Written by Neon
Arriving back in Salta after a longer-than-planned hiatus from Fidgit and our trek, I was immediately welcomed into the home of Isabel and Antonio, family of friends from Bariloche. Fidgit and I (and all the gear I hauled from Peru, which friends and family had collected and hauled from the US) reunited and shared stories about our time apart. As we caught up, we also planned for our route up to higher elevation and into Bolivia. It was tough to imagine higher and drier weather because it was overcast and damp nearly every day in Salta. We ran errands, hung out with the family, and planned for a couple of days. Thankful for the generosity and kindness of the near-strangers we were staying with, we stayed longer than planned before moving along down the trail. The trail was actually a lesser-used road, and I lost both track of time and my new rain jacket along it. The rainy weather cleared up as we walked along. The road led to a dirt path that led down a wash and around a lake, which then led to the city of Jujuy. I promptly (and disappointed-ly) bought another new rain jacket .
Jujuy was where we would begin our ascent up to the pampas. We debated on how to do this, and decided to day-hike up to another town where we then returned via bus to our hostel. This was my first time ‘slack-packing’ since the PCT in 2010, so I was interested to see how I would feel about it. After 40 kilometers uphill, I decided I was a fan of slack-packing again. We stayed another night indoors and then returned to the town of Volcan and continued north where we had left off. As we moved further up the ‘Quebrada de Humahuaca’, we would pass a small town or two every day. The elevation change became noticeable, but not troublesome, as we were moving slowly enough to adapt.
Near the town of Humahuaca, however, Fidgit was not feeling well. She was congested and struggling with a full-body tiredness. We had hoped to walk to Humahuaca that day, but it wasn’t in our best interest, so we again bused, and then came back down the next day to slack-pack into Humahuaca. Fidgit was still ailing, so we took some time to make sure she was recovered before pushing on to Abra Pampa. As we were both feeling antsy to cover ground, we were able to walk each day, then bus back to Humahuaca. After a couple of days, Fidgit was feeling well enough to hike on with our full packs. We once again headed out of town, but not before seeing in person the only point of interested listed on Humahuaca’s wiki page – a wooden priest coming out of the small door of a church above a crowd at noon to raise his hand and lower his wooden head.
We made our way out of Humahuaca and toward the small town of Azul Pampa, had some lunch, and moved on toward Abra Pampa, able to follow roadside abandoned railroad tracks nearly the entire way. As we got higher in elevation, we noticed the vegetation changing – first the tall cactus disappeared, then the flowers and pointy shrubs left, then we got to a point where the only trees we were seeing were planted around buildings (presumably for wind protection). The sun was strong during the day, and the temperature plummeted at night, freezing our water.
One particular morning right before Abra Pampa at an elevation of 3,700 meters, we awoke after a fitful sleep to find most of our water frozen solid, my feet nearly frozen (I have horrible circulation). Deciding it wasn’t worth it to spend more nights than necessary outside this winter, we made our way to Abra Pampa and set up for the night in a local hostel. Thankfully, lodging and food in town are already getting cheaper as we near the Bolivian border, or this would not have been an option. Looking at the weather ahead, we decided to slack-pack once again, taking three days to walk to the border town of La Quiaca. And there we were, after a year of walking, about to walk into a country other than Chile or Argentina.
Old railroads are best when the bridges are still intact
Flamingos! Along the pampas near Abra Pampa