarca to spend the day. We got to the bus station on time, however, we were told the buses were being kept outside the village blocked by a strike and we had to find a way to get to the bus on our own. There we went, running to grab a taxi. Once there, to our surprise the bus hadn't waited for us but fortunately there was another bus which would pass close to the entrance of Purmamarca. The bus left us about 4 kms from the village and once again, luckily a taxi stopped next to us and asked if we wanted to go to Purmamarca. Lucky me!

Purmamarca is in the region of the colourful mountains. The village is surrounded by mountains on all four sides and everywhere you look different shades of brown, red, yellow, green and grey come to life. The more we stayed in Purmamarca the more we regretted not staying longer, the main square is a great place to feel the atmosphere, there is a wide variety of hotels and hostels, the "mercado de artesanias" is varied and the weather is great. We wanted to go to Salinas Grandes but didn't have enough time so we just enjoyed the village and explored its surroundings.

The last stop was Salta, where we would catch our plane back to Brazil. The hostel where we stayed is very well located close to the bus station and just a few blocks from the main square which was my favourite spot. We bought some more wine to bring home, a few souvenirs and got ready to leave. Not to break the habit, the flight from Salta to Buenos Aires (Aerolineas Argentinas) was 2 hours and a half late which made us nervous as our connection back to São Paulo was the last flight to Brazil that day. When we got to Buenos Aires, they had already boarded the passengers and were calling our names. We ran, ran and ran but managed to catch our flight. However, once we got to São Paulo we saw that our backpacks hadn't been  as fast as our feet, they had been left behind in Argentina and only got home a day later.

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