Sadly, today I had to leave the Quebrada of Humahuaca to drive back to Salta. I chose a different route, to avoid the boring stretch of highway I had driven last time. The spectacularly coloured, dry, mountains continued to flank the road up until the city of Jujuy, where they gave way to flat fields, with mountains brooding in the distance.
I turned off onto RN9. After a few km the road entered a nature reserve and became very narrow and winding, with barely room for two normal cars to pass. It was a very pretty route, but also tiring as I continually crossed more experienced local drivers hogging more than their share of the available road space. I finally reached Salta at around 4 o’clock and checked into a wonderfully retro hotel located on the central Plaza – the Colonial. My room had two balconies, one that looked onto an ornate church and the other that looked out over the plaza, and I relaxed and enjoyed the view for a bit before setting off to explore the town.
Most impressive of all of Salta’s colonial buildings was the cathedral, which was built in 1878.
They seem to like gaudily coloured churches here – near the cathedral is the Iglesia San Francisco.
For a rather different experience, I visited the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology, which was mostly devoted to an expedition to the volcano Llullaillaco in 1999 which discovered the bodies of three children offered to the mountain by the Incas. As part of an elaborate Inca ceremony, two young children from noble families were “married”, given an alcoholic drink to drug them, and then buried alive, high up on a mountain, whilst they slept. The Incas believed that the children simply passed to another state of existence, where they continued to watch over the living from the land of the dead. With the high altitude and dry air, the corpses were preserved and became mummified. One of the three children was on display – a young girl. Some time ago, her grave had been struck by lightning and part of her face was burnt. It was a macabre sight. I wondered whether they should not have been left in peace, where they had been found, but the museum’s display text claimed that they would have soon fallen victim to thieves. As a justification, the museum displayed a different body, which had been dug up by thieves and trafficked to private collectors before being recovered – in a poor state of preservation. Photos were not allowed, so you will have to imagine the bizarre sight yourself. To lift my mood after such a strange sight, I headed to small restaurant where I had dinner – a good steak with a bottle of wine from the nearby wine region of Cayafate. It was made from the “bonarda” grape– a variety I had never tried before, and which I liked a lot. Then I spent some time enjoying the lively atmosphere on the main plaza at night, before heading back to my room.
I finally had some spare time to catch up on my blog and sort out my next delivery of pesos by Western Union