Monday, November 26, 2012

2012, 13th - 15th November: Purmamarca, Argentina

For the full complement of photos corresponding to this blog entry, use the following address for the set of photos in my Flickr pages:

In my recent blog on my time in Tupiza in Bolivia, I mentioned that the south of Bolivia and the north of Argentina is ´cowboy country´; well my photos accompanying this blog and my later one on Cafayate demonstrate that to be true.

The coach journey from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile to Purmamarca in Argentina was dramatic, with sweeping desert-like plains like those found in the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve in Bolivia giving way to wide open scrub lands and salars (salt flats) – the largest of which being Salinas Grandes which the road traversed, with a brief coach stop affording photos. Further into Argentina, the road passed through canyons before making numerous sweeping bends up and down beautiful rocky valleys.

Salinas Grandes

The pleasant village of Purmamarca is famed for being right next to (literally) ´Los Cerros de los Siete Colores´ (´The Hills of Seven Colours´); a natural feature with rocks of varying geological history being layered dramatically in stunning contrasting hues. To appreciate these hills, I climbed Cerro Morado (Purple Hill) on the other side of the valley, picking my way along its rocky ridge.

Purmamarca & Cerros de los Siete Colores

I found more great views by walking and scrambling up the hills behind Cerro de los Siete Colores and the Los Colorados track. Like the hills around Tupiza, while dramatic from a distance, close-up they are a chaotic hotchpotch of crumbling soft sedimentary rock (more like earth really) interspersed with stones – very unpleasant to be scrambling on as it gave way so easily.

Canyons Behind Cerros de los Siete Colores

´Cowboy Country´ Near to Purmamarca

Mother Nature Experimenting with Colours

Similar colourful hills are present in at points in the Quebrada de Humahuaca (Humahuaca Ravine, though it is a valley), which runs to the north of Purmamarca. I did not stop for long in the towns along this valley as they are not as pleasant at Purmamarca.

For the geology geeks amongst you, here is a guide to the rock colours present in the hills around Purmamarca:

~ Grey, dark green, violet: Maritime sedimentary rock, 600 million years old.
~ Purple, dark pink, whitish: Quartzite and quartzite sandstones, 540 million years old.
~ Light grey to yellowish: Clayish sandstones and shales, 505 million years old.
~ Red: Gravel and sandstones, 65 to 144 million years old.
~ Reddish to light pink: Recent clay and sandstones, a mere 21 to 65 million years old.

Rocks of Varying Colours Found Within
a Few Metres of Each Other

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