From Cafayate we took a bus to Salta, but when we arrived there, after many days in quiet towns, we quickly decided that a city was not in our best interests at the moment. We hopped on the next available bus to a random town further north.
This random town happened to be Tilcara. With no knowledge of where we were going, the first impression of this town was quite a shock. The landscape had changed to a dry desert, and the hills were covered with cactuses. Even though we came upon this town by chance, it turned out to be a decently big tourist destination, with hostels and restaurants lining a few ‘backpacker alleys’.
After talking to a few other travelers we took a bus south to the nearby town of Punamarca known from seven colored mountains. As luck would have it again, it was closed for filming. We were still able to walk up to a lookout, from where we could get a nice view on the hills. But with both ends of the loop blocked off, the trail was a little overrun with tourists.
Next to the town of Tilcara is Pucara, the ruins of a pre-Inca community. It is believed that they were built in 12th century by the Omaguaca tribe. The majority of the site are the remains of buildings where two thousands inhabitants lived. There are also corrals for animals, some ceremonial buildings and a graveyard. There are also some buildings in the Inca style, who conquered this region in the 15th century and were using Pucara as a outpost. The ruins were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century. Archaeologists rebuilt a good part of the ruins, so the visitors can have a general idea of how those buildings looked like eight centuries ago. What is really cool, is that next to the rebuilt buildings are still piles of old, deconstructed rock houses, which show an untouched presentation of the ruins before archeologists got there. To commemorate the work of those who discovered and rebuilt this site, there is a big monument in the shape of the pyramid, standing on the hill over Pucara.
The sun in the desert climate was intense so we got up early the next morning to do a four kilometer hike up a mountain to a small hydro-dam, and waterfall. People started to pour in as we were leaving and the tranquility of the falls were gone for the day. As we were hiking along the trail we saw trains of donkeys trudging up the opposite hillside trails that extended well out of sight over the hilltops, which could have been built by Incas a few centuries ago.
Humahuaca is known for its sixteen color mountains. After we got to the town we found out that to see them you have to take a tour for 250 Argentinian pesos, so we decided to skip it. Instead we checked out the picturesque center built in the colonial style. The next morning we went for a little hike. A girl from our campsite said that if we go 5 minutes away we will see white rocks and then we can climb and go further and see the sixteen color mountain from the distance. We thought it will be better for us than a tour. Of course we were followed by two dogs. First I was happy they went with us, because we had a problem to find a trail and looked like one of the dogs knows where to go. When we got to the top we met a goats guarded by a few dogs. One of our dogs started to run towards the goats and other dogs got furious. One of them started to chasing goats to go faster and others started to chasing our dogs. One of the other dogs had a foam coming of his mouth, so we decided to back up and head back towards town.