May 072010
 

Total Miles Traveled: 13,208

If you’re visiting Salta, you’ve probably heard of the “Train to the Clouds”, where you ride an old steam train from Salta up, up, up to a town called San Antonio de los Cobres, and beyond, crossing a series of viaducts, bridges, and tunnels, and reaching heights above 4,000 meters or 12,000 feet – prime territory for a little altitude sickness.  The whole trip takes 14 hours round trip(!), leaving at 7AM and returning around 11PM!

Sounded like a little too much time on a train, so we opted to take a tour that drives up along the same route as the railroad and in less time.   We were glad that we did.   Here are some photos from the journey…

We started out from Salta beneath a chilly, rainy cloud layer, so we couldn’t see much of the mountains.  But we saw a heck of a lot of cacti.  These guys take over 50 years to mature and can be cut down to use as lumber – the wood is very porous, yet very strong.

Ruta a los Nubes, Salta, Argentina

We stopped at a tiny town called Tastil, where it’s basically a restroom and shopping stop.  Here’s one of the few street vendors.  Buy your goods here or in other towns as opposed to Salta where the markup could be 50% higher!

Vendors at Tastil, Argentina

In the local kiosco (convenience store), we saw this machine – can you guess what it is?

An early ana-digital jukebox

That’s right, it’s a jukebox.  A different kind of old school…  Speaking of old school, here’s a guy sharpening his knife by cranking a wheel that acts as a sharpening stone.

Sharpening a knife, the old fashioned way, Tastil, Argentina

There are also the ruins of Tastil.  Below is the ruins of an Incan village abandoned many moons ago.  It’s unknown what happened to these people (there are no mass graves), but all that is left are rock walls that outline where the homes used to be.

Ruins of Tastil, Argentina

At about 4,000 meters, we reach the small copper mining town of San Antonio de los Cobres.  It’s one of the poorer towns we’ve seen – the women and kids here are more insistent in selling their woven llamas, quartz rocks, and other trinkets.  If you’re traveling here, you probably don’t want to stay overnight as there didn’t seem to be many lodging or dining options.   Here’s a view as you drive in – the houses that all look the same is public housing built by the government.

San Antonio de los Cobres, Argentina

Here are some photos of kids headed home from school:

Children in San Antonio de los Cobres

Children in San Antonio de los Cobres

Here’s our favorite photo of this batch – a shy boy ran in to his yard and shut the door, peeping through the hole to see what we were doing:

Shy eyes

Children in San Antonio de los Cobres

After lunch in San Antonio de los Cobres, we headed out on to the high plateau toward the Salinas Grandes salt flats, another major attraction in the area.  Along the way, you see herds of domesticated llamas – they’re marked with bows on necklaces or ribbon earrings.

Llamas in the high plateau, Salta, Argentina

For more photos, check out the slideshow:

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