ARGENTINA

        Having an area five times Spain, the distance between the North and the very South end of Argentina is more than 5100 km. In this country there are about 36 million inhabitants. But in order to have a more precise idea of life in this wide country, we must take into account that there are also as much sheeps, more than 60 million caws and an innumerable amount of llamas, guanacos, capybaras (the biggest rodent on the Earth) and even skunks. Life is not just a word in Argentina but a feeling. One can both feel it in the big cities, where 50% of the population live (1/3 in the vast Buenos Aires), and smell it in the countryside. Indeed our nose will turn round searching for the smell of cooking food that may come from a long distance across the prairie, or run away from the scent left by a skunk.

But now we are going to get some knowledge about the remotest and least tourist region of Argentina in the Northwest, the land of the Collas, with its proud and special people on the one hand but kind on the other one. It had belonged to the Inca Empire before they submitted to the Spanish Empire in 1594, after the last cacique of Tilcara, Viltipoco.

We suggest leaving rush apart to go this route of about 4000km from Buenos Aires (go and return).

        From Buenos Aires to Rosario goes the motorway Ruta 9. In Rosario there is a crossroad: Rutas 9 and 34. We suggest to you that you take Ruta 34 on the way towards Santiago del Estero. This road will lead you directly to Santiago del Estero through a boring landscape and a neverending horizon, but it is the fastest way to drive the 1040 km distance between them.If you have got enough time, we will come along in a route by plane over the Panama river or visiting some towns: Rosario and Santa Fe, this one a little apart from our route.
    It is not worthless to commend ourselves to Gauchito Gil before the journey. He is somehow an Argentinian version of William Tell, Robin Hood and Curro Gimenez. and the altars that we will find in every corner of the Pampa will remind us the deep devotion of these people. We may now take into account the difficult economic situation of the country.


        We are now again on the Ruta 9, just 125 km from San Miguel. We may say our adventure really starts at this moment. Finding the routes inside a city is in fact an enterprise so, keep cool and ask once and again. In the countryside, as part of the peculiar argentinian organization of life, even on the common roads we may find plenty of toll barriers, where we can also ask for the way, and of policial checkpoints placed along the way. They will ask you 2 or 3 pesos and your documentation, in this order. You should ask then for the right direction indications, and do not hesitate because if you try to follow the signs you will never arrive. Law is as simple as this: there are not.

        From S.M. Tucumán we take the dual carriageway: Ruta 38, going aparently towads South and about 30 km away we turn right: Ruta 307 into the valley and Calchaquíes peaks, an excelent way sorrounded by both valley and mountain, a landscape of semitropical forest and heights crowned just by "cardón"(cactus). We go along the Cafayate until we arrive at Salta and S. Salvador de Jujuy, capital of the province in the very North of Argentina. From here we drive down towards the altiplano.

We may feel the effect of the height as soon as we reach 3000m.: headache, tiredness, daze... There is only one solution: coke. which is legal here.

It is not grown in Argentina, but its consumption is legal only in this area. You can chew it giving the shape of a ball inside your mouth as the colla indians do, or in case you prefer a more european way: you may replace it or add it to the tipical maté tea.You may order it in any bar and you will feel its effect immediately.Do not be afraid of possible "film-effect" unless you chew it for hours or mix it with ashes ( they look like the "coal of the Three Wise Men",typical sweet at Christmas time in Spain) that increases its effects. One will see human waste as well in a similar porcentage as in any other society, with their brains "burnt" by the coke, alcohol...

Children will offer you, showing a smiling face, small handicrafts and their gratitude if you give them some coins (it is up to you... then dozens of them will come to you). They will also be happy if you give them in return a pencil or a Cocacola....

        The end of the way will be Humahuaca and its region. We can spend here as much time as we have. It is the center of the present colla land. The "quechua" is the common language. Around this region there are almost three hundred kilometres and one can go all over it on roads, leaving apart the principal route, by car with a good vehicle, on a donkey or on foot.

At the end of Ruta 9 is the "Quiaca"; and on the other side of the border: Villazón, which is an inmense "hayma" made of adobe in the altiplano. Along a several kilometers street-market everything with every purpose is sold here. A colourful optical illusion that announces us the arrival in Bolivia or, said in other words, from here onwards there is nothing.

You choose if you want to play. At the distance: the inmense altiplano and La Paz in the background.

On our way back we take again Ruta 9, a neverending 2000km road, and at the end Buenos Aires.

 

TOWARDS THE NORTHWEST: THE FOOTHILLS OF THE ANDES

 

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