ARGENTINA #9 – When wind and water shapes the landscape

digi-me
digi-me @digi-meFebruary 2019 · 5 min read

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The real attraction in the province of Salta is the spectacular and dramatic landscape. For thousand of years wind and water has carved and eroded the rocks into different shapes. The result is a visual feast for the eyes. Some of Argentinas most impressive rock formation and stunning scenery is found in Quebrada de Cafayate and Valle de Calchaquies. Salta, he capital of the province, has well preserved colonial architecture, great food, lots of history and charm. Still, the scenery might be what draws most visitors to town. To appriciate the landscape we did a three day roadtrip to Cafayate and Cachi.



Besides visiting the beautiful cathedral and eating the best steak ever, I chose to visit the museum Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana. This museum is focusing on Inca culture and has on display the mummified body of one of three children discovered on the peak of Llullaillaca, a 6739 m volcano on the Chilean border. The museum was created in 2003 to present this discovery of the «Llullaillaca children»-one of the most important archeological discoveries in Argentina. In 1999 three naturally mummified Inca children were found on an expedition made up of mountaineers and scientists. It is presumed that the children were sacrificed to Inca gods. Supposedly they were left to die of cold and lack of oxygen. After they were found they were transported to Salta. Some see this as a controversial act and many are of the opinion that the children should have stayed were they were found. This visit made a deep impression.



Quebrada de Cafayate

The first day on the road. Driving from Salta along the paved road to Cafayate. After a while, the landscape changes from lush, green fields to become more dramatic. Rock formations and colored sandstone changed the look of that last stretch before Cafayate. This rocky terrain presents a stunning array of tones from green to different shades of red. The road follows the canyon carved by the river Rio de las Conchas. The many distinctive landformes are named and signposted by the road, making them easy to find. It is supposed to take about three hours to drive this distance, but it took us the whole day, due to all our stops to enjoy the scenery and do some short hikes.


«El Amfiteatro», a natural amphitheatre, carved from red stone and surrounded by walls 20 m. high. It is an amazing feeling to stand in the middle and to look straight up at the blue sky. The acustic has a quality that will make any concert hall envious! Some tourists even tried their own voices to check it out!



The viewpoint "Mirador Tres Cruces" with gorgeous views of the valley






Hiking along the dry riverbank

Cafayate is the second center for quality wine production. It is a tranquil and relaxed small town, surrounded by vineyards. What I learned is that this area is famous for its torrontès grape which gives aromatic white wines. It is a lovely place to stay an extra day. We did that to be able to do longer hikes in the canyon in the morning and winetastings in the afternoon.



Valle de Calchaquies

On our third day the scene changed from wineyards to extraordinary rocky landscape. We drove 160 kilometers on the legendary Route 40 from Cafayate to Cachi. Unpaved allmost all the way. This route is famous, offering a scenic drive. In addition to the natural beauty, the area is rich in history. Route 40 was one of the main roads used by the Incas in the pre-columbian time.




Climbing some peaks at Monumento Natural Angaco

Cachi is a pitoresque village 2280m. above sea level and overshadowed by snowcapped Nevado del Cachi (6380m). Until 1500 AD, the Inca empire reached as far as Cachi and used this place as an adminestrative center. The church has a ceiling built of wood from cactus, which is growing plentiful here.



Parque nacionales los Cardones

We continued through the national park to get back to Salta. This park coveres a large area of hills and ravines at height levels between 2.700m and 5000 m. The first hour was a drive through giant cactus groves. This is a gorgeous high-desert territory with snowcapped mountains in the background. The most dramatic part is perhaps the Cuesta del Obispo where the descent starts. The road is zigzagging 3000 m. downhill to the point where it meets the road back to Salta.




It certainly has been one of the most spectacular roadtrips I have ever done. The scenery is varied. It is hard to decide what has made the biggest impression. Each place with its history, people and scenery has a magic of its own. Even daytours can be arranged from Salta, having your own car is really the best option.


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U.J

Kristiansand, Norway

All the photoes are mine, Ulla Jensen (flickr, Instagram and facebook)


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What an interesting an cool article, @digi-me. That story about the three children is quite sad and I never knew that you could build stuff from cactus wood. That's wonderful!

Thank you for these amazing shots!


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digi-me
digi-me @digi-meFebruary 2019

The story about the children, and especially seeing one of them, made a deep impression. Every one in the room became absolutely quiet. I think we all had the same emotions. I still do not know what I feel...should they have stayed on the mountain...? in that case we would not have known about it. Not known about some part of the Inca's religious life. Before actually seeing things built of cactus, I would not have thought it possible....


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Another beautiful travel post, digi-me. I really like the way you captured your photos, there is a sense of art and elegance in them. That rock formation is truly stunning, nature has shown us that yet again it is the master of art. I'm glad that you take us with you so I can see these sites :).


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Thank you :) and you are right. Nature itself is art. Sometime I went out and took close up photoes and with a macro lense of trees, plants, rocks and dried earth! the patterns made was like art! One just have to keep the eyes open and see the small details.


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ahh... this is a sick picture... hope to see more about this... which Cam did you use? wishes from Thailand


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Thanks for stopping by. It has been a trip with different kind of nature. Very diverse and at places dramatic and with hights that made us dizzy.... I use a Nikon 610 and a few different lenses is handy at times :)


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Anytime I see your photos I become jealous of your travel :) In a good way of course! You share your trips in a way that it makes me feel like I was there with you :)

I must say that the part about those three children is a bit scare and creepy but well, it belongs to the history :)

I love the landscape and the fact that it's changing so much!

Thank you for sharing! And happy travels as always :)


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Thank you for your comment :) I am glad to hear that you are with me on my travel :) And you are right. In a way it felt creepy looking at the child. A boy age / sitting as if he is sleeping. Surrounded by glass - but that is to make sure there is the same temperature and oxygen level as on the mountain. But I think it was an important discovery because it gives us who lives now, a possibity to learn about the past. After all, how the world is today is because of history.

The landscape is awsome! Every hour or so of driving and it was completely different. But to have the complete freedom, rental car is the answer :)


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digi-me
digi-me @digi-meFebruary 2019

Thank you so much!


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