Last year, my partner Luciano and I made a trip of exactly one hundred days to Argentina: taking advantage of the hospitality? of his maternal family, who live in the pretty town? from La Plata, near Buenos Aires, we were able to travel to the Northwest of the country, better known as NOA. The NOA? the Andean area of the country, between the provinces of Salta, Jujuy, Tucum? n, Catamarca, La Rioja and Santiago del Estero. Before leaving, we inform ourselves on various Argentine blogs on the major attractions of the area and trace a fairly approximate itinerary of our stops. In fact, we travel "de mochileros", that is to say backpack in shoulder (hence the name of our blog, "Mochilando por ah?"), So we are open to any change of plans. We have with us tent and sleeping bags, what for? we only use it once, why? for the rest of the trip when we do not find hospitality? with friends or through Couchsurfing, we stop in hostels or hospedajes (rooms with families). We move mainly by bus, the most popular means of transport. used in South America, but sometimes we are also loaded into cars by very nice people, accustomed to hitchhikers around there. In fact we are in the middle of summer and for young Argentines, especially from the Buenos Aires area,? customary to make our own trip, a bit like we Europeans do with the interrail.
The first day we spend it completely on the road: from La Plata to San Migu? L de Tucum? N, 18 hours by bus (but with all the necessary comforts: fully reclining seats, snacks, dinner and breakfast included).
From San Migu? L we take a bus to Tafí del Valle, along with an unspecified number of other mochileros. In the whole trip we never met other Italians: the Europeans were mostly French, as well as a few Germans. The vast majority of travelers? of nationality? argentina. María Sol, a friend of Luciano's cousin, and Ana pick us up at the Tafí station. María Sol leaves us the family home on top of a hill where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the valley below. It seems to be in the Alps: his grandfather was in fact from Trentino and he chose this spot to build the house precisely why? it reminded him of his land. We eat the first of a long series of empanadas (those from the north are the best) and try the delicious tamal. At sunset the alpapuyo descends, the thick fog that envelops everything and we, tired from the journey, finally go to rest.
We decide to go to the discovery of the country, considered a real goiellino, and we make our first meeting with a family of llamas that proceed calmly along the road.
We leave Tafí headed for Amaicha del Valle: we decide to try hitchhiking. I am a bit skeptical but after a few tries we are loaded by a couple of farmers into the back of their pick-up. We enjoy about 50 km of curves, cacti and incredible landscapes: the first impact with NOA leaves us speechless. Arrived at the point pi? at the top of the area, our new friends stop to offer us some mate (inevitable in Argentina) and some bread to better face the curves, telling us about their European relatives and offering us to get in the car: by now we have earned their trust but we prefer to stay behind,? much more? so adventurous! They leave us just before Amaicha and we continue for a few kilometers on foot, under the scorching sun of the North. We stop at a practically empty campsite: the only time we use the tent it rains! We decide to visit the Museo de la Pachamama, created by a local artist, inspired by pre-Columbian art.
We are taken by a remisero (what for us would be a NCC) to the Ruins of Quilmes, not far from Amaicha, where our highly trained guide Rub? N tells us about the past of the pre-Inca population of the same name. In the afternoon we leave for the pretty Cafayate where María Jos will host us? and Alvaro:? our first experience with Couchsurfing but immediately we feel at ease in their home.
Cafayate? famous for its wine and for being the capital of the Quebrada de Cafayate, one of the main tourist destinations in the area. We book an organized tour for the afternoon: the Quebrada, literally "river between two mountains",? of an indescribable beauty and no photo can? never do it justice. For six hours, together with our very nice guide and new adventure companions, we walk and climb mountains of a thousand colors and bizarre shapes.
We leave for Salta, city? from the colonial architecture where Simon and Mayra host us: the second experience with Couchsurfing? absolutely positive and we spend the first evening eating and drinking.
In Salta we visit the MAAM, the High Mountain Archaeological Museum, where three mummies of Incas children exhibited in rotation are kept, and the Pajcha (Museum of American ethnic art).
With Simon and Mayra we take a walk on the Cerro de San Bernardo, which offers a splendid view over the whole city.
We leave for Tilcara, where we arrive after having made a change of bus in Jujuy: this time we will be hosted by our friends Simone and Micaela, he is Italian, she is from northern Argentina. Tilcara? absolutely the town that more? fascinated me on my trip to NOA: despite being now a tourist destination,? managed to keep intact its indigenous essence. Micaela's house? right at the top of the village, and it makes us feel a bit like the Inca, with the village at our feet.
At a good pace, we set off for a few hours trekking under the scorching sun towards the Garganta del Diablo, reaching an altitude of 3000 meters. Together with a nice Argentinian couple we met there, in the afternoon we visit the Pucar ?, the ruins of Tilcara, and shop in the colorful artisans' market.
We decide to stay one more day? in this pretty dusty town, recharging your batteries for the next stop.
We arrive in Humahuaca, from which the Quebrada takes its name. At the bus station we meet Alexis who, in addition to finding us a hostel, offers us an excursion for the next day.
Together with Alexis we go to see some cave paintings dating back to 500 years ago. We are the only tourists why? local populations prefer this site not to be stormed:? it happened in fact that some disrespectful travelers took away pieces of the paintings and plants. It is important for the indigenous that everything remains unchanged in order to preserve and protect it. In the afternoon we leave with a tour to the Quebrada de Humahuaca: on the back of a pick-up we arrive at 4300 m and we enjoy the wonder of the Cerro de los 14 colores, one of the most beautiful landscapes. thrills of the whole trip.
Together with some travel companions we leave for Iruya, a splendid village that can be reached after a few hours by bus on a dirt road, narrow between the mountain (we reached over 4000 m and then descend to the valley) and the precipice. Luggage is securely tied to the roof of the bus and we gaze out of the window at the barren landscape in fascination. We find a room in a hospedaje where the very kind owner offers us the terrace to wash our clothes.
Together with our travel companions we leave for San Isidro, a tiny village that can only be reached after a 3-hour uphill walk that in some places also includes the ford of the river. When we arrive we are in the middle of a town meeting where the possibility is being discussed. to put a gate at the beginning of the village to regulate the entry of tourists. The locals are quiet but kind to us and we spend the night in a hospedaje.
We return to Iruya and leave for Humahuaca. We relax in the hostel in anticipation of another stop on our journey. We make friends with a boy from the village who is keen to let us know that his mother? an excellent cook.
We decide to go to La Quiaca, the last city? Argentina before the border with Bolivia. However, as soon as we cross the border, I start to feel bad from drinking tap water and, as soon as possible, we return to Argentina and move to the picturesque village of Yavi, not far from there. In Yavi we find a room in a hospedaje and we decide to stop for a couple of days, to give me the possibility? to regain strength.
We relax in Yavi, taking walks and chatting with the owner of the hospedaje.
We arrive in Purmamarca, one of the most? beautiful of the NOA what for? tourism is somewhat distorting. Is it Thursday? Holy and the fortieth anniversary of the military coup that transformed? Argentina in a bloody dictatorship. In the square? a commemoration for the disappeared is underway while many tourists flocked to photograph the Cerro de los sei colores and shop at the market.
From Purmamarca we leave by minibus for an excursion to the Salinas Grandes, where in prehistoric times there was a lake of over 500 km of surface. It is a quite surreal place, of a blinding white and tourists take the opportunity to take photos in unlikely poses.
In a somewhat unexpected way, we decide to put an end to our journey: the tiredness begins to be felt and I am on antibiotics and so on? we leave for San Migu? l. It is the evening before Easter and we find the last two free beds in a dormitory of a colorful hostel.
We managed to find the last two free seats on a bus to La Plata. Unlike the outward journey, we are almost at the sight and therefore the long crossing? marked by cold and discomfort. After countless adventures, we finally arrive at our destination, tired but with indelible memories well printed in our memory. The NOA won us over, we weren't sure what to expect but the beauty of the landscapes, the dignity? and simplicity? of the people, the slow pace of life and the exquisite food are definitely worth it.