The Hills of Purmamarca

Trip Start Mar 29, 2010
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Trip End May 24, 2010


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Flag of Argentina  , Northern Argentina,
Friday, May 14, 2010

After a few days of recharging our batteries (and battering our livers) in Cafayate, we decided to work our way north towards the Bolivian border.  Our destintation was a trinity of small mountain towns - Purmamarca, Tilcara, and Humahuaca - tucked away in Andes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet above see level.

Our first stop, Purmamarca, is a town that oozes quaintness.   It took us seven hours and three buses to get to the small town a few thousand from Cafayate, but it did not disappoint. 

In many respects, Purmamarca is the archetypical mountain village.   Its plaza is filled with local weavers and merchants peddling their wares; and bordered by a beautiful understated little church, white-wash buildings, and handful of restaurants with over-dressed waitstaff

The indigenous influence here is stronger than Salta, and much stronger than Cafayate.   You see it the faces of the locals, the ubiquity of ponchos and alpaca clothing, and the widespread use of coca leaves.  I left the lining of my jacket on a bus during one of our more hectic bus transfers, so I went native and bought an alpaca pullover.  It's remarkably soft and comfortable; I had no idea.  Monique got one too, the main difference between hers and mine being that she makes her alpaca pullover look good.

When browsing its boutique shops, Monique noticed something move near a mound of children's toys on the ground.  It turned out to be a little puppy so young, he didn't yet have a name.  The shop keeper kept him in the store, presumably to rope in unsuspecting gringo travelers.  It worked hook, line, and sinker on us.

The following morning, we hiked the "Route of the Seven Colors" – a short two-mile stroll through some of the hills surrounding Purmamarca.  The route gets its name from the “hill of seven colors,” which overlooks the town.   Though reminiscent of the American Southwest and the Quebrada de Cafayate, I had never seen such variation of color in a single geological formation – greens, reds, and various shades of pink all mixed within various layers of the rock.  It was a great way to start our day.

When we arrived back into town, we were surprised to see the town square overrun with tourists who looked even whiter than us.  Apparently, the first busload of day-trippers from Jujuy and Salta had arrived.   It made me grateful for the opportunity to see the town in a more tranquil state.   Just as they left to make room for the next wave of day-trippers, we caught a bus to the mountain town of Tilcara, about 45 minutes north towards the Bolivian border

Traveling Notes

Getting from Cafayate to Purmamarca in one day is possible, but a little tricky.  When we did the trip, we caught a 3:00 PM bus from Salta to Jujuy that arrived at 5:00.  The last bus of the day from Jujuy to Purmamarca left at 5:00 as well, making for a very, very tight connection.

Purmamarca is a very small town, but has a surprising number of lodging and shopping options.  In strolling around the town, we stumbled across a number of sharp looking boutiques selling weavings and related wares.  It seemed to be thoughtful, new architecture that was surprisingly well integrated into the general motif of the town and surrounding mountains.  Frankly, we hadn’t seen anything like in our travels.  If we were bringing gifts back with us home, this would have been the place to buy them.  
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