North Argentina - June 2011

From June 1st to June 20th, 2011

The Iguazu Falls visit from the Argentine side offered a different perspective of the site. The one kilometer long bridge located above the river, leading to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat) was an amazing butterfly garden. The platform offered a breathtaking view of the strong water flow. A little further downstream, two paths showed different views of some smaller falls. With its walkways, the Argentinean side offered a wider perspective of the national park.


In the province of Corrientes, we stopped at the Estero del Ibera, a kind of small Pantanal where the majority of tourists visit the Laguna Ibera by boat. At the petrol station of Governador Virasoro, we meet Jose, the owner of an Estancia near Laguna de la Luna who offered different types of excursions. We spent the morning sailing the two lagoons and a channel which allowed us to see dozens of caimans, Capybaras and several kinds of birds. If you want to visit this area without being surrounded by other tourist boats, you can visit the website


Crossing the regions of Misiones, Chaco and Corrientes, whether for 10 or 50 liters of gasoline we had to stop at every petrol station as they were experiencing combustible shortage.

Arrived in Salta, we continued towards Cafayate through Lake Cabra Corral where we discovered miles of tobacco plantations. We then cruised the beautifully colored Quebrada de las Concha which got carved by the water and wind. Before Cafayate, we went for the first wine testing at Casa de la Bodega. Huuuummm, their Malbec was a treat :-)


The road between Cafayate and Cachi gave us a feeling of walking on the moon. The scenery of the mountains shaped by erosion was breathtaking. At Colome, we visit the vineyard of a Swiss owner. Besides the cave, a museum of contemporary art attracted our attention. The works of James Turnell, a Californian artist transported us into another dimension and made us loose our bearings.


From Cachi, we embarked on our first high mountain pass on a dirt road. The first obstacle was a river crossing in La Poma. With some speed, we went through... The road climbed gently and the scenery was changing. With more and more adrenaline, we crossed several streams. Will we get to the top? The road was more and more winding, streams gave place to small icefields. With the first gear and a slow 15 km hour, we reached the pass of Abra del Acay at 4895 meters above sea level. We felt a little dizzy, especially when we had to push the car to restart the engine which also suffered from a lack of oxygen. We reached San Antonio de los Cobres, a rather dusty town at an elevation of 3775 meters. We continued a few more kilometers to find a better camp on our way to Tolar Grande. Because the ascension of a new pass at over 4500 meters, the dust and truck traffic we gave up, turned back and found a place for the night at an elevation of 4000 meters high.


During the trip, we got used to live to the rhythm of daylight. Here, the sun sets at around 6:30 PM and it rises at 8 AM. The nights are long, very long ... Armed with a Coca leaves infusion, Celine already felt better than a few hours to before. Beatrice felt the lack of oxygen and had a headache. Aless was not feeling so well. We had trouble finding some sleep and looked forward to the sunrise. In the morning, after nearly 12 hours in horizontal position, it was -10 degrees outside and because of the blanket turned into isolating curtains, we maintained 3 degrees inside. Fortunately, our sleeping bags kept us warm. It was after much insistence that we managed to start the engine. But then we realized that the accelerator cable was stuck. Aless dismantled everything to try finding a way to loosen the cable. Perhaps it was frozen by the cold and moisture accumulated when crossing streams the day before. After over an hour trying to find a solution and waiting for the sun rays to warm up the atmosphere, we heated the sheath of the accelerator with a lighter. It worked!!

We definitely abandoned the idea of visiting the region of Tolar Grande and headed to the Quebrada de Humahuaca through the pass of Abra de Lipan at an elevation of 4175 meters high and reached Purmamarca (alt. 2206 m), a village near a colored mountain called Cerro de Siete Colores. In Humahuaca, we left the main road and made our way to the Mirador Ornacal (alt. 4348 m), on a dirt road. The different colors formed by layers of minerals were amazing.


The road leading to the village of Iruya was never ending. We crossed one more pass at 4000 meters, then descended into a canyon where the winding road never ended. Why is there life in a hole like that? Due to corn, potatoes, citrus plantations and cattle ranching, the population of 6000 indigenous inhabitant from the village and neighboring communities are able to support themselves.


We made our way back through Humahuaca, Purmamarca, the Abra de Lipan pass and the Puna Argentina in order to reach San Pedro de Atacama in Chile through the Paso de Jama. In Susques, we meet two brave French cyclists we had already seen a few days earlier. They will need to be very strong to reach Chile by bicycle, crossing several mountain passes over 4000 meters with a headwind. About fifty kilometers before the border, we got stopped by a truck driver worried about not seeing other trucks passing by. He informed us that it snowed all night and the pass is currently closed. On our side, we did not have much choice. All the passes of the region are already closed. Going back will not drive us anywhere. We took our chance and continued towards Chile. At the border, at an elevation of 4095 meters, we were informed that the road on the Chilean side is currently impracticable, but they may be able to reopen in the afternoon. No chance, we spent the afternoon and the night at the YPF gas station with about twenty other people waiting for the road to eventually reopen. After 24 hours, the snow fall did not end and we got informed that the road would remain closed for a few more days. The visit of north Chile is not for now :-( We changed our itinerary, drove back for about 500 kilometers in order to reach the only open border of the area, Bolivia.

Click here to read the following story in Bolivia.

See the album "North Argentina - June 2011"