Salt, Inca Ruins and Hungry Donkeys

Today I set off early again, but this time I headed west towards Salinas Grande.  At first the road ran past some spectacularly coloured rocks similar to those surrounding Purmamarca.

Mountains outside of Purmamarca

Then it climbed steeply, with many hairpin bends, to a pass of 4000m……

….. before dropping back down again to a flat, white plain.  On the way down I saw some wild guanacos (an animal similar to the llama). I stopped to photograph them, and my car was suddenly besieged by hungry wild donkeys that appeared out of nowhere. One pushed into my car to say hello….or perhaps to see if I was edible. Things were getting a little scary, when a large truck passed me and sounded its horn, scaring off the donkeys.

Too close for comfort!

I continued my route; my destination was the salt plain of Salinas Grandes, a large expanse of glittering white salt left over from the evaporation of a large inland lake. A rough track allowed me to drive onto the salt pan to experience this strange phenomenon first hand and to watch a salt-mining operation located in the centre of the area.  

The salt flats of Salinas Grandes

The straight open road continuing west from the salt plain beckoned me onwards. I would have liked to carry on driving all the way into Chile, only 100km away, but this wasn’t part of my complicated travel plan. Chile would have to wait until later in my trip. Instead, I drove back to Purmamarca and had a light lunch before heading north again, this time to the town of Tilcara. There I visited the Pucara, a site where archaeologists have restored an Inca village dating from Pre-Columbian times. The restored buildings were modest, and probably of interest only to specialists in Inca history, but the site offered amazing views of the main Humahuaca valley and a couple of pretty side-valleys. The Pucara also had an impressive collection of huge cacti.

Huge cacti at Tilcara’s Pucara

My final destination for the day was the Garganta del Diabolo, a waterfall in a canyon a short way outside of Tilcara.  I found the start of the path, where a signpost offered the choice of a direct 4km walk or an 8km drive by a different, longer route. It was baking hot, so I decided to a be lazy and drive. This may have been a mistake since the track was very steep, with a heavily pockmarked surface. Even though I went very slowly, it was a very stressful drive.  I finally reached a car park and gave a big sigh of relief. From there, it was a short walk to the waterfall, which turned out to be rather disappointing after all the effort to get there, but the canyon I walked through offered some interesting views and good photos.

In the canyon descending from the Garganta del Diabolo

After a full day exploring, I was tired and headed back to Purmamarca. I enjoyed the now very familiar display of coloured mountains – this time with strong early evening sunlight, which gave yet another set of colours to the rocks.  On arriving, I enjoyed a beer at an outdoor table of a café, admiring the final colours of the setting sun on the hills around the town.

Ending the day at a Purmamarca Cafe

I visited a different peña and enjoyed some more local music before collapsing into bed back in my hotel.  Every day of my holiday so far has started very early and finished late – there has been so much to see. As a result, I am bit behind in writing my blog. Maybe tomorrow I can catch up a bit.

2 thoughts on “Salt, Inca Ruins and Hungry Donkeys

Add yours

  1. J’aime tout: le récit, les photos et “the spirit”. Quelle chance que vous avez de faire ce magnifique voyage et quel bonheur que vous le partagiez avec nous tous.


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