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Puna, NW Argentina, October 2018



Prof. Roberto Weinberg, Monash University, Australia




This is the entry page to the trip to Puna in 2018. This first page refers to the trek to Aguas Calientes, the others show different regions which we went by car. The first part of the trip was a five-day walk with donkeys from La Hoyada to the indigenous village of Aguas Calientes. We first walked up the edge of the Puna, past Puesto del Medio, Puesto Las Trancas, Puesto Macho Muerto, a night by the corral and then on to Aguas Calientes. This was followed by a drive to El Penon past Laguna Blanca , where we spent five nights hosted by the School, and then on to Antofalla, for one night, and then a 10 hour drive back to Salta through Salar de Arizaro , then Tolar Grande, San Antonio de los Cobres. The trek started in La Hoyada with the first stop in the Puesto de Dona Dionisia where the men were "carneando"
La Hoyada, Catamarca
Arrival at La Hoyada (in 2017) and Cerro Negro over 5000m in the background
La Hoyada
La Hoyada seen from above, looking SE towards the planes and the southern tip of Sierra de Quilmes and Aconquija in the background. Dust storm on the planes.
La Hoyada, Catamarca
Getting ready in La Hoyada close to the church
Puesto neighbour to D. Dionisia
Typical puesto on the way to Dona Dionisia (familia Pachado Guanco), over the ignimbrites that form the smooth surface at La Hoyada
 Dona Dionisia
Dona Dionisia and grandson and another relative
Dona Dionisia
Dona Dionisia
Skinning a bull
Skinning a bull

From La Hoyada to Aguas Calientes, five days trek over the edge of the Puna After this place we got separated: Nestor and Alfonso went back down from the pass to find the lost GPS, I continued with the two guides and horses. They went down a lot faster than I did because I was looking at the rocks. By the time I got to an bifurcation in an open grass fields with water they were not there. I could go down to a major valley or up away from it. I had seen two people going down but from a distance could not see the donkeys with them. Given that we had seen a total of one family and four other people in four days, I though this was them. Not only that, but I also recognized the foot marks left by their shoes, but wait - the two people were wearing shoes with the same pattern, unlike our two guides, which were different shoe types. Something was wrong. I called out for them to wait, but they were too far ahead going down. When I reached the main valley they had slowed down going up the hill on the other side. I called out again, they heard and came back down. They were a teenage girl and a younger boy. They said they had not seen the guides and donkeys, and that their puesto was further up from the bifurcation. So I returned, not quite understanding where they had gone. I waited at the bifurcation until Nestor and Alfonso arrived back, having found the GPS. We then went to the Puesto as it was already past 5 pm (sun set at 7:30 to 8 pm). Here, we decided to wait, there was water, and we could open the unlocked door to the kitchen where we made a fire. This puesto was the hill side close to a water spring at the edge of a huge dry dusty plane, with no one around!
Puesto Lagunita
Puesto Lagunita: the first puesto on the plateau proper, where recent rhyolites lie over the Famatinian granites of the Easatern Eruptive Belt
Loaded donkeys at Puesto Lagunita.
Puesto Lagunita
Puesto Macho Muerto (ruins) on ignimbrites: we spent the third night here, temperatures below freezing (end of October)
Abra de Pendencia
Abra de Pendencia S26 24 52.6, E66 31 58.7, 4228m
Puesto perdido, where we got separated from the donkeys and waited for a few hours with mate.
View from the puesto perdido to the plains, infinite, dusty and dry.
Puesto perdido: kitchen house with spinning machine, there was a pile of raw llama wool on the floor beside it. This was a dirty place with a pot of greasy pasta stew, a bar of llama fat, a piece of meat and recently baked round tortillas (bread). The puesto was shut when we arrrived and noone there. We opened the door, started a fire to heat up the mate water, and scarred the teenage girl and younger boy when they returned. They were the caretakers of the llamas around the place.
Kitchen house, bar of white greasy llama fat on the top shelf.
Sunset in the last stretch to fourth night camping ground by a stream and corral.

Aguas Calientes
Puesto before Aguas Calientes
Puesto before Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes
Arriving at Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes
Some people in this indigenous community speak Quechua
Houses and people
Old school
Old school entrance (notice the narrowly enclosed compound that blocks the high winds). There is a new school building in town.
School kids
School kids saluting the flag at the start of a school day.
Old school
Wall painting in old school: extraordinarily ironic motif in an indigenous community.
Extremophiles growing in the hot waters that give its name to Aguas Calientes.
Extremophiles growing in the hot waters that give its name to Aguas Calientes.
Cacique's household
Cacique's household outside Aguas Calientes.
Vicuna with the mountains west of Laguna Grande village at the back
Farmhouse close to Laguna Grande with mountains above 5000m in background.
Church and children in Laguna Grande village
road to El Penon
Road to El Penon

Campo de Piedra Pumez, Cerro Blanco [click on figure for more photos]
Campo de Piedra Pumez
Campo de Piedra Pumez, Cerro Blanco

Laguna Grande [click on figure for more photos]
Laguna Grande
Laguna Grande: flamingos

Antofalla and beyond [click on figure for more photos]
Ojos del Mar, Salta: stromatolites and extremophiles