After our adventures in Iguazú, it was time to fly to Salta to begin exploring the Andes, on the border with Chile and Bolivia. Upon arrival we hired a car from Avis in Salta airport to start our road trip. Now, being, well my dad and me, we went for the cheapest option – a Renault Clio. I.e. a small car. I do not recommend this! Get the 4×4! You’ll find out why later.
So, the road trip. We set off from Salta airport mid afternoon and tried to buy a map of the province of Jujuy from a nearby gas station. No luck. Not to worry though as we did things the old fashioned way – used signs along with the rubbish tourist map in the car and stopped and asked in shops for directions now and again – much more fun!
The further we drove the more and more incredible the scenery became… I mean, it was just awe-inspiring…
We drove all the way up to a little town called Humahuaca, about 4 hours, and I think I had my mouth hanging open the whole way. Humahuaca is a beautiful, quiet and surprisingly still traditional pueblo high up in Jujuy at 3012m.
We arrived just before sunset and found our way to the tiny guesthouse we were staying in before heading out to the loveliest restaurant for dinner, as recommended to us by the owner. Jujuy province itself has a landscape that can seem quite bleak at times as it is incredibly rocky. But these rocks are brightened by stunning splashes of colour and the same can be seen in the towns and villages themselves. From the outside the buildings are dark and purposeful. Then you walk inside and are greeted by a warming array of colours and fabrics to shelter you from the aggressive outdoors…
The next day we had planned to drive up to see the Hornocal, a mountain of 14 colours about 30km out of Humahuaca. But of course this is Argentina and things are never that simple. Our day kinda went like this:
1. The road was a stone track
2. Said road climbed about another 1000m or so with a lot of hairpin bends
3. We were in a Renault Clio. The few other cars we saw were about triple our size
4. We pickd up a hitchiker. She can’t have been more than about 15 and was incredibly quiet – as all local people in Jujuy are – but seemed pretty pleased to have a lift home to her village rather than walking the 20-something km…
5. Saw some llamas
6. Tried not to freak out about the vertical drops off the side of the road
7. The Clio died ONE KILOMETRE from the end. Yup.
So we saw the edge of the Hornocal. I must say it was a very beautiful edge. (Yes we could have walked the final 1km but we didn’t want to turn the engine off as we were worried it wouldn’t start again)
Moral of the story – little engines don’t like high altitude as they run out of oxygen. Spend the extra money and get the 4×4 and see the whole mountain!
Even with the accidental extra excitement I absolutely loved Humahuaca. We only stayed one night as it was a pretty small place with not a great deal to do but a lovely peaceful atmosphere, a wonderful market selling all sorts of handmade goods and clothing as well as some pretty delicious dinner!
Next stop – Purmarmca, Salinas Grandes and a birthday.