With a week to spend before our flight from Salta to Punta Arenas, down in the South of Chile, we decided to go on a road trip. In Salta we rented a car and off we went on the discovery of the Argentinian north.
We spent two days in the rocky, dry mountain landscape to the west and south of Salta. On the third day we followed the route of the “train into the clouds” and ended our trip in the jungle. With our car breaking down at the worst moment possible and probably the heaviest storm we have ever experienced this trip ended up being more adventurous than we had planned.
This is Part 3 of the trip. Here you find Part 1 and Part 2.
Day 4 and 5: Parque Nacional Calilegua
After the stormy night we drove further north to Purmamarca. We had heard so much about the rainbow-coloured mountains there that we didn’t want to miss them.
It was yet another hot day. The landscapes we drove through went from thick green jungle to rocky mountains. By the time we reached Purmamarca we had seen mountains and stones in so many shades and colours that we were wondering what more there could be.
It turned out the rainbow mountains where not so much different than all the rocks, stones and cliffs we had seen the past few days. The tourist trap had caught us: we had to pay for parking in the town, all streets were full of souvenir stands and more money would have been needed to access the main viewpoint.
In the end, we climbed a hill a little further from the centre and had a complete view of the mountains and town, for free. Then we quickly headed on towards the Calilegua National Park.
We arrived at the ranger station of the park at dusk. The ranger was very enthusiastic about having visitors. He provided us with a lot of information about the possible hikes, the different layers of the rain forest and all the animals we might meet.
We put up our tent at the small, free camp site. Over dinner we met a mother and her daughter on vacation from Buenos Aires. Daniela and her mother warned us about the aggressive, blood sucking flies at the camp site. We didn’t have to wait long to get the first bites and escaped into our tent.
The next morning we took the car to drive to the highest walking route of the park. An only 20 minute walk waited for us, beautifully set above the first layer of clouds. The trees were all covered by a layer of moist, drops of water falling all around us.
We drove back down for some more, longer walks. On the route we saw most animals: a toucan hiding in the trees, some excited capybaras (looking like guinea pigs with too long legs) running over the street and an iguana.
On our walk it was very hot in the jungle. There were birds, butterflies and a lot of spiders all around us. We quickly got tired from the heat. Still, we enjoyed the twisted and turned wood of the lianas and the beautiful flowers.
Back at the campsite we met the Argentinian women again. They were all packed up, ready to leave the camp a day earlier than they had planned. They were exhausted from the stinging flies. We took them with us to the next city, Libertador General San Martin and dropped them off at the bus station. Then we had dinner in the town.
The next morning, we had no choice but to flee from the campsite too. While we tried to have breakfast we got attacked by so many flies that we had to get out. We left the Calilegua National Park and had our breakfast on the main square of San Martin.
Back in Salta, we found Daniela and her mother again at our hostel which we had recommended to them. We spent a fantastic evening with them. They made some delicious steaks for dinner. After dinner Daniela picked up the guitar lying around in the hostel to sing some traditional Argentinian love songs for us. Her voice was so beautiful and full of emotion, moving us, although we couldn’t really understand the lyrics. On request of Daniela, Kevin had to share the few songs he knew and despite the lack of talent he was able to get some applause. This became one of the best evenings of our trip.
Accommodation: The campsite in the Parque Nacional Calilegua is free but be prepared for the stinging flies.
Good to know: We saw the same “rainbow-coloured” mountains on the route 33 between Salta and Cachi without all the tourists around.