I got off the bus in Tilcara tired and out of it. As usually some random guy who hangs out at the bus terminal grabbed my bag down and then asked for change, but I wasn’t having any of it. “I already gave a tip to the guy who put the bag in,” I told him, and he grudgingly followed me for a few steps before returning to the bus stands. A bit annoying, but I was back in Argentina and the ride in had been interesting. From the border in La Quiaca we rode smoothly until a police checkpoint in Tres Cruces, where everyone had to get off the bus, take their luggage and wait to be checked. As a tourist, I only had to show my passport and move on.
Weaving in and out of a state of sleep, we passed from high altitude plains through valleys with towering desert-mountains on each side. Now in the Province of Jujuy, I was delighted to colored mountains of a range of shades, running streams and tiny villages specked sporadically along the highway. I was wondering at what point we would pass the Quebrada de Humahuaca, until later realizing that the Quebrada is in reality the whole stretch of road. Mountains of red, green and yellow stained the skyline and made for a lovely trip.
Now in the small village of Tilcara, I walked up the road from the bus station and took the first right, walking uphill in search of La Albahaca, a hostel my friend Leo recommended to me. Once checked in and having taken a very necessary nap, I took off for a hike up to another one of the natural wonders in Argentina called “Garganta del Diablo.” I had underestimated the elevation of Tilcara (2,500 meters/8,200 feet above sea level) because I had just been much higher up in Bolivia. But once on the hike I was quickly winded and forced to stop every so often to catch my breath. In fact, on the way back down I stopped a couple of times and had my vision go out slightly of focus.
The hike was very pretty and allowed me to take in the scenery around Tilcara, though I never made it all the way down to the waterfalls because I was losing sunlight, alone, and the wind was picking up (as it always does from around 3-6 pm). Back in town I could see just how peaceful and infectious this place was. Smiling faces greeted you as you passed in the street and the laid back attitude gave a sense of ease which a city will never have.
Tilcara is nice because unlike some other small towns nearby, there are a number of restaurants and peñas, or folkloric shows, which can keep you entertained at night. But of course, the main idea is to come to a place like this to relax and unwind, rather than go out looking for a cool bar. On the first night I checked out La Peña de Carlitos in the main square with two porteños, and though it was interesting, a lot of it might be lost on someone who does not speak Spanish, as it was mostly story telling.
The second day took me to Purmamarca and the Seven Color Hill, truly a beautiful sight, though village itself is a bit too touristic. Later I checked out Pucara, a reconstruction of an Inca fortress towering over the valley below—clearly an important spot. I would have stayed another day in Tilcara just to relax, but alas, the call of the road was too loud to ignore, and I moved on. But I highly recommend visiting this village when passing through northwestern Argentina, and if you don`t know if you`re going to make it there, make an exception.