Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Hills Are Alive! Part 1: The Arrival, Cast and Characters

The first image that stands out in my mind after we arrived in Purmamarca was Ulises, the famous ex-housemate Ulises, wearing a white hat, rainbow scarf, and black tank-top, all behind the wheel of the rental car which he was honking with great vigor. He was taking driving classes when we left, so seeing him actually driving was an unexpected yet pleasant surprise. The second image? Uli´s boyfriend with whom he is traveling, Gustavo - Gus for short - with two profoundly black eyes after nearly meeting his end a week earlier.
Let me rewind. Not long after we started out trip, Ulises emailed me saying that he and Gus would be vacationing in the North of Argentina begining in March, around the time we would be in the area. We feverishly sent notes back and forth, hoping to be able to rent a car for a week or so together so we could see Salta, Jujuy, and the surrounding towns at our leisure, a la the 7 Lake District. While in San Martin de los Andes I received a note from Uli that they had arrived and already crashed the car, but that they were continuing. It didn´t look like we were going to get to rent the car with them or see them for very long, but hoped to catch them on their way back through the city of Salta. We laughed off what we imagined to be a minor ding-up, thinking very little of it afterwards.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon when we finally got in touch with Uli. He said they were in Purmamarca, the home of the famous hill with seven colors (what´s with all these 7´s?) and a good base to go see the Salinas Grandes, which is a huge salt flat. He told us that all we had to do was get there, that there was camping avaible in the town, and that we would go back down to Salta after a few days. We though about it for a few minutes, scrambled to get everything together and cancel our hostel reservation, and jetted over to the bus station to make our 3 hour trip north on two different buses. Purmarca is at an altitude of more or less 2000 meters, so the ride up involved a lot of beautifully colored mountains and plenty of ear popping, with random flocks of sheep and goats on the side of the road. We arrived at around 7:00 PM, with the sun setting behind THE 7 color hill - although you could probably find other hills with just as many colors, but more on that later - and were met by the aformentioned scene. Everyone was wearing sunglasses since it was still so sunny, but soon after Gus showed us his wounds from the crash that was anything but a minor ding-up. In fact, the car flipped multiple times befor Ulises kicked out his window and helped Gus out of the car and up to the road for help. Luckily Uli sustained next to no injuries since he had braced himself on the inside of the car, but Gus was not so fortunate. His head was a bloody mess and he suffered multiple cuts on his arms. We saw pictures of the car and it was really scary. More than anything, I was amazed that Uli walked away from the scene with barely any evidence of being in a major accident. Best of all, both were in spectacular spirits and ready to enjoy the breathtaking scenery all around us, all of which I will chronicle in the second part of this post. Hopefully some pictures will accompany said post, but don´t hold your breath - the internet in our hostel goes out every 30 minutes.

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