In the JungleWe leave Salta on our way to the Bolivian border on a gray and chilly morning that should have been sunny according to the meteorologists. After some more or less inviting suburbs we are in the countryside again. Misty grassland and small trees for ages it seems. We are half frozen when we reach La Caldera, a small touristy village with old roots. The waiter in the only open restaurant mocks a bit for us wearing thick clothes within the place. Yet the place near the electric heater is occupied by someone else. Our search for a heated room for the rest of the day fails, for either the staff not wanting to host us or the place being as expensive as room in St. Moritz. Grumpy we move on through the farm land, climb up a little pass and suddenly find ourselves in thick rain forest. Our spirits rise instantly and we enjoy the long ride down the bends between mighty old trees with moss covered trunks. Later we reach a reservoir that looks like a hand with five fingers from above, climb the hills between the fingers and eventually spend the night in El Carmen. We reach Jujuy early enough on the following day and spoil us with hand made pasta and red wine for lunch. We still have enough time to do some sightseeing. So we stroll the lonesome shopping streets during the siesta hours, and visit some of the old churches and the plaza. When I go out to buy some food later in the evening, the same streets are incredibly crowded. Countless cars with speakers to the max roar through the alleys until dawn. Saturday Night Fever in Jujuy...

Colors of the rocks and the market in Pumamarca Maymara

Somewhat querulous we leave Jujuy, heading into the Quebrada de Humahuaca, UNESCO World Heritage. After a few kilometers through suburbs and farmland the wide highway in construction narrows down to a regular road and climbs some hundred elevation meters up a hill with a few serpentines. Up here in the wide canyon the rocks are very colorful again, displaying all shades of white, yellow, red, green and purple. A few lamas and goats roam the scanty grass, some villages live either from mining or tourism. Just before sundown I arrive in scenic Pumamarca beside the famous Cerro de Siete Colores, the mountain of the seven colors. Kathrin awaits me at the colorful tourist market at the plaza, where mostly indigenous man and women sell all sorts of neon-colored fabric and souvenirs. Cobblestone alleys and rustic clay houses dominate the view of the village. Beside a small church is a great old tree said to be more than 700 years old. Suddenly I fell a little like in Central America again, with friendly smiles everywhere. The locals certainly did well to maintain this sort of old-fashioned character of the place. Having achieved my personal 10000k's on this trip, we celebrate the event with delicious lama steaks at Mama Cocas. A somewhat indigenous and slightly drunk artist from Buenos Aires is nice enough to explain a few of the Inca symbols on the cards he sells. That night in the hostal with the cacti funiture near the old tree is so tranquil and relaxing after all the fuzz in the cities...

We start the following day with a great breakfast and a decent hike through the spectacular colored rocky hills around the village. The green and white and purple stone seems to emit beams of energy, the hills almost glow in the morning sun. Then we mount our panniers on the carriers again and cycle the hilly 25ks to Tilcara, passing by Maymara with the paintbox rocks on the way. Still below 3000 metres we dare to pitch our tent nearby the river for two days, and find us a playful four-legged friend instantly. Tilcara is certainly bigger than Pumamarca, surrounded by rocks as well. It has a vivid green plaza and a anthropology museum and is famous for its ancient Inca settlements on a hill nearby, watching over the entire valley. Some of the stone houses and walls on that hill have been skillfully refurbished to illustrate how live might have been before the Spaniards came.

Random friends at a gas stationOne more day cycling through the Quebrada to Humahuaca, passing by an ancient little church in Uquia and some more bizarre rock formations. Vincenz, a Swiss cyclist meets me while I'm waiting for Kathrin at the Plaza. The route over Paso de Sico which he did between Chile and Argentina is one of the most challenging ones out here. Almost only gravel, four passes of almost 5000 meters, almost no infrastructure. Yet it is encouraging to see someone with more than 60 years doing such crazy stuff!

Here in Humahuaca colonial buildings dominate the town with its cobblestone streets at almost 3000 meters above sea level. At the plaza indigeneous women with colorfull clothes and the typical round shaped hats sell snacks and souvenirs. In the afternoon sun it fells warm and cosy, but as soon as the sun is down temperature drops way below comfort level. It is difficult to find a place with heating and working internet. What to do? Shall we visit Iruya, the nearby mountain village? Or keep going North, out of Argentina? It won't be warmer anywhere we could go in the next couple of days up here in the Altiplano. More and more travel weary we are, and with little motivation where to go after Peru we decide to find us a flight back before summer ends at home. We leave Humahuaca a little easier. Kathrin takes a bus to Abra Pampa, I cycle some fresh 80 kilometers with soft headwind beside abandoned railroad tracks on washed out bridges through a scanty dry landscape of colorful rocks and distant snow capped peaks. Just after some 3700m pass I spot a rocket-like cyclist in the opposite direction on a recumbent bicycle, his face fully covered with sunglasses and sun protectors. After a while he is overtaking me, starting a chat. Ralph is his name, and he is the director of the hospital in Abra Pampa. If we'd meet in the Rincon Suiza Hotel? Walter, the head of the hotel and Ralph are good friends it seems, and we have a good chat that afternoon. Later Kathrin and I watch an interesting ceremony – man and women swinging goat halves in a kind of dance to the rhythm of drumming in front of the church. Baby llamaUnfortunately, no one would give us a reasonable explanation what this is all about. Anyway, we visit Ralph in his brand new hospital after the freak show, who gives us some insight in the Argentine social system and his projects. Walter would tell us a lot about his business and his view of the country too. I am both fascinated by the recent encounters, and puzzled by its timing. On the next day we take the bus to La Quiaca on the border to Bolivia. The Argentine border patrol examines my new preliminary passport without the appropriate entry stamp for some 15 minutes, and finally waves me through. Huuuhhh. After almost 7 weeks in Argentina - time to say good bye...

Right behind the border starts the buzzing town of Villazon. The shops burst from a wide range of quality cameras and computers for fair prices. The towns spirit seems to be much more progressive than the towns on the other side of the border. Argentinians come here in quantities to shop the goodies they can't get back home. They can pay in Argentine Peso, but with a very low exchange rate. I dump our remaining Pesos on a new pocket camera with 10x zoom before we take the night train to Uyuni, where we arrive at 1AM and sleep in a cheap hospedaje with 0 degrees...

Ralph Shaking goat corpses
Camera test in Villazon The first functional train I see in South America

on the train

the Centro Amercian spirit has widely vanished from my point of view.

Argentina V:

We leave Salta on our way to the Bolivian border on a gray and chilly morning that should have been sunny according to the meteorologists. After some more or less inviting suburbs we are in the countryside again. Misty grassland and small trees for ages it seems. We are half frozen when we reach La Caldera, a small touristy village with old roots. The waiter in the only open restaurant mocks a bit for us wearing thick clothes within the place. Yet the place near the electric heater is occupied by someone else. Our search for a heated room for the rest of the day fails, for either the staff not wanting to host us or the place being as expensive as room in St. Moritz. Grumpy we move on through the farm land, climb up a little pass and suddenly find ourselves in thick rain forest. Our spirits rise instantly and we enjoy the long ride down the bends between mighty old trees with moss covered trunks. Later we reach a reservoir that looks like a hand with five fingers from above, climb the hills between the fingers and eventually spend the night in El Carmen. We reach Jujuy early enough on the following day and spoil us with hand made pasta and red wine for lunch. We still have enough time to do some sightseeing. So we stroll the lonesome shopping streets during the siesta hours, and visit some of the old churches and the plaza. When I go out to buy some food later in the evening, the same streets are incredibly crowded. Countless cars with speakers to the max roar through the alleys until dawn. Saturday Night Fever in Jujuy...

Somewhat querulous we leave Jujuy, heading into the Quebrada de Humahuaca, UNESCO World Heritage. After a few kilometers through suburbs and farmland the wide highway in construction narrows down to a regular road and climbs some hundred elevation meters up a hill with a few serpentines. Up here in the wide canyon the rocks are very colorful again, displaying all shades of white, yellow, red, green and purple. A few lamas and goats roam the scanty grass, some villages live either from mining or tourism. Just before sundown I arrive in scenic Pumamarca beside the famous Cerro de Siete Colores, the mountain of the seven colors. Kathrin awaits me at the colorful tourist market at the plaza, where mostly indigenous man and women sell all sorts of neon-colored fabric and souvenirs. Cobblestone alleys and rustic clay houses dominate the view of the village. Beside a small church is a great old tree said to be more than 700 years old. Suddenly I fell a little like in Central America again, with friendly smiles everywhere. The locals certainly did well to maintain this sort of old-fashioned character of the place. Having achieved my personal 10000k's on this trip, we celebrate the event with delicious lama steaks at Mama Cocas. A somewhat indigenous and slightly drunk artist from Buenos Aires is nice enough to explain a few of the Inca symbols on the cards he sells. That night in the hostal with the cacti funiture near the old tree is so tranquil and relaxing after all the fuzz in the cities...

We start the following day with a great breakfast and a decent hike through the spectacular colored rocky hills around the village. The green and white and purple stone seems to emit beams of energy, the hills almost glow in the morning sun. Then we mount our panniers on the carriers again and cycle the hilly 25ks to Tilcara, passing by Maymara with the paintbox rocks on the way. Still below 3000 metres we dare to pitch our tent nearby the river for two days, and find us a playful four-legged friend instantly. Tilcara is certainly bigger than Pumamarca, surrounded by rocks as well. It has a vivid green plaza and a anthropology museum and is famous for its ancient Inca settlements on a hill nearby, watching over the entire valley. Some of the stone houses and walls on that hill have been skillfully refurbished to illustrate how live might have been before the Spaniards came.

One more day cycling through the Quebrada to Humahuaca, passing by an ancient little church in Uquia and some more bizarre rock formations. Vincenz, a Swiss cyclist meets me while I'm waiting for Kathrin at the Plaza. The route over Paso de Sico which he did between Chile and Argentina is one of the most challenging ones out here. Almost only gravel, four passes of almost 5000 meters, almost no infrastructure. Yet it is encouraging to see someone with more than 60 years doing such crazy stuff!

Here in Humahuaca colonial buildings dominate the town with its cobblestone streets at almost 3000 meters above sea level. At the plaza indigeneous women with colorfull clothes and the typical round shaped hats sell snacks and souvenirs. In the afternoon sun it fells warm and cosy, but as soon as the sun is down temperature drops way below comfort level. It is difficult to find a place with heating and working internet. What to do? Shall we visit Iruya, the nearby mountain village? Or keep going North, out of Argentina? It won't be warmer anywhere we could go in the next couple of days up here in the Altiplano. More and more travel weary we are, and with little motivation where to go after Peru we decide to find us a flight back before summer ends at home. We leave Humahuaca a little easier. Kathrin takes a bus to Abra Pampa, I cycle some fresh 80 kilometers with soft headwind beside abandoned railroad tracks on washed out bridges through a scanty dry landscape of colorful rocks and distant snow capped peaks. Just after some 3700m pass I spot a rocket-like cyclist in the opposite direction on a recumbent bicycle, his face fully covered with sunglasses and sun protectors. After a while he is overtaking me, starting a chat. Ralph is his name, and he is the director of the hospital in Abra Pampa. If we'd meet in the Rincon Suiza Hotel? Walter, the head of the hotel and Ralph are good friends it seems, and we have a good chat that afternoon. Later Kathrin and I watch an interesting ceremony – man and women swinging goat halves in a kind of dance to the rhythm of drumming in front of the church. Unfortunately, no one would give us a reasonable explanation what this is all about. Anyway, we visit Ralph in his brand new hospital after the freak show, who gives us some insight in the Argentine social system and his projects. Walter would tell us a lot about his business and his view of the country too. I am both fascinated by the recent encounters, and puzzled by its timing. On the next day we take the bus to La Quiaca on the border to Bolivia. The Argentine border patrol examines my new preliminary passport without the appropriate entry stamp for some 15 minutes, and finally waves me through. Huuuhhh. After almost 7 weeks in Argentina - time to say good bye...

Right behind the border starts the buzzing town of Villazon. The shops burst from a wide range of quality cameras and computers for fair prices. The towns spirit seems to be much more progressive than the towns on the other side of the border. Argentinians come here in quantities to shop the goodies they can't get back home. They can pay in Argentine Peso, but with a very low exchange rate. I dump our remaining Pesos on a new pocket camera with 10x zoom before we take the night train to Uyuni, where we arrive at 1AM and sleep in a cheap hospedaje with 0 degrees...