Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Northern Argentina

Over the past few days I have seen some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen in my life. I´m in the north of Argentina, and for the past four days I´ve been driving around in a rental car with three friends and visiting the areas around Salta and Jujuy (a pronunciation challenge: the Js are pronounced at the back of the throat with a sort of clearing-of-the-throat sound). The road goes up and down through green mountains, brown and dry valleys filled with cacti, and incredible red, orange, yellow, brown and green sculptures made from erosion of the earth. We had to stop the car all the time to get out and take pictures, and occasionally take a little hike up amongst the rocks. We visited small villages (with great names like Cachi, Cafayate, Pumamarca, and Humahuaca) and ate at local restaurants; we even tried llama! We drove over mountain passes at 4,000 meters above sea level, and happily experienced no nausea or headaches as is known to happen at high altitudes. Today, we drove 5 hours on rough unpaved roads to the hidden town of Iruya, nestled on a hillside far from everywhere. Right now I am at the border town of La Quiaca, just across the way from Bolivia, where I hope to take a little stroll tomorrow morning. It´s definitely been some of the best days of my trip so far. Hopefully soon I´ll be able to upload some from somebody else´s camera, as mine is well and truly gone. In the meantime, here´s one I found online of the Mountain of Seven Colors, which we saw yesterday in Pumamarca.

I noticed something the other night and thought I was crazy, but as it turns out I was right; so here is your first piece of Southern Hemisphere Trivia: the moon is backwards down here. Somehow, I didn´t notice this last year in Australia, but the phases of the moon move from left to right in the Southern Hemisphere, instead of from right to left. Also, I recognized the constellation Orion in the night sky but thought it looked funny. That´s because it´s also backwards (or upside-down, or something). It makes me feel like I am truly in another world.