Our last day in Salta we visited the Archeology museum. The museum houses the bodies of 3 Incan children, who were sacrificed 500 years ago. They have a fascinating collection of artifacts that were found at the children’s’ burial site. It was amazing to see the mummified bodies and to learn about the rituals and customs surrounding their deaths and their culture. However it is hard to shake the feeling that we were being disrespectful in observing their bodies and that removing their bodies from their resting place was wrong. On the flipside, being in the hands of a museum is better than being in the hands of grave robbers, which is where some of the “mummies” end up. We still have mixed feelings about the whole experience.
Toyota Salta did not find any problems with our car, however the cold start problem remained. 120kms further north, we discovered that they had forgotten to replace an engine wire cover. We had to retrace our steps to retrieve it. We were not happy campers.
We camped in the parking lot of the Thermal Springs at Reyes. Not our favorite springs but a nice warm swim. We shared the pool with a group of older locals who completed an exercise class in the warm waters.
Northern Argentina is known for its desert landscapes and colored cliffs. It is also home to the indigenous population of Argentina. The landscape reminded us of New Mexico with its adobe houses, kiva ovens, red chilies and colored rocks.
Tilcara is a small town situated in the northern valley. We stayed in a campground there for a few days enjoying the tranquility of the town and the desert landscape.
Also Keira had a group of local children to play with. Whenever opportunities like this present themselves we stop, so Keira can have “kid time.” We noticed moving north that the local children are more willing to play and are not frightened off by Keiras accent.
The northern most point in Argentina we went was to a town called Humuhuaca. We decided to wild camp, so headed out in the countryside towards some ruins at Coctaca, hoping to camp the night there. When we found the ruins, they were right beside a little village and the entrance was at their town square. We got permission from a local lady Claudia to camp in the square. It was one of our more interesting camping spots. We became the local attraction, as word spread through the village of about 40 residents. The next morning we explored the ruins, which were quite vast, covering 40 hectares. You could still see the terracing but most of the buildings were reduced to rubble. We said our farewells to Claudia, buying a homemade slingshot from her as a gesture of goodwill.
Purmamaca was our next stop before crossing the pass to Chile. It was another small town with a beautiful backdrop of colored rocks. We found a small family run campsite for the night, enjoying conversations with the family, but not their non-stop barking dogs.
The road to the Jama Pass between Chile and Argentina took us past our first salt lake, Salina Grande. We took the opportunity to take some crazy photos using the perspective of the salt flat. From there it was all uphill, as we climbed to 4800 meters. The scenery is quite spectacular, as you travel for many kms across a plain at 4200 – 4600 meters.
The rapid accent and the extended time at this high altitude are a recipe for altitude sickness, especially when coupled with little sleep. I ended up with an intense headache and severe nausea. The only real cure is to get down to a lower height, which took us sometime due to the pass. The headache did subside and I started to feel better once we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, but it took me a couple of days to really recover. Keira as usual took the whole thing in her stride showing no signs or symptoms.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: nothing in particular
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- camping and mixing with the local people in Coctaca ; Keira- playing with the local kids in Tilcara ; Riss- camping in Coctaca
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-crossing Paso Jama; Keira- saying good-bye to my friends at Tilcara ; Riss- dealing with altitude sickness
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike-cheesy ham bread, Keira-popsicles ; Riss- cheesy bread cooked over open grill
BEST CAMPING SPOT: Coctaca camping
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.