After a night spent in Salta where I flew directly from Buenos Aires, I woke up early to go to explore the Northern province of Argentina, Jujuy. I packed up my stuff, said adios to my hostel roommates and headed for the Salta bus station.

With my Spanish knowledge being visible improved after spending already a week in Argentina, finding all the information for the bus ride and buying the ticket, it was piece of cake. By 8 AM I was already on my way to Humahuaca, a place nearby the border with Chile and Bolivia. There I wanted to see the picturesque Serranias del Hornocal, a rare kind of landscape, also called The Mountain of the 14 colors. It was Carlos, my new friend from Buenos Aires, who recommended it me to go there, on the way to Atacama desert.

The bus has two kinds of passengers: the white skin faces are those of the young traveling in their holiday; the more morena faces are the locals who travel to their home, north of the country. Away from the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, the features of the Argentinians seem less European and more aboriginal.

Next to me sit a senorita from Mendoza, and next to her 2 other muchahas which are sharing the classic local morning drink – mate.

El mate. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
El mate. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

This is a traditional Argentinian caffeine-rich infused drink, prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water and served with a metal straw. It is defined by law as the “national infusion”.
As part of the tradition is sharing, the girls hand me their mate. They seem to be surprised that I can handle the bitter taste of it. That was because in the previous days Carlos made sure to accompany all my breakfasts with the mate, so the taste was more familiar now.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo By Ovidiu Balaj
Photo By Ovidiu Balaj

The bus ride is smooth. Slowly, the green landscape turns into a more desert looking like, with fewer trees and more cacti. Closer to Purmamarca, spectacular mountain rocks surrounds small villages with stone houses and kilometers of death railway.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

By noon we arrived in Tilcara, a small village listed on the UNESCO site and a good spot from where to explore the beautiful area of Quebrada de Humahuaca. Is where most of the passengers get off, as well the ladies with the mate.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

I continue the ride with the aboriginal passengers from the more up north villages, heading to the 3000 meters altitude of Humahuaca; I am curious to see where these people live and why they use to chew coca leaves rather than the classic gum…

to be continued

The article was written on a hurry, when I managed to get a better wifiAll the pictures were made by phone, most of them during the bus ride. 

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