Salta to Humahuaca - "Australiah! you having fun"
Monday 1st Oct - We began our bus tour with pickup at 07:15, even though the paper work said 6:45! The guide spoke moderately good English & Spanish so we didn't miss out on the stories. We were the only Australians ( and English speakers) so whenever he spoke to us he would say "Australiah you having a good time". The day took us North of Salta passing through the valley of Inca villages to Humahuaca, a city in the province of Jujuy, a long valley of the central Andes Mountains on the main road from Argentina into Bolivia. The country side is not unlike Australia - dry and dusty, low vegetation, there are red & yellow trees flowering for spring, then we soon hit cactus country, and the villages look like little run down outback Aussie towns. However, the mountains are massive, because after all they are the Andes. Our first stop was Purmamaca, this is famous for the colours you can see in the mountains, green for copper, red for iron, and yellow for sea fossil sediments - "The seven colour hills". The village had every inch of the main square set with stalls of local stuff. These little villages are very dependent on tourism. At the next village Maimara, they had amazing pottery and a unique black fired pottery that is caused by a plant they burn which the smoke turns the pottery black in the baking process. Village number 3 was Tilcara, a very remote small place, but it has Inca remains from the 12 century AD that were reconstructed by the by the University Argentina as a memorial site for Inca heritage. It has a botanical garden of cacti, they grow 2cm per year. I got called into the research room where I saw a lady planting out baby cactus about 2cm long, she wanted to tell all about the research but I didn't catch hardly a word, as it was all in Spanish!
Soon after crossing the Tropic of Capricorn we arrived at Humahuaca in time for lunch that was served in a very big restaurant, we chose meat empanadas (we think because we were also offered llama), then milanese (like schnitzel) & chips for main. Very little salad or vegetables served with meals. We ate our lunch listening the Inca music being played. Humahauca village is larger than the others we stopped at, in the centre of the village there is a church tower with a clock that chimes at 12pm & 12am, a small door opens and a figure of Saint Fransisco Solano comes out and makes the sign of the cross.
The Quebrada de Humahuaca mountain valley was the first part of Argentina to be explored and settled by the Spaniards, for it provided a connecting route to the more temperate regions further south around Salta and Cordoba where supplies of food and draft animals could be found for the silver mines at Potosi, the gold mines at Oruro and other mining settlements in Upper Peru, now Bolivia. The town was a stopping place along that route before beginning the difficult climb to the high plains. The dusty ranching center surrounded by acres of cactus and spectacularly colourful mountains, you feel like you're on a set for a cowboy and western movie.
There is a very interesting "Hero's of Independence Monument" and was built to pay respect to the Northern Argentinian Army that fought a total of 14 battles in Humahuaca during National Independence War against the Spanish. On the right (North side) represents the Spanish, the left (South side) are the Gouches, and the centre are the Inca's. The Spaniards were so brutal killing and detroying every thing they come across, imagine if they conquered Australian before the English
After 2hrs to walk around we were back on the bus heading back to Salta. We had one more stop at Uquia. This tiny village is famous for San Francisco de Paula Church built in the 17th century (1691) and declared National Historical Monument in July 1941. The church is small and has famous pictures called "Los ángels arcabuceros", which were brought from Cusco in the colonial period. These pictures were made by a mixed race artist, but he didn't know what angels looked like, so a priest told him that "the angels" were like them, therefore the man painted angels like soldiers with arquebuses and wings. The altar of the church is handmade and gilded in gold. The front door has a curious lock dating back from 1745 that locks backwards. Its key is placed in an inverted form to the current system. It also has the original silver key which weighs 700 grams.
From here with a couple of wee stops we headed back to Salta. The bathroom experience in these little places can be an experience. Generally you have to take off paper before you enter so you need to guess if you might need 3 or 5 sheets.