In the north-west corner of Argentina, with Chilean Andes to the west and Bolivian high plains to the north, this long river valley has been an important trade route for 10,000 years.
I decided to stay in the small and, as it turned out, rather hippy little town of Tilcara, reached by an overnight bus from Cordoba and then a local bus from the town of Jujuy. Certainly the place was full of hostels – I just wandered through town and found a nice quiet one on a dusty side street. It had a lovely cat to tickle too, although after I left I found she had pissed in my backpack, which made me slightly less fond of her in retrospect.
The valley contains the evidence of hunter gatherer and early farming societies, through pre-Inca settlements, the Inca and then finally Spanish empire builders. I visited the local archaeological site, the remains of a pre-Incan village called a pucara. The word means fortress, although in this case the fortifications were natural, provided by steep slopes and cliffs around the site.
The remains are really just piles of stones from the houses and other buildings. You can get an idea of what it was like from a number of reconstructed buildings, dotted amongst the cacti. The site also has some circular burial pits and the walls of animal pens.
It was a lovely place to visit on a sunny breezy day and despite the lack of anything spectacular to see, I spent quite a long time sitting on rocks admiring the view. The valley at this point is pretty impressive, the rocks striped in reds, yellows and greeny blues.
There wasn’t much to choose from for a Lego model, so I approximated one of the reconstructed buildings, although my roof line is rather too steep.
I enjoyed my few days in Tilcara, despite the limited number of things to do, which in my case included another graveyard visit. I did eat well here though. I found a number of restaurants with interesting menus including, oh joy, vegetarian dishes. One night I went to one where a local folky-alternative group were playing (along with a painter doing her thing as they played) and had an interesting chat, as far as my Spanish would allow, with a local artist. There was also the tail end of a carnival going on, which seemed to involved people parading around the streets after a brass and percussion band that had one rather tuneless tune, spraying each other with shaving foam. There were also some people dressed in fabulous mirrored harlequin-like costumes, with horns and masks.