Somewhere in the Puna
The “Height region”
Some of the most beautiful and peaceful places that I have ever seen I visited in Salta and Jujuy, on the northwest of Argentina, near the border with Bolivia.
Nature, mountains, precolombine culture, regional foods, and people who live in villages frozen in time were some things that I was lucky to experience.
“Puna” is a quechua word, that means “height region”, and all you can see over there has a relationship with this respect.
I went over roads between mountains, crossing dessert and salt fields. I watched rivers and lakes over hundreds (or thousands) meters above sea level. I walked on terrains where only a few animals are adapted to live.
During the trip, you can enter into the clouds, climb mountains finding lost villages, and enjoy a clear and translucent atmosphere that allow you to see the milky way, and billions of stars.
Stars photography isn’t a difficult activity in this region. The Puna is the driest region in Argentina and rain is very rare, except in some low altitude areas, where the wet wind can bring rains. Otherwise, light polution is really low (or nonexistent).
People live in towns and cities with an unbroken colonial architecture, but with a native and ancestral lifestyle. You can experience this in your own, eating some tipical food based on corn, potatoes, quinoa, and llama or guanaco meat.
Also, there are many archeological inca ruins, and you can have an idea about architecture and culture of that pre-colombine empire.
In some isolated places, you can see houses built up with local materials like rocks and wood, where people live.
There aren’t lots of animals in this region, but exists a rich ecosistem anyway. The aridity and desert appearence is not a great problem for animals like vicuñas, guanacos, foxes, and the shy condor. Be carefull with snakes, there are lot of them, and they can be very poisonous.
The condor is a protected animal because it’s in danger of extintion. In some places, the condor feeds of goats and calves, and locals hunt them to protect theirs farms. This increase concern about the population of this animal.