Since breaking through the border in Chile, for nearly three days we’d ridden the state (called a Provincia in Argentina) of Jujuy. Before heading to the capital city that shares the name of this state, and with the internet service in Purmamarca down due to heavy winds, Jeremiah was anxious to see if people in Sucre had recovered the gear that was stolen. We took a slight detour to the north toward the Bolivian border to another small desert enclave, Tilcara hoping to find internet access. Frankly, I think he’s dreaming. The concept that something stolen from a hotel 500 miles away nearly a month earlier would be found by the police or on the “black” market was idealistic. But I commend him for his positive attitude and willingness to turn his bike around and head back to Sucre should the goods be found. But alas no word from Sucre and we headed south, getting slammed by heavy rain and chilling winds to Jujuy where we took a break for gas and lunch and then moved south into the Argentinean state of Salta.
Within minutes of parking our bikes on the colonial building lined plaza of Salta we once again ran into our friends Juan and Daniel. We took care of finding a hotel with parking and set out for a night on the town. This time reciprocating and buying dinner for our Argentinean riding buddies.
Yes. The hotels in Purmamarca and Salta were fitted with bidets.
Colonial Salta breathes at night!
As we moved from Jujuy to Purmamarca and into Salta the desert landscape transitioned from the Puna (Andean highlands) into the rich valley steep in agriculture and lined with verdurous mountains. With slightly more than 500,000 inhabitants, the city of Salta is perhaps one of Argentina’s best-preserved colonial cities founded in 1582. I was pleased to find wireless internet, friendly and helpful locals and a small but tidy plaza surrounded by cafes with seating for hundreds. For two days and two nights Salta, despite its big city status, seemed rather small and quickly felt like home. Our Argentinean friends stayed the one night but we made plans to meet in Cafayate, the small pueblo surrounded by polychrome mountains and yet blanketed with vineyards.
Onward to Cafayate.
The ride from Salta to Cafayate is nothing less than spectacular. cutting through geological wonders that rival those of Arizona and southern Utah. Towering walls of red sandstone, mini-gorges and nearby hills and taller mountains glowed in the late afternoon light. But I had to concentrate on the road because the fragile soft rocks from the walls of these wonders often blanketed the blind corners and sweeping turns. And with those tall cacti again contrasting the lower desert shrubbery, I was amazed that at about 5,200 feet in elevation, the valley of Cafayate was suited for growing grapes. Yet here in this high and dry desert. I found myself in my first wine region since leaving Washington state last August.