Regardless of where you are in the world, there’s something quite settling about having two feet safely on the ground. But even more so, there’s something incredibly thrilling (and rewarding) that comes from being pushed out of your comfort zone. And it’s these places of unfamiliar, trying and holding on for dear life, that is where the magic happens. Trusting the process, and coming out on top. Quite literally.
At 4350m ASL, we stood in awe of the natural beauty that was the Serrania de Hornocal. An impressive zigzag-like limestone formation more famously known as ‘The Hill of Fourteen Colours’ within the Quebrada de Humahuaca in the north-western Argentine province of Jujuy.
A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sight, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is a narrow and arid mountainous valley that stretches for 155 kilometres, following the Rio Grande. For 10,000 years it’s been a crucial passage for economic, social and cultural growth and provides an important link between the high Andean lands and south-eastern plains of South America. It’s natural beauty and stunning colours, as well the vibrant communities within its path (Purmamarca, Tilcara, Maimará and Humahuaca for example) is a drawcard for tourists from all over the world. Hence, our being here.
Yesterday my boyfriend and I joined a small guided tour to the beautiful El Hornocal from the colourful and cultural township of Humahuaca. Situated just 25 kilometres away, the tour was provided by a partner operator to the hostel in which we were staying. It would take a total 2 hours and cost us each 300 Pesos ($11 AUD). Lesson one – Latin time is a very real thing.
On reading the many reviews of El Hornocal, the general consensus in getting there is that it’s accessible via car, and the road should be navigated slowly and with care. This is with consideration to acclimatisation to the high altitude, as well the route is unsealed, winding and it’s a steep climb to the top.
And so, within moments of climbing into the SUV with fellow avid travellers, it became all too obvious that such advice was directed to tourists making their own way there. As we sped along at 80km/hr+ and kicked up clouds of dust, all the while overtaking other vehicles with next to no clear vision, the excitement of travel and the need to let go of all inhibitions and trust the process (as well trust the locals) kicked in. The haze was so thick at times that you couldn’t see further than 1 metre in front. Holding on for dear life and praying that we didn’t meet with any oncoming traffic, it was best to just look the other way and (try to) enjoy the beautiful surrounds. Cacti, llamas in the fields, the vibrant red peaks on the horizon and the many steep switchbacks behind us. As we ascended the mountain our driver would turn around with a cheeky grin and signal ‘bien’ to ensure we were all doing ok. I’ve no question this was with reference to the altitude and neither his reckless speed. Nevertheless, the drive to El Hornocal was an experience in itself, and reaching the top (safely) was pure relief.
The views were in every part amazing. That nature and the ecological forces have rendered a sight so impressive, of rich colour and sheer magnitude for us to enjoy is incredible.
And so, if you find yourself in the far north of Argentina, most definitely visit this beautiful landscape. It will leave you breathless; because the air is so thin and the scenery is just that stunning. And if you’re driving experience is somewhat similar to ours, hold on and enjoy the journey!
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear if you’ve also had travel moments that left you on the edge of your seat!