Painted hills in Purmamarca

Trip Start Oct 16, 2008
Trip End Apr 16, 2009

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Where I stayed
El Viejo Algarrobo

Flag of Argentina  , Northern Argentina,
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The buffet breakfast at the hotel in Cachi left a lot to be desired (I love the idea of a buffet but when the flies are swarming around the room-temperature ham it's a bit off-putting), just pastries, cake and hard little bits of toast.  What is wrong with these people, don't they know breakfast is the most important meal of the day!?!  At least they had corn flakes to keep the little boy happy.  We tried to get an early start, knowing we probably had more gravel roads to deal with, but didn't manage to leave town until after 10am, after struggling to find a store that sells water AND something to put on a sandwich.

The first part of the drive out of Cachi was great, a beautiful paved road in loooong straight stretches through endless plains of cacti.  After that blissful stretch we climbed to pass at 3350m where the views of the mountain ranges on the other side were absolutely superb.  We could see the road heading down the other side and watched for a while as a number of tour buses slowly crawled their way up.  Soon we were on it too, going down down down, following endless switchbacks that steeply descended to the valley below .... thankfully this bit was also paved!  We stopped at the bottom for a picnic lunch, which included the wrinkly red pepper I had bought that morning with the water.  Take not of this innocent capsicum, it becomes more important in the story later.

The road back to Salta was uneventful, we negotiated our way through the south of the city and found what we thought was the road north to Jujuy.  Turns out there are two ways to get to Jujuy, and we chose the way the buses go, east and then northwest, which added about 80km to the trip (the rental was on limited km) and was really boring.  Whoops.  When we got to Jujuy it was like another world again.  After two days of dry, dusty canyons and no vegetation but cacti, seeing lush, green, forest-covered mountains was very strange indeed.  But the green didn't last for long as we continued north to Purmamarca, where the landscape returned to that of the desert.  Purmamarca is famous for it's mountain of seven colours, which is quite spectacular.  You can see the different layers of rock exposed by the erosion of the mountainside and they really are all different colours.  It would have been nice to be on a tour at this point so I could have asked what minerals are present in the layers to make them so distinctly different.

We found another little gem of a place to stay, this one had walls made of stone and a cute little courtyard with plants in the centre of the building.  We took the owner's recommendation on a restaurant with live Andean music and tried the specialties of the region, llama skewers (dry, chewy, pretty bloody awful actually), locro stew (excellent, almost as good as the first one we ever tried), humitas (mushy sweet corn in a banana leaf), and some very good tamales (oh, so good).  The music started later than advertised and he played about four songs before asking for money.  Hm.

We all seemed to have some gas issues when we got back to the hostal and took turns stinking up the room.  We decided Purmamarca should be called Fartamarca.  For Patrick and I it went no further than that, but poor Blair spent the better part of a sleepless night in the bathroom.  We're blaming the red pepper from lunch.  The next morning, we changed the town's name again to Poo-amarca.
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