Allan believing in Divine Intervention is likely even less comprehensible to my family and friends than my plan to scale the highest peak in our hemisphere. Yet the charmed circumstances, incredible acquaintances, and amazing events of this voyage have opened my mind to this possibility.
It does seem to me that the wonderful people I´ve encountered can´t be chalked up to chance. I´ve mentioned people like Roberta previously, and how my question about which metro stop led to a warm friendship in Valparaiso. And the amazing Maria who was willing to tell of her very intimate love affair in an open and trusting manner? As my story unfolds, I´ll point out other incidents and encounters that seem blessed by powers beyond chance.
This entry will try to cover my travels in Argentina, mostly through pictures, as it seems I have little time and internet access to write these days.
After Mendoza, I went North to Salta, a city I greatly enjoyed. Here are some examples of the colonial architecture of the city.
Most towns have a Church of San Francisco
Reflection of the above Cathedral in a modern glass building. Such is the mixture in towns routinely devastated by earthquakes.
Salta Government Headquarters
And some other images of Salta.
Many parks in town…including fountains, bridges, flowers, etc.
Llama and pony rides in the park.
Many statues commemorating victories over colonialism.
I loved this statue of 2 women embracing.
School girls hanging out, flirtting, smoking and trying to be oh so cool.
There were 3 major archeological finds in the highest peaks, including Aconcagua, of children sacrificed as part of the Inca ritual to unite their huge kingdom stretching from Columbia to Argentina and Chile. Nobles from all sub-kingdoms would offer one of their children to be sacrificed with great honors, festivities, and parades throughout the kingdom. The goal of the ritual was to help unite previously warring tribes. They were buried alive on high peaks after being given lots of alcohol. This girl was 8 years old (if I remember correctly) and was remarkably preserved, considering that she was struck by lightening, which accounts for the dark places on her skin. Note her teeth so white, despite the lightening strike. The mummies are preserved in dull light and very cold temps, and this pic is from a video shown at the museum.
500 year old child mummy
For those that don´t believe in voting for Mickey Mouse. An exhibition of political posters in Modern Art Museum, including this one urging votes for the Cat.
Some images of a huge 200 year celebration of the democratic election of the first provincial governor.
There were 6 different state marching bands, including those of armed forces, police, cultural groups
Amazing collaboration of province symphonic orchestra, folkloric dance troupe and popular musical group filled symphony hall
School girls hanging out, flirtting, smoking and trying to be oh so cool.
I took a 13 hr. tour paralleling the famous ¨Train to the Clouds¨ with many beautiful stops as we ascended to over 4300 mtrs (well over 14,000 feet) above sea level. The train was planned to reach the Chilean coast, but with coming of highways, didn´t make it. The chief engineer also built the GG Bridge before taking this on. 2/3 of peaks in Argentina-Chile over 6000 mtrs (19,800 feet) are in the State of Salta, so this train was an engineering miracle. They paid 5X the normal salary rate to attract workers, due to the severe dangers. There were 15 deaths on just one small bridge. Here´s a taste of what I saw:
We had switchback for much of the trip, as does the train, which was designed to not climb over .5% grade to make the climb without a chain system.
Train to Clouds crossing one of the countless bridges.
Wild Vicunias at 4300 mtrs. This is the land of llamas, vicunas, and quinoa.
Unending Salinas Gigantes salt flats
Pools that crystalize salt
Go ahead and try to balance on a 12 ounce bottle!
Yet another divine intervention. I ask someone about which bus to take north out of Salta. Jorgelina happens to be a very interesting person, I find out later, as on the bus with about 80 assigned seats she is next to me! Wonderful chatting with her, as she turns out to be a professor of Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy and Cosmology.
The first thing I did upon arriving in Humehuaca, was to try to get a jeep to take me to Hornocol in the afternoon when the colors are brightest. Found a jeep but needed 3 others to make a group for the 3 hour trip on rough roads. After an hour of searching for others, I was about to give up when 3 people from my hostel in Salta showed up in their rented car! So I got a free trip there just in time for the most intense colors. What are those chances?!
Hornocol, a 3 hr round trip from Humuaca in N. Argentina. Amazing colors… never experienced anything like this.
Just in case you don´t believe the colors, check out these from a pro photographer:
Owner of my Hostal Huemahuaca is a collector and motorcycle freak
This guy lives across the street
Humehuaca Teacher School
Among those I met include the woman in front and guy in back who have biked all over the world. Over 30,000 km (18,600 mi), and will be at 39,000 when they´re done!
I decide to go to the high mountain village of Ayuni, and find sitting next to me on the bus Hanna. Just what are the chances of meeting a fun, open Brazilian labor lawyer! We chatted for the full 3 hours and became friends. Hanna is management side representing the Post Office, but in her heart she sides with the union more often than not. She´s looking at changing her job. Also, on the bus was Soledad, a young spiritualist with a beautiful smile and loving presence that reminds me of Lucia. Soledad is a union organizer from Buenas Aires (organizes food workers)–another ¨coincidence¨? Soledad was adopted and had no father in her life, and we had some deep conversations. I tried not to be a father sub, but that dynamic was present, I think. Her aging mom is the only family she has, and she feels that sense of aloneness and isolation that is her name. We all hung out together during my few days there. You will meet others in our group shortly. Very strange getting along so well with folks 1/3 my age.
Hanah and me on bus to Iruya. Delightful woman.
View of Iruya from nearby peak…Condors loved the cliffs…exciting to see them!
Soledad making friends with a town mule.
From left Mattio (Mendoza), Gustavo (Cordoba), Julia (France)), Soledad (Buenos Aires), and Hanna
Many goats slaughtered each day…it´s a family affair!
We decided to take a hike to the village of San Ysidro. The 14 km mountain hike was a challenge, but I kept up with the youngsters
View on way to S. Ysidro
It was a sad departure from my new friends, but needed to move north to Bolivia. Hanna wants to go to the N. Orleans jazz festival, so perhaps Carol and I will join her!
All traffic was halted and I needed to walk from this point to the Bolivian border.
I joined this province-wide, simultaneous blocking of all roads. Nearby police wouldn´t attempt to break it up.
It was a poor folks, community organization, and worker demo for housing development and other rights.
Knitting during sit down strike.
Cooking chow for all!
Then, amazingly, met Che who was also entering Bolivia (again).
Otherwise known as Chino and Juliana, we hit it off right away.
We crossed the border together. I had a conflict with Bolivian customs as they demand that your $60 US be in perfect 20´s, with no marks, dyes or even slight tears. They rejected my many 20´s, I argued that their money was totally falling apart, and why this demand. Finally, I gave them a $100 bill in mint condition, and they gave me change.
Hoping all´s well and stay tuned for Bolivia!