Tuesday, April 8, 2014


That's what I told Bruce we should think about today and then name them at dinner tonight. Certainly the landscape we have covered these last three days has to be on that list. At least in my opinion, but making a list like this is a very subjective process, as you know.

Why I would put the Salta region of Northern Argentina on my list is not only the stunning beauty, but the diversity of the geological formations we saw. One minute I could be in the cacti fields of Tucson. And next I'm standing beside a cactus looking up at the Tetons of Wyoming.

For the last three days we have driven 250 km on dirt roads with our windows rolled down because our car's air conditioner isn't the greatest.  You know what that means.  We are two dusty "kids" by the end of the day.  We have traveled through deep gorges, canyons, grasslands, marshes, lagoons, and highland valleys. Bruce drove 20 km of hairpin turns (still on a dirt road) to ascend the mountain pass at Cuesta del Obispo, leading us to the magnificent Los Cordones National Park, a protected forest of giant cacti.

The lovely small hotel where we spent two nights had incredible views and lovely Argentine hospitality. The regional dishes they served in their tastefully decorated dining room were delicious, although I might not ask for seconds of the candied tomatoes layered over bland white cheese. It was at this hotel that we met Ricardo and his wife, who live in Salta and were having a short weekend getaway. When I heard him speak English at breakfast, I struck up a conversation. He told us that he worked as a guide, mainly leading birding trips and that he had just returned from Columbia where he guided a tour. I mentioned that I had friends from Texas, who also just returned from a birding trip in Columbia. It only took a few seconds of peeling the onion to discover that Ricardo was their guide on this trip in Columbia, and he has guided them on other South American birding trips as well. Peeling the onion even further, we discovered that Ricardo was the father of the local tour operator in Salta who arranged this trip for us. In fact, our initial conversation about a trip to Salta began with Ricardo many months ago, but he turned us over to his son because he serves mainly as a guide but his son makes all the arrangements in the office. What a small world, yet again. Some day I'm going to write a blog post entitled "Pam's Small World" because as many of my friends know, these coincidences happen to me often and there are many stories like this to tell.

But as Bruce might say, "Shit, I'm digressing again. Back to Argentina.

On our layover day, among other things, we took a side trip to the tiny village of Seclantis, which is known for its high quality weavings. The artisans who live there are master craftsmen who export their gorgeous alpaca and llama ponchos and table runners to collectors around the world. One weaver whose name was Tero Guzeman even wove a black and red poncho for Pope John Paul and had photos in his studio (with a dirt floor) to prove it. Tero showed us some handsome ponchos, but knowing that I would probably never wear one, we bought a beautiful table runner instead. A tourist from Buenos Aires, who was in the shop at the time, told us that the $160 poncho here in Seclantis would probably sell for $300 or $400 in Buenos Aires. For a minute we had second thoughts, but then I came to my senses recalling the time I went nuts in a fabric shop in India and bought stuff that has never been used and is stored away in a drawer.

The adventure continues.............

Our first glimpse of the different colors

We haven't started climbing yet but we are already impressed with the views.

Lots of hair pin turns

We are climbing higher and higher into the clouds

At 10,000 feet above the clouds we met these crazy Brazilian motorcyclists

- Now we are on a high plateau

Except for the geology, this could be the road to Utah's Monument Valley

Tin Tin Cactus Field

The Cardon Cactus

Taking a break for lunch in the charming town of Cachi. Salta beer is very good.

This could be a scene from the American West


The stunning rock formations of Quebrada de las Flechas. (My favorite)

I took many pictures of this gorgeous man at the gorgeous Las Flechas formations

Driving through the Las Flechas wind tunnel


Cafayate, Salta's wine region will soon compete with Mendoza

Harvesting the grapes. After all it's fall in Argentina.

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