Friday, January 13, 2012

Beautiful Day

Cable car to the top of Cerro San Bernardo
overlooking the city of Salta
Part IV of VI
Next stop along our tour of Northwestern Argentina was the province of Salta (and a bit of the neighboring Jujuy).  Although the pleasant city of Salta, known to locals as "Salta la linda" (Salta the beautiful), has its share of sites and charms, it has found its calling mostly as a jumping-off point for travelers in this recently-discovered tourist area.  And much to see there is!

After close to 20 hours on an overnight Christmas Day bus we were ready for some activity.  Fortunately for the road-weary traveler, Salta has a large hill, complete with walking paths and stairs, to get the blood flowing back through the extremities!  From the Cerro San Bernardo we were able to take in the city and scope out some of the sites from above.  Salta has, among several intriguing cathedrals and a basilica, a beautiful European-esque central plaza replete with restaurants, gelato shops, cafés, and an abundance of places to sit and take it all in.

One side of Salta's Plaza 20 de Febrero
The following day we boarded a large La Posada van for a tour of some natural wonders in the neighboring Jujuy province.  After passing through a mountain pass where, local legand says a "bear with a man's face" called an ucumar lurks around looking for "virgin women to rape and make babies with," and eventually topping out at 4,170 meters above sea level, we arrived at our first destination.

The Salinas Grandes are naturally formed salt flats high in the mountains near the border of Bolivia.  They were formed when mineral-rich mountain run-off mixed with volcanic lava and the water evaporated, leaving a visually uninterupted flat expanse of land rich in minerals, including the blindingly white salt deposits.  While it was impressive to see, it was most fun to play with perspective through photography, something not easy to do believably on uneven terrain.

Salinas Grandes

"It's a beautiful day 
Sky falls, you feel like 
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away."

Somos cinco

Put me down!
Rob and I play with perspective.

Next up was the tiny time-trapped town of Purnamarca and the "hill of seven colors." This dusty little adobe bricked pueblo sits at the base of a whimsical hillside that looks as if a painter had run out of the traditional earthen tones and had to resort to others on their pallet.  This result is actually due to some shift in geologic layers, the minerals they each contain, and oxidation amounts of said layers.  (I very well could have gotten that all completely incorrect, but it sounds believable, right?!?)

The "hill of seven colors" towering over Purnamarca.

Purnamarca doorway
After a nice lunch - llama burger optional - we headed back toward Salta.  Despite the fact that about three quarters of the day was spent in the tour van, the stunning scenery along the way made it pass by quickly.  I had thought I had never seen mountains so spectacular in my life.  Little did I know that that would only be until the next day when we left for the under-spoken wine town of Cafayate at the southernmost end of the Salta province...


jsmarslender said...

Difficult not to be insanely jealous. For real. : ) Hope your second semester starts well.

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