Friends.

“I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour.
I’ll be there for you, like I’ve been there before.
I’ll be there for you, cause you’re there for me too.”

Obviously that’s the theme song from Friends. A little cliché, perhaps, but whatever. Lately I have been busy because I actually have a social life. A real social life! (That’s why I haven’t blogged in almost 3 weeks… whoops)

One of the things about living in NW Argentina is that there are very few Americans that live here. So when I meet/see/hear Americans and/or American English, I get extremely excited. When I was at the bus station in Tucumán coming back from my Rotary conference, I saw two guys that looked American. One of them was like 6’2″ and wearing a St. Louis Cardinals shirt…. it wasn’t a huge mystery. So I walked up and introduced myself.

I met Andy (that’s the one who was wearing the Cardinals shirt) and Dan, two guys from the states who were traveling in NOA (Noroeste Argentina – Northwestern Argentina) for 2-3 weeks. They were headed to Salta on the same bus as me, so we talked a bit and made plans to meet up once they were settled in Salta. We got dinner one night and I also met Abel, a guy from Colorado who’s studying abroad in Buenos Aires and was traveling up here as well.

Andy and Dan are convincing and by the time we finished dinner at Café del Tiempo, one of my favorite restaurants, they had convinced both me and Abel to travel with them up to the Quebrada de Humahuaca, where I had already been with my friend Brittany when she came to visit in February. You only live once, right? One of the benefits of having a super, super flexible grad program is that I don’t have a ton of commitments during the week…

[At this point I recommend you start playing the video below to enjoy this beautiful song from NW Argentina while you read]

So, we rented a car and headed off the next morning (Wednesday the 29th). It was great to be back in the middle of nowhere — fresh air, mountains, clear skies, tiny towns, and no traffic. I LOVE Salta, but sometimes I just love getting out of the city and enjoying the landscapes and nature up here. After a short stop in San Salvador de Jujuy (the capital of Jujuy — pronounced hoo-hoey — province), we drove all the way up and spent a night in Humahuaca, the city at the top of the Quebrada de Humahuaca.

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At night in Humahuaca (who-ma-wa-cuh) in front of a giant cactus with (L to R) Dan, Abel, and Andy

The next day we explored…

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Tilcara

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The hike to La Garganta del Diablo, a waterfall

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Las Salinas Grandes

By the time we were coming back from the Salinas, it was already dark out and we decided to spend the night in Purmamarca, a city at the bottom of the Quebrada. Apparently I am convincing even in Spanish and I got the hostel owner to drop 100 pesos off the price for one night.

Early the next morning (Friday) we headed back to Salta and stopped at Aniceto for a much-needed buffet breakfast. Andy can drive manual cars too so it was nice to be able to share the driving responsibilities with someone else. Andy headed back to the states the next day and Abel headed back to Buenos Aires, but Dan stayed in Salta for another week because half of his family is Argentine and some of his relatives live here. It’s fun having people visit Salta because I love this city so much and love showing it off and introducing them to my friends here.

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Me and some of my friends: (L to R) Arianna, Clémence, Elijah and Kate

My “friend group” here is a big mix…

Kate: From CA, went to school/lives in NYC. Fulbright scholar, researching an oral history project in Salta (and Patagonia eventually).

Elijah: From WA state, went to school in ME. Fulbright scholar, English Teaching Assistant for the English teacher profesorado program here in Salta.

Arianna: From OR, went to school in OR. Did a university project in Tucumán province and then worked at a B&B in Cerrillos, a city just outside of Salta.

Clémence: From France. Working at the Alliance Française here in Salta and working on her dissertation/thesis for her college degree.

Katha: From Austria. Working as an au-pair for a family in a gated neighborhood just outside of Salta.

Cecilia: From Salta. Lived in France last year as an au-pair, now back in Salta and preparing to move to Canada to work in tourism there.

Five of us (me, Kate, Elijah, Arianna and Clémence) were able to take some time last weekend and visit… you guessed it! The Quebrada de Humahuaca! Okay, so I went twice in two weeks. I have time to travel! I’m on a break from my university right now! And it’s beautiful. And I love spending time with my friends.

Arianna, Clémence, and I all can drive manual cars so we got to trade off driving all the time. We decided to rent an SUV this time (more on why later), and set off to Jujuy province. We stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn to take some pictures.

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At the Tropic of Capricorn

We also stopped in Humahuaca to get gas and eat some empanadas for lunch. After that we drove all the way to Iruya, where I had never been before. I didn’t make it on my other trips because it’s about 2.5-3 hours from Humahuaca (which is already about 3 hours from Salta). We rented a SUV because the road from Humahuaca to Iruya is literally a dirt/stone/rock road all the way there, and part of the year it’s almost un-drivable because it’s rainy season and it floods. I was pretty scared when we decided to drive there, but luckily we’re in the middle of dry season, so the road was in good shape and we made it with no issues!

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We were on this type of road for about 3 hours

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Clémence, our expert driver, and Kate as co-pilot

We arrived in Iruya as the sun was going down, so we didn’t get to see what the city was like. In the morning we walked out of our hostel and were literally blown away at the beauty. The town is broken into two parts, divided across a river and connected by a footbridge. The left side of the town looks like this:

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The church/main plaza

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Iruya.

The right side of the town is much steeper, and as you climb up you are rewarded with some amazing views.

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A view of the valley from the footbridge

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Across the valley, looking out at the town from a church

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Saturday soccer game

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A baby donkey just hanging out in the street

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Amazing mountains, a rewarding view after a steep climb through the town.

On our drive back from Iruya we were rewarded with a lot of amazing wildlife.

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Baby llama

Vicuña (photo credit: Kate)

Vicuña (photo credit: Kate)

Llama crossing!

Llama crossing!

Literally a llama crossing (photo credit: Kate)

Literally… llama crossing (photo credit: Kate)

It was extremely exciting to see so many llamas and vicuñas! We went to Humahuaca next, just to buy some llama sweaters, and then went to Tilcara. The first two times I went to Tilcara I wasn’t really impressed and it was my least favorite city in the Quebrada, but my friend Arianna loves Tilcara. She made me love it, too! We stayed at an amazing little hostel, ate delicious food, and I really fell in love with the city! We went to Garganta del Diablo, of course, because it’s a beautiful hike.

Elijah, Arianna, Clémence, me and Kate

Elijah, Arianna, Clémence, me and Kate (photo credit: Kate)

Next we made our way through Purmamarca and stopped for lunch and a little more shopping.

The main plaza in Purmamarca

The main plaza in Purmamarca

Finally, we set off for the Salinas Grandes. This time the weather was incredible — the clouds were so unreal. We took dumb pictures, of course, and really just enjoyed the beauty of the world.

The reflection in the salt pools is incredible

The reflection of the sky in the salt pools is incredible

Such a scary sky

Such a scary sky

Elijah, Kate, Clémence, and Arianna jumping

Elijah, Kate, Clémence, and Arianna jumping

Me jumping!

Me jumping!

We got back to Salta on Sunday night and on Monday I was having major friend withdrawal. After spending all weekend with Arianna, Kate, Elijah and Clémence I think we all realize how much we love (and truly need) each other as we try to establish our lives thousands of miles from home. I really wish that Katha and Cecilia could’ve come on the trip but Katha had to work and Cecilia was sick! Nevertheless, I am so thankful for friends here and having people that I can count on, laugh with, and mostly just eat with. We all really, really just love food… my kind of people 🙂

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