A five hours bus ride from Salta brings me to Humahuaca, a village situated at 3012 meters high in the north of Argentina. Just three blocks away from the bus station, on a narrow street, I find the colorful and cozy Gerimundo Hostal. Here I am going to stay for the next 3 days.
I make a fast check-in, drop my luggage, buy a bottle of water and I hurry up to catch the last ride of the day that goes to Serrenias del Hornocal mountain. I want to get there before sunset, that suppose to be magical, accordingly to locals.
Just at the corner of Gerimundo’s street, there’s a bridge. Is where shared taxi goes to Hornocal when the cars fill up with passengers.
I find a taxi driver, but no travel companions to share the ride with (and the cost of that).
“Amigo, if is only 1 passenger, you pay me a full car price. Either you wait for more passengers, either you come back tomorrow, bien?”
Just when I am about to postpone my trip for the next morning, a woman appears from nowhere. She is tall Argentinian, wearing blue jeans, blue sunglass, and a black hat. She looks more like going to a pub than to a mountain trip, yet she’s there for Hornocal, she says. Alright, the person I was waiting for! I mean, for this trip.
After a short negotiate with the driver we agree on some 500 pesos for the return ride to the mountain. We jump in his car as we leave behind the village of Humahuaca on a rocky, dusty road.
The woman is an Argentinian from Mendoza, in her early 40’s. She starts talking about her trip from Mendoza, her hometown, to Humahuaca, but I just can’t focus on the conversation; the driver is not that busy with driving but with chewing something.
“Amigo, disculpa me. ¿Pero qué estás masticando ahí??” (Amigo, forgive me, but what are you chewing there?)
“Ohh, esto es el coca, amigo!”, (this is coca, amigo) he says while handing me a bag full of coca leaves. “Si no quieres tener dolor de cabeza, toma esto, pero no intentes tragarlos.” (If you want to not get a headache, take this, but try not to swallow them)
That was true. At high altitude where there’s lack of oxygen, the human body doesn’t respond well. I am heading at 4400 meters, so I take his advice and get a few coca leaves; so does my travel companion. I try not to swallow them, as I don’t feel like being awake for the next 30 hours.
Soon after, the woman starts saying stories about UFO and aliens that, apparently, she personally experienced around Mendoza. Not only that she witnessed strange lights shining over some mountain cliffs, but she even interacted with an alien.
“So you are telling me you met an alien…in person? How did you come to the conclusion he was not one of us, but one of them?”
Well, I spent a few days with him and I never saw him eating or drinking anything… Anyway, in a few days, I am going to San Pedro De Atacama, in Chile, where people who believe in aliens are gathering together”.
Just great, I am thinking. I am traveling to a strange mountain at 4400 meters with a crazy woman and, probably, a drug dealer. I couldn’t get better than this!
The route 73 to Serrenias del Hornocal is rocky and the car stirs up a lot of dust. After about 15 miles of bone-shaking on dozens of curves and a few coca leaves later, we arrive at the destination. I and the woman get off the car and we take a clearly-defined footpath that is stretching away in front of us. Within a few minutes, the astonishing view of the colorful Hornocal appears in front of us.
This is also called the mountain of the 14 colors, but personally, I managed to distinguish only 5. They say the colors of the mountains change with the sun rays beating on them, but that cloudy weather didn’t help me much with this. Even though the colors are dim, the many-colored rock formations with shades of purple, red, yellow, green and ochre offer a marvelous scene. I sit down and watch this very distinctive nature feature.
Meanwhile, my travel companion sits down a rock, with her eyes closed and sort of meditating. I am thinking she must be communicating with her alien friends and any moment they can just land on the top of Hornocal. They would get off their vehicles and they would say in Spanish: “Que pasaaa?”
I feel a shiver on my back and I decide to get back to the parking place. I want to check if I still have a driver for myself. I find him inside the car, where he continues to chew coca leaves with his mouth absolutely full, looking like he’s going to explode. Soon after, the woman comes in. Thank God she’s alone; the aliens are probably late.
P.S. Strangely or not, I have no picture with the weird woman. This could explain some things…
In case you missed the first part of this story, it is here: http://garlictrail.com/trippin-to-serranias-del-hornocal-argentina/