Crossing the Alta Puna

I have really grown to enjoy these long bus journeys.  Today I have the front seat on the upper deck, providing a continuous 180 deg view, for crossing the high Andes from Salta, Argentina, to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. The first awe-inspiring site was the area around Purmamarca, known as The Land of Seven Colors for the many shades of red and brown through green and purple the hillsides take. The road then wound up steeply with switch back after switch back, climbing to 4100 m through cactus covered canyons, before crossing the Salinas Grandes Salt Flats. The flats were blindingly white and, well, flat, which caused a loss of depth perception. People standing would either appear as giants or midgets, and not far or near. Around the high border crossing into Chile were views of several snow-capped volcanoes, including Cerro San Bernardo. Now technically in the tropics – the tropic of Capricorn runs just South of the border crossing – I question the simple homes of Quechua peasants I’ve seen along the way. How, or better, why, people lived for so many centuries in what mostly appears an inhospitable, although beautiful, far from “tropical” environment is hard to imagine. I’ve seen little sign of water.

The photo quality isn’t bad, even though they were taken through the bus window; a tribute to the remarkable scenery.

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