Salta, Argentina
November 16 - 19, 2005  

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Desert like "Valles Calchaquies"
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Why was I going to Salta ? Gotta see the country-side in the Andes in South America ! The flight was awefully early at 6am in the morning of Nov 16. I didn't sleep the night before at all, took a shower at 4am, and get downstairs to catch the taxi. It didn't take long to fetch a cab ride. But the cab ride to the airport was indeed very "unforgettable".

The driver was in his 60s, at least. Our taxi went for about 1 min, and he was already speeding at 80km/h. Approaching an intersection, we were on the leftmost lane of a 3-lane one-way road. Our lane would curve and turn left only, so he tried to squeeze to the right lane. It was no luck that the other 2 taxis occupying the 2 right lanes would let us in. Running out of room (our lane curves left and ends with an island), our taxi ran over the curb onto the island launching us into the air for a second. My instant worry wasn't that I was going to die, rather "Just get me to the airport before you taxi breaks down".


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City of Salta maintains a lot of old architectures.
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Centre of the town - Plaza 9 de Julio
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City Police headquarters

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Church of San Francisco
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Inside a church, I forgot the name of it. It was right in front of Plaza 9 de Julio
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Interesting flooring in the same church.

I rented a car at the airport and drove the City. I noticed that everyone was in a rush of some sort, honking was just the background music. I stayed in the city for about 2 hours, took a few pictures, had my lunch at an "English speaking Cafe", and found out where the hostels were for my last day.

I began driving south to the Valles Calchaquies. I took the anti-clockwise circuit first to Cafayate. On the way, I passed by a few urban villages, Cerrillos, La Merceo (the Jesus on the Cross) and El Carril. From there, roads were becoming windy and narrow, passing through dry valleys, and a lot of abandoned clay houses.

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I drove this circuit loop anti-clockwisely for 3 days.

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Jesus on big cross at La Merced

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Township of La Merced
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on route to Cafayate ...
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Typical house ... with the thing ....

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Have the feel of desert yet ?
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34.5 C ...
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Ooopsss ...

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83km to go ..
Don't know how long it will take me ?
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Goats !
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One of the "interesting" rock ...
not that interesting at all

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Hmmm... can't really find anything to shoot a picture.
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The big herd ...

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See the curious goats
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El Anfiteatro
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It's still Me at El Anfiteatro...

The road was very boring to drive, nothing but turn after turn, and not much to stop and see. I ran into a few herds of goats. I was so bored that I saw a hitchhiker, and I decided to give him a ride. He was a musician, made his life by playing guitar at the tourist hotspots. See the video coming up. I dropped him off at "Anfiteatro" where it was a sacred rock formation. "Anfiteatro" means Amphitheatre. He played his guitar and started singing. Very cool.

Onwards I picked any musician who played Saxophone at "Anfiteatro". He spoke a bit English, and we exchanged a handful of words, and he showed me a lot of different rock formation along the road. Ha ha it paid-off picking them up for the free tour guiding. After an hour, we arrived at the town of Cafeyate, he also showed me where the cheap hotel was.

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You have to see to feel it
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I picked up this hitchhiker.
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I wish I can climb this ...
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Me and Anfiteatro
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El Fraile - The Frog

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El Obelisco
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Los Castillos
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Vineyard near Cafayate

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I stayed here for one night.
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It was called Hotel El Captain
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Coca cola is it !

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I loved these local restaurants.
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Chorizo and Chorizo ....
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Church at Cafayate,
in front of the Plaza

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hm....I don't remember this one ....
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Craftworks made of Cactus.
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What a contrast!
Modern window and old brick house.

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This house was nice, I think.
It is a hotel indeed.
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Vinos started here ...

I woke up and started driving by 8:30am, after a very good night sleep. The road was very bad after about 30 mins from Cafayate. It wasn't paved, very windy and rocky. I passed through at least 30 small towns. Most were poor villages where houses were made from stones and clay. However one interesting that I noticed about these villages, there would always be a church painted prestige white and well maintained in the middle of the town. The village was poor, but the church was loaded.

I stopped a lot to take pictures because I knew I couldn't drive fast anyways on this road condition. My favourite spots at that point were passing through a ledge, and stopping at a sandy desert-like river bed. As the road continued, I saw more and more cactus on the road side. I was intrigued by the shapes of the cactus. I stopped at Angastaco for lunch. Local people were very friendly. I took a few pictures of their gorgeous church and local children.



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Church at San Martin, look familar, isn't it?

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It's a long road .. ..
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There was a desert ahead of us.
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Told you, ..it's a desert!

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Passed by the small village La Vina.
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Getting off to see the desert.
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Wow, ... it looked like a beach than a desert.

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Did I take this picture from ....Hawaii ? No !

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Did I look cool enough ?
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Who's there ?

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Nothing but .....sand ....
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Church was always nicely built.

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Why did they need fences ? What were they protecting ?
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Another nice church !
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It's not a desert after all, there's a Rio!

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Gotta take a break.
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So far, this was 14the bridge I crossed ....
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It's dry and windy .....

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Who stole the road sign ?
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Hey hey hey , we got running water ....
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This little rental car climbed pretty well.

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The sign said it's a winding road and hell it was!
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Another herd ..

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Join me to see the how it looked like.
Click to play video (32 MB file).

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This old lady was the sheperd of the herd.
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Vinyard, ....but what's that up there ?
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Local children at Angastaco

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See, another nice church, ...wonder how they got the money to build this.

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Leaving Angastaco
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Ruta 40 is that way, buddy! Are you sure?
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In the middle of nowhere, I saw this structure.

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Leaving the desert, and getting into more farmland.
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Could you see faces ?
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Whose handprints ? I passed by a few kids walking on the road and they all gave me handprints.

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One of the lone tree series ....
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It's 36C outside!
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Haven't get sick of cactus and blue sky yet ?

Leaving the town of Angastaco, the road gradually climbs in the valley. At one point, there was a long stretch of flat area that hosted at least millions of cactus on both side of the road. It was so hot that day that I honestly believe it hit 40C. I stopped by a stream to take a refresh break.

Arriving Cachi, I located a very nice hotel on top of the hill, overseeing the whole town. I stayed there for the night. The room and dinner altogether only cost me CAD$40.



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How about this one ?
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Wasn't this one classic ?.

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Artist's village
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One, two, three, four, five, ..aaarrrhhhhh....
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Perfect for a slingshot!

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Very nicely built stonewall.
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Don't you wanna jump it?
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Hotel room at Cachi

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This hotel was approved by their Automobile Assoication
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Nice finish of the hotel.
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I like the decor of the entrance.

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Hotel room charges include dinner
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Agua con gas, pan, beano, ..
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Corn soup. Traditional recipe of Inca people.

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I ordered a rabbit dish.
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Taken from lying on my bed
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They even had a sign for windy condition!

The third day was a very long day of driving. It was only 150km to Salta, but in total it took me 7 hours. From Cachi, I drove towards the National Park of Cardones. The highway was not paved except for the section with the National Park. I didn't do a lot of research of this National Park. The road was flat in the beginning and began climbing to the highpoint of the park at 3348 metres.

From this highpoint, I saw the other side of the valley. It was very beautiful that you could see the windy road traverse through the terrace farms in the valley. It started to drizzle and began pouring when I was negotiating the windy downhill road. Some sections were really dangerous with big pot holes and jaw-dropping cliff on one side.

At one point, I had to stop for a cattle herd where they were heading uphill. The cows wouldn't even try passing my car on the cliff-hanging side of the road. It was that dangerous, and I had to reverse for about 20 metres to let them through.

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This was how their houses was built
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Just trying out different feature of my camera ....
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This ....

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That ...
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Hmmmm ....
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Okay .....

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Arrrr.... ha
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Finally ....
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Entering National Park of the Cardones

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I didn't kill it.

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I wonder where was body though ?
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Cars passing by created the dust cloud.
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It's getting cold, it must be the altitude.

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3348 metres equal 10,985 feet
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They even got a chapel on top of the mountain in the National Park.
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Make a wish or blessing !

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360 view from 3348 metres.
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It's all downhill from here.
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Those were not the switchbacks.
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We got cows !

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Farms in the Valley
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I was back in the City of Salta. It's still very common to ride your "coach".
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I stayed at this hostel - Tierra Gaucha.

I arrived Salta and began the normal tourist routine. I hit the Telefonica, the cable car to the top of Cerro San Bernado, capturing the view of the entire city of Salta, where 500,000 people lived there. I visited their local market, where it re-opened itself at around 5pm. They played loud music for 2 minute to signal the re-opening after the afternoon break.

I took a lot of different architectural pictures with different light conditions. It was amazing that the city did a lot of maintenance in these old building. It was a complete different look comparing to the daytime's. I also ran into their street demostration, protesting about the local corrupted election of some sort. (see the video)



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Telefonica - The Gondola to the San Bernando Mountain.
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Ohla ...

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Yeah, it's safe !
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See the city of Salta ....

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Amen ...
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I didn't cactus blooms ...
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Look like a rose to me !

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Obelisco in Salta ....
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There were a few streets only for pedestrians.
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What a contrast !

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Ready ? Watch this.
They played loud music to signal everyone that market was re-opening after the siesta.
Click to play video (100 MB file).

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in the 1960s, ...no it's my camera

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Which one looks better ? This ?
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Or this ?

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Church of San Francisco
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Don't remember the name of this church

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Protesting the corrupted election ...
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It's so much different after they turned on the lights
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Wow ...
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Making wristband ....

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Nightview of the Plaza 9 de Julio area

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Better than a lot of neon lights
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There is a monkey in this picture, can you find it ?
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Now you can locate where we were before !


As we were heading back to Argentina side, our 2nd car accident happened. This time our car hit someone's from behind as our driver was looking down to check on something. Man, ...it was dangerous. We then followed to do our eco-adventure, climbing, ziplining, and water fall rappelling. The day was really full of surprises. We missed Iguazu.





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Nov 12 - 16, 2005
  
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