March 15-26: back in Argentina, and from Volcan to Mendoza

Finally some time to get the blog up to date!


I returned from Afghanistan–via Buenos Aires, see above–on March 14…



… and immediately picked up Harry. He was in fantastic shape and had visibly enjoyed his four weeks among a pack of Argentinean dogs.



Following several days of work on the report on Afghanistan, Harry and I launched our drive from Volcan–north of Jujuy–to Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital.



We left El Caserio, the estancia where la bestia had been parked during my absence, on March 22.



Owner Guillermo waved us good-bye.



We first headed north to Purmamarca and its Rock of Seven Colors, a magic spot that I had first visited in 2000. Sadly mass tourism has since taken over most of the village, but I still enjoyed my half-hour walk.



Some of you might know that I gave up meat a year ago. Well… in Purmamarca I couldn’t resist — and I don’t regret it.



While enjoying my asado, these two chaps offered a strange form of entertainment consisting of fabulous folk music on the one hand, and a barrage of dim-witted, chauvinistic jokes (which, to my horror, most listeners actually seemed to find quite funny) on the other.



We then headed east toward San Antonio de los Cobres, climbing from 2,000m to almost 4,000m in under two hours.



Similar to the southern Bolivian moonscapes we had enjoyed so much during the previous month, the area surrounding Jujuy and Salta (the city south of Jujuy) boasts rock formations that draw liberally from nature’s complete color palette.



Realizing that we would not make it to Salta before nightfall, Harry and I wild-camped in the mountains and were rewarded instantly with this stunning sunset.



We reached Salta’s historic center on March 23.



No doubt an urban gem, Salta benefits from a regional tourism strategy that for many years has focused on aggressively promoting the city while neglecting others nearby–such as Jujuy and Tucuman–which are arguably just as beautiful.



Although I was aware of the heavy presence of German companies early on in Argentina’s history, I made this rather curious discovery as I walked past a historic hotel on the main square.



Following a large scoop of ice cream for me and a fresh bone for Harry, we continued south on ruta 68. The landscapes remained colorful…



… and often pretty dramatic. Above: the Devil’s Gorge (near the quaint town of Cafayate), an vertical opening between bright red rocks measuring over 250ft in height.



We opted for a stopover in picturesque Cafayate where we spent the night on the very well-kept Luz y Fuerza campground and, on the following day, got to witness what ‘family’ means to most Argentinians.



On March 24 we continued on ruta 40. Covering over 5,000km, the road connects the country’s far north with its southernmost provinces, and it is sometimes referred to as Argentina’s Route 66.



We did a lot of driving in pouring rain that day, marveling at the occasional surprise.



The road climbed again, and suddenly the surrounding landscape looked very much like Cajas national park near Cuenca, Ecuador.


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