LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 46
Page. 40 - 45
By: Guido Chouela
THE PUNA HIGH LAND AND THE GORGE
We arrived to the Gorge of Humahuaca by Route 9. After crossing forests and tropical rains the road climbs higher and higher, full of curves like some mountain river, and reaches heights that will make your ears pop. We are arriving at the Gorge and its colourful landscape and the names of all the colours are absolutely insufficient to name each one of those that are perceived on the slopes of the mountains.
The person that named the hill that surrounds Purmamarca "the one with the seven colors" was mistaken: there are dozens of shades of green, red and gray. The same is true in the whole region. There are hundreds of kilometers of landscapes with chromatic subleties created by geologic movements, erosion and the time passed.
If one goes uphill on the Route 9 from the South, at a few kilometers of the way is Purmamarca, one of the most beautiful small villages of the Gorge. It is just a few blocks of peace and houses of terra-cotta adobe mud bricks. Foreseeably, around the charming central plaza main square there are grouped Colonial houses are, an interesting Church of the XVIIth Century with its interior constructed in wood of teasel, several handicraft stalls and a carob tree that has been witness of the landscape of the Gorge for more than 500 years. At a few metres there is a very pleasant inn and the so called Posta de Purmamarca former military post, where you must taste the Northern specialties made by the hands of Lucy Vilte, its famous cook. The so called humitas en chala or corn tamales, the so called empanadas or fried pastries stuffed with meat and the sweet corn on the cob with local cheese – in each village you will find a distinctive slightly different different flavour.
Purmamarca grew in the shelter of its famous hill of colours, that you can walk around on foot or by car following the new road of Los Colorados or the Red Ones, hills that rise mysteriously from the rock base. Always following the Route 9 you will arrive in Maimará, a small city surrounded by the "Plaeta del Pintor or Trowel of the Painter", another toponymy related to the wonderful range of colours of the neighboring hill. On its slopes you will find the cemetery of the town, of which the best view can be obtained from the route itself.
The Pucará de Tilcara Inca Guard Post
To the North we run into Tilcara, perhaps the most important City of the Region from the cultural point of view. There you can visit museums, folkloric fairs and attend concerts. But the greatest attraction in Tilcara is without a doubt the famous Pucará, that has been reconstructed and which you must visit.
The Pucará is an old indigenous military post that, for strategic reasons, was established in a point from where an ample zone can be best controlled visually. The view of the Gorge from the Pucará, therefore, is really something you can not afford to miss. In the old citadle, in addition, you will be able to perceive the atmosphere of other times that nests in the texture of the rocks, in its walls and in the corrals. It is preferible to visit i ton foot – if you have already become accustomed the height – than to do it in a car, among other reasons, not to lose the opportunity to visit its peculiar botanical garden of high altitude plants, made up of countless species of teasels and cacti.
The Archaeological Museum exhibits remarkable pieces of the different
cultures that inhabited these landscapes. Very close by, around
the plaza, a fair of has sprung up where it is possible to buy at
a good price the woven beautiful crafts of the Region.
If you are lucky enough to visit the City at the time of Easter or in the month of the Pachamama (Mother Earth), in the Southern hemisphere spring, you will have an almost dream like experience with the popular and religious celebrations that characterise the synergy of Christianity with the ancient Highland Coya Culture. In Easter, thousands of believers from other towns arrive at Tilcara to join the procession that first climbs a long hill until the Abra de Punta Corral Pass, at more than four thousand metres above sea level, and then back down again, which only takes palace once a year in honour of the virgen of the same name. The bands of sikuris - small orchestras of men and children who repeat the same compass with their big drums and so called sikus- create the singsong sonorous atmosphere of the ceremony. The City receives them full of flower portals.
The festivities of the Altiplano Puna Highlands that in so any ways
makes the Region approach other cultures of America, are without
a doubt one of the main characteristics of this Northern attractions.
In stark contrast is the City of Humahuaca, Commercial Centre of
the Region, with little tourist interest at first sight. In its
historical part it has the attraction of a few blocks with typical
houses of adobe mud bricks marinates and also few cars.