English speaking tour guides covering NOA - Salta and Jujuy and the adventure route to Mendoza. Professional photographer and wine connoisseur creating customized private tours for an unforgettable experience.
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Last week we were in Tilcara and our clients were so taken with the simple hippy vibe of the pueblo, they refused to leave.
It is not essential to use a guide to get to Tilcara unless you are under time constraint. The bus leaves from Salta costing around 30 pesos - not the most comfortable in summer though. The bus station is Tilcara is in the centre of town - rather quaint.
At this time of year the weather is unpredictable, although even on a rainy day, the views can be marvellous when the clouds encircle the mountains like pearls on a Dowager's neck.
The Pucara just outside the pueblo is a good place to start a walk - avoiding the hours of the tourist bus day trips. This area is part of the Inca Trail that ran down the Andes from Peru. I prefer the reconstruction of the Pucara (Fort on an awkward hill in Quecha, the ancient language of the Incas) to that of Quilmes in Tucuman.
The houses were constructed with stones that blend into the landscape, mud and wood from cacti between 1000 and 1594 AD. Climb to the monument at the top for a stupendous view of the painters palette rock formation in the pueblo of Maimara (Where we started our community project for schools) 10 miles away and in the opposite direction, far up the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
Cross the iron bridge and turn left to take the path to the Gargantua del Diablo waterfall. Tourists tend to drive up the hill for their photo opp, but the hiking path diverges from the road pretty soon. We continue on from the fall to hike higher and be totally alone with the cacti and the view across the gorge.
The sun is fierce in Jujuy and the walk along the narrow gravel trail is tiring. Thankfully a great dinner of llama on the parilla with wild mushroom sauce and quinoa risotto awaits us at the best restaurant in Tilcara - top secret but available to anyone who asks.
Rio Colorado is a gorgeous half-day excursion very close to the city that we take clients on as part of a package. Hike or drive to the start of the track through endless stretches of vineyards.
When travelling South and stopping in Cafayate for a few days - the Colorado is a short option although it can be a strenuous trek and it is best to take a guide who knows the route as they are not marked.
We use the guides as they are local and it is their livelihood - They always have tales to tell. Our clients were quite adventurous so we went up the route with more scrabling and a small section of caving where bats can be seen at night.
The guide Franco showed us his scar from his run-in with a puma in the hills. That's him leaping across the rocks beneath the waterfall like a mountain goat.
The Colorado is like a hidden valley, very lush and secret surrounded by hills.
Quebrada Las Conchas has again usurped lo de Humahuaca as my favourite after spending the last week hiking and photographing it in all its rainy season glory. The light changes constantly as the rain clouds do battle with the sun.
And the clouds draping themselves around the mountains here at 1662 metres above sea level are like a reluctant bride.
We can guide the Quebrada for a day trip either from Salta or from Cafayate, although I prefer the latter for the loveliness of the pueblo and its proximity to the gorge - leaves more time for trekking and picnicking. From Cafayate we went along ruta 68 to Medanos - Salta's mini Sahara - reaching it meant fording muddy water to thigh level after the rains.
Then continued directly into the Quebrada. The amazing rock formations were formed in the collision of two land masses hundreds of thousands of years ago.
The varying colours are created from the mineral deposits of copper and iron. Unlike the day excursions from Salta that simply stop off for five minutes at photo-ops along the road, we took our travellers hiking deep into the quebrada to experience the silence and colours without buses idling in the background. Our guests got engaged in the gorge - Its pretty romantic in there plus it was Valentines Day, or Dia de los Enamoradas.
Rainy season is full throttle in NOA at the moment and the rain has caused flooding to the road and tracks. Even the rio at Los Castillos was running high.