Saturday, October 22, 2005

Northern Argentina II: About colors and partings...

After returning from the ranch, we left the next day to Quebrada de Humahuaca and to the little village of Purmamarca, where the famous Cerro de los Siete Colores is situated. After passing noon time in the village, we were offered a ride to nearby town of Tilcara with spectacular and colorful view of the Quebrada de Humahuaca mountain range and a visit to a hilltop ruins of Tilcara. We then returned to Salta in a different way then we expected, and before parting once again, me and Lee relaxed two days more in Sayta ranch

Mountain of colors: The seven-colored mountain & Purmamarca
The following day of our return to Salta we went to evaluate what can we do to see the attractions in the valle of Humahuaca with public transportation. We found several buses a day heading north toward the border with Bolivia, and we picked the most suitable one, i.e., not too early (but still early, 7:30 am). We planned to first visit the little village of Purmamarca, where the famous 7 colored mountain was residing and then, if we will have time or energy, hop to the nearby town of Tilcara. The thing is, the bus dont go all the way to Purmamarca but stops at the junction of roads that leads to Purmamarca (and afterwards, to Paso de Jama, the border cross with Chile, where we have been before). Thus, we had to walk a 3 km to the village. Lee was suffering from muscle stiffness after galloping so much, but she said it wont be any problem.
The bus ride was nice, if a bit long (almost three hours) and already nearing the junction we noticed the beautiful colors of the mountain range. We dropped at the junction and after seeing nature for pressure relieve we started walking westward toward the village. As we were walking in parralel to the river, we could see the mountain from a far, with many layers of color.
Purmamarca itself is a little-bitsy place that even a kid can not get lost there...with several little dirt alleys, adobe houses and one lazzy-looking plaza, there is not too much to do there beside looking at the amazing colors nature (or god if you want) created so majestically. We first strolled around in the plaza, both looking about the artesinary that was displayed to tourists and with appropriate price tags (that kept us away from buying such things), but as I passed one shop I saw a steak-looking wood cutting board, and thought it was very beautiful and original. Now, if I had a house of my own (which I dont have becuase I am spending all the money in this trip), i would have bought this cutting board. And this exactly what I said to Lee (more or less)..Needless to say, she agreed and I urged her to buy one for her kitchen (and does of you who are familiar with Lee, know that you really dont have to work to hard to convince her to buy something nice for the house). “Chen, this is heavy, how am I gonna carry it?” so I answered natuarally, “why, you can send it to Israel with all the other stuff you wana get rid off..” She laughed at that and took out her wallet...
After we finished our little shopping circuit, we ascended a hill that overlooks the colored mountain, and after sitting down and talking for a while we got hungry and went to look for a minimarket to but food. What do you think we had (a quiz for those of you WHO do keep reading the blog)? Well, it is not that hard: canned Tuna fish, Mustard with a twist of lemon and bred...Yes, the heavenly combination was a success also this time, when we sat down near the plaza and prepared the modest meal. While we were preparing the food, Lee have noticed that she lost her handband and we decided that after the lunch we gonna look for it. While we were eating, people passing by (mostly tourists) were surprised to see us, while some also greeted us with a warm “Bon Provecho” (Bon Apetit). As we were talking and eating, I saw an eldery couple walking near us and I said “Hola”, only god knows why. Well, as sometime it happens, I didnt got any reply, and I got a bit pissed off about this. As the couple started walking away from us I blurted out that I hate people who ignores a polite hello. It was an isultance! I urged to Lee, who said that this is the main reason why she usually dont say hello to strangers, unless they approach her from the first place. I agreed there is something to it, and as I kept on digging through the leftovers of the Tuna, the man approached us and said in an acsented Hebrew: “Sorry, I didnt heard you saying hello”. Me and Lee looked at each other, dont know if to laugh or to cry...we finished our lunch and started looking for the headband, not holding too much hope to see it again...It was a headband her mother gave her before leaving Israel and Lee had sentimental feeling toward the piece of garment (and the curious of it all, is that her mother bought it in England and only when Lee got it she realized the headband was manufactured in can be Ironic sometime). After searching almost all of the town, we gave up on finding it, even though Lee was keeping looking at the woman, to see if someone is wearing it. As we wondered around, we went up a path leading up and quickly we found ourselves in the village cemetery. Lee commented that she just “love” cemeterys but I urged her to just peek and not more. And, while we walked inside, trying not to step on a grave or something similar (no borders here fellas, nothing actually), we noticed a huge grave section devoted for a whole family. This grave was actually a house, with two sections and a white grand staircase with two massive rails on both sides. It was an amazing grave area, and we were just looking at it and also looking for a good angle to capture it on film or digital. We then decided it is time to leave Purmamarca and return to the junction.

Perfect cuts, “perfected” ruins and a weird cemetery
While we were walking, a car stopped by and an eldery couple (not the same as we encountered before) asked us in Hebrew (!) if we want a ride. WHAT THE HELL?! Is the whole area swarming with undercover Israelis, looking for us to make our FADIHOT!? The couple had an accent and fact is, they are living for many years in Israel but are originaly from Argentina. Well, they were just heading for Tilcara, and after telling us what we can see there, we both agreed to go and join them to Tilcara, and afterwards to return to Salta.
Well, I didnt asked for thier name, forgot, but it was nice talking with this couple. Such nice people! The only thing I know is that the woman is an artist (using photography, so I had a subject to talk about more passiontly) and that was also the reason for them to stop every five minutes for photo taking (which was fine by me!). On the way we saw the painter`s pallete mountain side, a beautiful symmetrical huge cuts in the rock which exposed great colors and were spread for a several km across the mountain slope. Amazing thing to see! Also, we crossed at a certain point the Tropic of Capricon, at 23.5 degrees south of the Equator. Continuing driving north, we passed by the Maimará cemetery, which is build on top of a small hill and his a local attraction here...When you will see the pictures you will understand what I am talking about...
We continued on going north and reached little Tilcara. We headed straight to the fort at the top of a hill, several km out of Tilcara. Strolling in the site, it is hard not to try and compare it to the Inca ruins in Peru. And actually, it is impossible to do that. Part of the ruins were reconstructed almost perfectly (even too perfectly) and the other ruins are in a demolished state. The perfect reconstruction was intended to give an idea of the original houses but it is to briliant, too perfect. Even so, the scenery from the top of the hill was amazing and the numerous Cacti growing on the site really gives the place a wild atmosphere...Being Israelis, we listened to a local guide explaining about this site to a school kids coming for a visit, and afterwards we came down back to town.
As the couple continued to move northward, we departed from them, thanking them for their kind ride.

Going back to Salta - not what we expected
The couple dropped us at the bus terminal as a bus for Jujuy just entered the place. As I was locked on taking the bus back to Salta and to stop or to ride to Salta I didnt think about taking this bus. As I asked in the local office about the next bus to Salta (and got the answer that it will be in three hours more) Lee approached me and asked me why we dont board the bus to Salta. I looked at her and heard the “cling” of the coin in my head thud. You`re right! As I lifted my head, I saw the bus already departing and starting moving out of the terminal. Shit! I hesitated, should I persuit it and might stop it?? Thinking, too much thinking and too much hesitation, and so the bus slipped out of the terminal and was gone. SHIT! We bought sat aside, amazed at our incompetence. Lee was saying “As I saw the bus to Jujuy I thought why not take the bus, but I didnt thought of saying to you...” and I replied: “You`re stupid?? And what should I say that I even didnt thought about the idea till you came and slammed it straight in my face?! I AM the stupid one here!!” and we both laughed at that, as we didnt know what to do next. So, I went to the office to ask about the next bus to Jujuy, and to my amazment the lady behind the counter told me that anothe one is passing through in five minutes. FIVE MINUTES?! Just perfect! I signaled Lee to approach and bought two tickets. Well, at least there is another bus, we took comfort, only we didnt know what expected us later.
The bus came into the terminal, and not like the tourist class, this one was a run-down bus, one which is common in Bolivia and Peru, but not expected to see in Argentina. We boarded the bus and moved out of the terminal heading south. I dozed off at a certain point and when I woke up I was surprised to hear Lee saying that we are standing put for the passed hour, only god know why. Well, a minute later the bus moved and stopped in front of a military checkpoint and all the people went down and we joined them as well. At a barren place, in front of a cliffy mountain, all passengers were inspected under cold and whipping wind. The Argentinean officer who checked me asked me tons of questions, nice questions at that, as she was probably curious as to where, what and how I travel here in South America. Finally, she left me be and I joined Lee in the line back to the bus and we waited like this for an additional half an hour till the inspecting soldier finished turning the whole bus up-side-down, like it was highly probable that drugs are stashed on the bus (maybe it was, who knows...). For me it reminded of all the ispection I have done in my service, where suspicious was the number one rule...
After we boarded the bus, we continued driving south till we finally reached Jujuy bus terminal. We went down and looked for bused going to Salta. We came to the first office we saw and after waiting in line (it was sunday evening and it was heavily busy!) I understanded that there are no tickets till tommorow morning...Fuck...I asked if there is another company going to Salta, and the man directed to another one. BUT, same drill: waited in line, asked for two tickets and got the same answer: Mañana, Mañana! God damn mañana, what we are suppose to do till Mañana?? Is there any other company? I asked him and he replied a simple NO! Damn! It is god damn Jujuy, who want to spend time in fuck`n Jujuy anyway?!
Even though we felt a bit depressed, we kept our spirits up and tried to figure out ways to get out of Jujuy. We have to options as I see it, I said to Lee, either we sleep the night here or take a taxi. But it is a two hour ride, Chen, a taxi will be a rip-off Lee replied and I could not agree more. Well, there is another option and that is hitchhiking, but it would be almost impossible to grab something like that I offered, or we could ride in the bus standing. After talking with a bus driver going to Salta (the bus is there, we just have to hop on it!!!) we gripped that there is no way in hell that we will ride any bus standing...Hey, this is Argentina, man, where the hell do you think you are? In Peru!?
Well, Lee suddenly got a DUDA (“crush”) for an empanada (never had one, would you belive that?) and I already thought how bad it could be to spend an evening and night in jujuy, when Lee put aside her DUDA and suggested that we might ask a tourist we saw on the bus to share with us a taxi, so it would be cheaper...So, we started looking for him in the crowd that passed in and out of the terminal in the fading light of the setting sun and while we passed near a taxi waiting for passengers, I suggested we ask how much it costs to take a taxi, just to have a knowledge and a bargaining point if we find the guy. Asking the taxi driver how much for Salta, I was surprised to hear 90 Pesos. 90?! I was sure it would sky rocket to 200 or even more..Damn, thats not that bad, isnt it? Lee agreed also and I tried to lower him by a bit asking for 80. Yes, lets go! He answered, and I was happy. I have to have an empanada, Lee urged and I was hungry too (but wanted to have something more serious, with all due respect to empanadas) so we split: i went to order a Lomito (A thin slice of fried meat tucked in a sandwich with sliced tomato and Letace) while Lee looked for an empanada stand. Well, in the time they prepared for me the sandwhich, Lee already turned up side down the whole station and no empanada stand. None! I cant belive it, she said, when suddenly I have a DUDA for empanada, no empanadas! Never mind, I told her, we can find enough in Salta. Yeah, but I want it now! She replied dissapointed. Yeah, I could undetstand her...
She climbed the taxi and I joined her five minutes with my big Lomito. I would have offered some of it to her, but Lee is a Veggy so I just passed even the courtesy of offering.
Well, I dont remember if the last entry I talked about the Argentinean driver, but let me put like this in any case: THEY ARE CRAZY! Yep, they dont obey the traffic laws, nor the traffic lights. They drive fast, passing from one lane to another without even blinking right or left. And we took a night taxi for 2 hours. Crazy! And, well, our driver was no exception: he went fast, crossed lanes as he wished and personally, I could already see the headlines in Yedioth Ahronot about the two of us invovlved in a car crash (HAS VESHALOM!!! ). On the way a policeman stopped the cab for an inspection, and after 10 minutes inspection and talk outside, the driver returned and when he recieved his driving license he gave the officer something in his hand. Did I saw it or I imagined? Was THAT a bribe?! I could not make it for sure so I didnt say anything to Lee untill couple of seconds after the driver continue driving that he spoke in his rapid and almost uncomprehndable spanish about bribery. Lee found it hard to belive (for me also), but it coincided well with what I saw. Well, I reminded myself, dont forget that you are still in South America, and it is a custom in some places... Well, the only good thing about this ride was that we came to Salta after only one hour and a half of driving instead of two hours and even two and half. We thougt that he talked about the bribery to ask for more cash but he didnt (which makes it even more logical that he indeed bribed the officer to let him go). We went back to the room, organized and went back to the city to look for an empanada stand or retuarant. Well, the restuarant I had my last empanada ran out of the empanadas so we looked for another one. And, well, it was a very respected restuarant and as we entered we were sure they are gonna rip us off. Well, yes and no...The empanadas were cheap, standard priced, so we decided to sit down and ordered some and also two cokes. Lee certainly enjoyed hers (and I too) and we ordered the bill, I had to blink twice so I could see clearly the number. 15 Pesos?! How come?? I scanned the bill and indeed found the rip off, hidden under “bevredges” - 3.5 pesos for a god damn personal coke?! Are they kidding me? On the streets it costs maximus 1.5 peso, no more...Well, Chen, you are in a god damn expensive resturanant, what REALLY you expected??? I just mumbeled a curse under my breath, paid the bill and we were off the place.

The next day was a pressy one, as we had to do lots of arrangments, ask about the next bus to San Pedro, as Lee wanted to go back there. The next bus was Thursday and Sunday, and it was monday. We planned on visiting a forest in the north for one day but if we will go there we will have only one day in the farm and we wanted to saty there two nights (or Lee could ride to San Pedro sunday morning, which was too much for her to stay in Salta). So, after we checked in the net about this park, we figured out it is not THAT an attraction and it would not be worth passing 3 days more in Salta. She bought the ticket, 7 am Thursday and I went to check for a bus to Cafayate, and amazingly, I found a bus that leaves at the same time, so I bought it also. The rest of the day passed somehow fast, and we didnt managed to do other stuff, and we prepared our stuff for the next day.
Tuseday morning we took our stuff and waited for someone from the farm to come and pick us up. Turns out that it was Oscar, grinning with his teethless smile, and saying hoola amigos all the time. We took our stuff and when got to the vehicle we were surprised to see that in the car were sitting already two women. Where are we gonna stuff all the packs and things? (we planned to go straight from the ranch to the bus station and board the buses) Well, after he tried to shove both our muchilas into his Bagage compartment (without any success, of course), he told us to put my big muchila across our knees. At first it didnt compell to us too much, but after doing it it was not that bad. In the car where a 20 something year old british woman and in front a 40 something swiss woman. Turns out, that the swiss lady has a ranch and a vineyard of her own in the area north of Cafayate and she comes to visit no and again, to check that everything is working properly. She and Enrique know each other for a long time so she came to a visit.
Coming to the ranch, Enrique came ot greet us and we hugged warmly. An overcasted skied greeted us, badly timed with the alreayd full swimming pool...well, maybe tommorow. We had a nice breakfast with the two woman and other tourist came for an afternoon ride, one of them was Alone, 24 years old. We talked a bit with him and then we all joined for another of Enriques famous Asados. This time I drank too much wine and was quickly looled...I went to do something and decided to go to sleep..turns out that Lee was also finished from the wine and went also to sleep, while I snorred my tiresome head away. Waking up around 6:30 PM I went to the Internet and even after two hours Lee was still asleep...As I wrote my diary, Negra came to look for us and was surprised to find there in the porch writing. we hugged warmly and she asked if we want to joi everyone for dinner. I told her that Lee is asleep and I dont know if she wants to eat, so Negra went inside and after some whispering we understanded that Lee will join us and that she feels a bit better after all the wine drinking...
Rain was keeping on pouring down on top of us as we walked together across the yard that was between our room and the main house, and as she didnt want to get wet, Negra urged me to run with her, but I told her slowly, no hurry, just water no more than that. So we gonna be wet a bit, nothing serious right?! It was dark and the ground was soaken wet with water and lots of horse shit piles that were strewn all around the place, so I tried to see where I am walking without sliping. We got to the house, were Enrique, Tono and Oscar were already drinking wine (it seems they never stop drinking..) and invited me for a one. I rejected politely, as I remembered my looling head from the afternoon. Well, as I sat there in the warm kitchen and talked with the everyone, I heard voices from outside and assumed it was Lee. Well, it was Lee alright, coming inside with her spread a bit in a mess and her eyes are swollen from deep sleep, and you could only see two slits of sparkling eyes. She was looking at me at a mixed stare, and as she neared the table I was sitting by she said: “Dont ask what happened...I had a some STEHA now!” and as she said that and also seeing my amused face she started laughing out loud and I quickly joined her. For all of you that are not familiar with the Israeli slang, a STEHA is an expression describing a glitch, a serious glitch at that, which usually is harmless but very hilarious. I saw that her pants were a bit dirty and her flip-flop sandals were soaking with mud. What a MASTULA (stoned, another slang that describes someone who dont think too much before something)! Walking through the muddy yard in the middle of the rain with sandals! Well, we kept laughing for something like 20 minutes, as she tried to describe between one giggle to another how she fell. It was something like this: “I was walking, all tired and almost didnt see anything but the lights of the house, when suddenly I found my face in the dirt and my legs went apart. It took me couple of seconds to understand what happened, and when it did, I could not stop laughing at it...”. Enrique and the fellas could not understand why we were laughing so much, but how can you explain them our humor and our imagination of how Lee glitched and flew in the air only to land on the muddy earth (if not on a pile of horse shit...we prefered not to check that issue, as you can imagine..)
Shit, I am laughing out loud right now (!) here in the internet center, just from remembering Lee`s expression and the whole situation...People, THAT was a serious laugh!!!
Well, after we could talk and not laugh every couple of seconds, we joined the other fellas at the table and had a nice dinner, talking also with Naco, a good friend of Enrique (30 years friendship). At a certain point Naco explained that if you have only one women you somke a lot but if you have several then you are less nervous and smoke less...well, I was not agreeing with his world view, but I was amused from the fact that Enrique kept on making funny hand gestures behind Naco`s back in regard to Naco`s mental health, while Naco was totally serious explaining his ideas...Very funny, indeed. Enrique suggested at one point that becuase the next day was our last at the ranch, we might prepare some Israeli food, and the famed Shakshuka was suggested as a good candidate. Well, I offered to prepare it, but Naco insisted that if he stays till lunch he wants Lee to cook, becuase women add a flavor for the dishes...Well, he is certainly not a big feminist, as you can understand...I guess that before becoming a Gaucho he was a Sheikh or something of the kind...Lee agreed, as she didnt feel she has any other choice. By mistake, she offered to prepare her Matbuha sauce, and did not comprehend what she has done.
The next day passed lightly for us and around mid day Naco came into the house with a box full with vegetables as I explained him what I needed to prepare the Shakshuka. When I took the box to the kitchen, he motioned toward Lee and asked if she is not gonna prepare it. Now, Lee wanted to relax beside the pool, as the sun shone nicely after a day of rain and clouds and did not plan actually to cook (and I could manage it alone). This child of sun, Una Chica de Sol, as Enrique called it in Spanish, was so into san bathing that just the thought of leaving it in favor of a dark kitchen was not imaginable! But, after seeing the dissapointed face on Naco`s face, she quickly joined me and helped me prepare the dish. I must admit, that I could have used the help, as it was a HUGE amount of Shakshuka to prepare (5 peoples in total, some 14 eggs!) as this was the sole dish. I had to take one of the biggest pots in the house, and slowly we worked together and prepared some best Shakshuka! Good team work! Enrique and the fellas loved and savored the taste, but even as I was full, Enrique warmed up some slices of the last day Asado`s so I can have some meat, in any case (which was great, by the way!).
As she wont be celebrating with me my 28th birthday, she wrote me a small note and asked me to open it only on my birthday (and she knew what I am gonna do on my birthday...). We then went to the house, for dinner. Enrique forgot about the Matbuha sauce and he was preparing a chicken stew (“Meat is much better, but Lee dont like meat..” he mocked fondly on behalf of Lee. The stew was great and tasty and I had quite a lot, even though it was already 11:30 PM! The next day we had to wake up early to catch the buses at 7 am. We planned on wakening around 5 am, light breakfast at 5:30 and then at 6 am to leave to Salta. Except for Negra, all the people was going to awake early so we parted from Negra warmly, hoping that we might meet again...
Wakening at 5 am was never easy, not to mention after such a meal! We organize the little stuff that was left for packing and after having a little coffee we embraced with Enrique and Tono warmly and it was quite hard to leave! We rode back to Salta in silence as the sun started to send week ray of lights across the dark skies. When we arrived to the bus station we parted from Oscar and hurried to the terminal to find the exact boarding lane our buses use. First we found Lee`s bus, which just came in and people started loading their baggage. I went to look for my bus and found it also in advance departure status. I hurried back to Lee, and with all my stuff on me we parted hastly.“Forget about the past and future, just stick to the present and have fun!” I told her as I moved away from her and she said she would. I turned and walked back to my bus, loading my stuff, and getting ready for a yet new period of traveling in northern Argentina.

1 comment:

Michelle C said...

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