Sunday, 4 January 2015

Hola Argentina!

Purmamarca Village
After 4 magnificent days in the Atacama Desert, we took a bus towards Salta on the 12th of December 2013. During the journey we witnessed some incredible landscapes and rock formations. Border crossing between Chile and Argentina was a lot quicker than the one between Bolivia and Chile. We spent just half an hour with the friendly border control officers and were welcomed to Argentina with smiles.

Before talking to the manager of Hotel Quechua in Chile, our plan was to go directly to Salta. However, the manager convinced us to visit a very small town called Purmamarca which is famous for its seven coloured mountains. Purmamarca is a town of Jujuy which it the northest state of Argentina. Some people believe that it is culturally closer to Bolivia than Argentina.

Streets of Purmamarca

We got off in this little town without knowing much. Once again we were going with the flow and following the synchronicities of life. It was the start of a new adventure in a magical country of South America. After a short walk in this tiny town, we found our accommodation for the night. It was basic but that is all we needed for a decent sleep.

If you are planning to visit Argentina, make sure to bring lots of American hundred dollar bills. It is possible to exchange them in local shops and receive almost the double amount of the official exchange rate. This is called the “Blue Dollar” and is created due to high inflation and strict   government control. Blue Dollar makes Argentina a very affordable country to tourists. We easily exchanged some of our American dollars in a local silver shop. We bought a special pen that helps to identify fake banknotes. Although, we didn’t come across any fake bills, it was a good investment for security.    

Seven Coloured Mountains
The next morning we hiked around the Seven Coloured Mountains which indeed had seven different colours. It was nice hike which took about an hour to complete. Then we visited some local shops and bought a alpaca ring for Alex, which is a local metal similar to silver. 

After lunch we caught a bus to Tilcara which is another small town in the province of Jujuy. Pre-Inca ruins and lively festivals are some of the highlights this magical town has to offer. The area features dramatic mountainous landscapes and rich aboriginal traditions.

Pucara de Tilcara

We arrived in Tilcara at midday and found a nice little hostel (Club Hostel Tilcara) with a beautiful garden. It was quiet, peaceful and provided a good breakfast. The owners were also very accommodating. The only problem was that we had our first experience with the bed bugs since the beginning of our journey. They were very apologetic and gave us a new room straight away. The next day, they smoked the room and took the mattresses out which hopefully should have solved the problem.

Visiting hidden caves with Alejandro

You can easily spend a good couple of days in Tilcara. We did a tour with a local guide Alejandro Xavier organised through our hostel. He has an indigenous background and provided insightful information about the Andean culture. He explained a lot about their traditions and mentioned that they have 4 main energies which are the Sun, Pachamama (the Mother Earth), wind and water. He told us about the connections between these energy systems and how we are all connected. We visited 2 hidden caves and spent some time in the dark talking about our traumas. It was a therapeutic experience. He also looked at some coca leaves to tell our future which was quite interesting. We spent 5 hours with him and it was a very pleasant day.

Tilcara is famous for its penas which are small local restaurants that host different folkloric musicians. We visited a couple of them and had the luck to listen some of the most incredible local musicians playing instruments I had never seen before. There are plenty of penas in the area, so you won't get bored. Click on the link to see a typical pena experience with unique instruments.

On our last day in this serene town, we visited the infamous ruins of Pucara de Tilcara which is just a short walk from the town. It is located on a hillside with a striking view of the Rio Grande Valley. The partial reconstruction of these Pre-Inca ruins gives a good understanding about the lifestyle back then. After 3 days in Tilcara, we were ready to visit the next state, Salta.  

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