Spontaneity might just work out...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sitting in the back of some Argentinean dude's pick-up truck, surrounded by mounds of garlic, I reflected on the random turn of events that led to me hitchhiking across the Quebrada de Huamahuaca in Northern Argentina. This conversation, which took place on the streets of Salta late on Friday night, replayed in my mind:

Random backpacker: I have a free cabin in (indistinct / not recognised). Does anyone want to come?
Me: Free? Free shit is good. I'll come. Brilliant. Who are you anyway?

Free shit is good. This includes luxury cabins. Definitely. Where is it? Fuck knows. Is it close? Hopefully. How are we getting there? Bus, presumably. What's it like? No idea. Is there anything to do there? Asking the wrong person. All these questions, in my mind, are appeased by the prospect of a free luxury cabin. Free shit? Bueno.

By the next day, the questions are answered. Tilcara. Ish. Bus - I told you so. Beautiful, small, dusty, distincto - the cabin? Amazing. And there's so much to do here it's silly. But here's the problem - all the things to do in Tilcara? No quite in Tilcara. In fact, sometimes, quite a bit out of Tilcara. And the public transport? Average. So, determined to get to the spectacular pueblo of Purmamarca, a pick-up truck was waved down on the highway, piles of garlic acting as the perfect cushion from the hard metal frame. I know what you're thinking - hitchhiking in a garlic pick-up truck? Living the Dream.

Sitting in the back of some Argentinean dude's pick-up truck, surrounded by mounds of garlic, you definitely have a moment or two where you go - 'Um... What the fuck?' Spontaneously deciding to go with the complete random to a random destination to a random free cabin - 'uh - slightly random'. But having sat in the back of some Argentinean dude's pick-up truck, surrounded by mounds of garlic, having rested in a luxury cabin, standing at the foot of the beautiful Mountin of Seven Colours, in awe of the dramatic Quebrada de Huamahuaca all around, having arrived alive, everything seemed perfect - all small concerns swept away with the refreshing breeze cutting through the gorges. The entire quebrada is filled with rocks of varying rich colours - reds, purples, greys, greens, blues, whites, yellows, oranges forming an amazing vista - a sensory overload to be added to the blinding light and intense heat of the region. Exceptionally beautiful. Adding to the charm of the area is the countless number of plants of death that the region produces - this is, of course, the World Trip of the Devil of the Death from Hell. In comparison to some of the plants, cacti are a joke. A joke... like Scott Muller - 'can't throw, can't catch'.

Purmamarca has been a highlight of the North West, a compliment all the more complimentary when measured against the other spectacles of the region. The Salinas Granda - a massive salt lake, its crystal, light blue pools of death stretching for infinity, combining with pure white of the sale, the strange hexagonal formations on the lake's surface, the hypnotic mounds of salt and the unspoilt sky to form something really quite special. Heaps of fucking salt? Brilliant. And although slightly disappointing, the remote town of Iruya, set high in a canyon, was nonetheless beautiful. It took fucking forever to get there though...

Tilcara? Brilliant. Random spontaneity? Brilliant. Realising that Tilcara was a place that you had always planned to come to but just didn't recognise the name? Brilliant. Pretty much everything about the last few days? Brilliant. Well, almost everything. I need a few more showers - I still smell of garlic.

So, to the Top 5. Mmmm - food. In the food department, Tilcara has excelled - it's all about indulgence - amazing food and wine. There are some things you have to put up with in Tilcara restaurants - such as manky dogs coming up to you and asking for food, or random local chicas, somewhat curiously and concerningly called Gregory trying to pick you up - but the biggest concern is, indeed, choosing what you are going to eat. There has been an astounding number of quality restaurants in Tilcara serving amazing meat and pasta. But the most interesting food has been the 'regionales' - the local specialities which have been really quite delicious. Here are the Top 5:

5. Quimita - interesting grain which they turn into a polenta type food. Nutty and interesting. Nice with salad. I think it's called Quimita.
4. Llama steak - steak. From a llama. Salty Decent. Downside? I really like alpacas. Alpacas are a lot like llamas...
3. Tamales - a ball of corn, filled with chicken, meat and veges, steamed and wrapped in a corn husk. Do it...
2. Queso de Cabra - queso is cheese. Cabra is goat. You work it out. With lovely spices. Love it...
1. Humitas - Brilliant. A thick, corn based dish that resembles sweet corn soup but thicker and tastier. Steamed in a corn husk. Served in a corn husk. Fun to unwrap. Brilliant to eat. Living the dream.

Back to Salta. Do it...
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