The Puna in Argentina

| Anke Hendriks

An unforgettable experience

We've been driving through the Puna in Argentina for four days when we arrive at Antofallita, a 'village' in the middle of the pristine landscape in the northwest of Argentina. We have seen a lot; coloured lakes, volcanoes, snowy mountain tops, volcanic rock formations, flamingos and vicuñas. The ever changing landscapes and the feeling of freedom make me feel so happy. But here in Antofallita, where only two people live, surrounded by an incomprehensible natural beauty of the Argentine Puna, a deep emotion overwhelms me.

Watch a video below of the route Anke has taken:

(click on the image and the video starts playing)

Every hour a different landscape in La Puna, Argentina

We arrive at the house of Corina, one of the two inhabitants of Antofallita. Today's route through the large area of La Puna in Argentina was great. We drove past the black volcano Carachipampa that stands out so nicely against the red mountains in the background and the, by minerals, yellow with white covered earth. We drove through Antofagasta and saw the fertile soil of the Vega Colorada. A green oasis at the bottom of a parched gorge. The piece of land is dotted with streams, trees and grass. Llamas, sheep and Andean geese graze peacefully around. We passed the highest point of the day, 4600 meters, and we stopped at a viewpoint from where we saw the impressive vast salt plain of Antofalla. We crossed the salt plain and were welcomed in Antofalla, a hamlet with 35 inhabitants. From here we drove for another two hours along the salt plain and the ever-changing mountain range to this place where Corina, 80 years old, lives. Her only neighbour is her brother with whom she has been fighting for years because of the land. They don't speak to each other, my guide Luis tells me. Because of his story I feel sorry for the woman. What are you doing here at that age, so far from everything and without being able to talk to anyone.


A special experience

We get out of the car and soon Corina comes out. The woman of 80 wears a cardigan made of velvet, bright pink. The edges are stitched with a panther print. She only has a few teeth left in her mouth, but she has a beautiful smile and she gives us a warm welcome. Her daughter is visiting us and together they have just harvested the potatoes, which are now drying in the sun. Next to that 4 sheep skins are drying which have been cleaned not so long ago. I look around me and I am in a small paradise. The sky is cobalt blue, the sun is shining and we look out over the salt plain of Antofalla with a red coloured mountain behind it.

4 sheepskins are drying on the ground. They have been cleaned not so long ago

Luis wants to take some potatoes home and before I know, he and Corina are in a fierce negotiation. Corina doesn't just give in and knows what she wants for it. In the meantime they are laughing a lot about the negotiation. Luis gets to pick and weigh his potatoes himself. With a smile I watch the conversation. We can also buy a piece of mutton but Corina asks a lot more for it than Luis pays for it in Salta, so that's where it stops. After talking for a while we say goodbye and I get another two big kisses from the sweet woman.

We get in the car and Luis drives on through this special landscape of La Puna in Argentina. I look back again to this special little paradise far away from civilization. For minutes I am immersed in my thoughts. I have nothing to say and only think of Corina and her big laugh after a joke by Luis. The woman of 80 years old is very happy where she lives. She is not sad and, besides the help of her children, she doesn't need anyone at all. I envy her for the fact that, there in Antofallita at an altitude of 4000 meters, she needs much less to be as happy as I am in the western world. The simplicity of life and the beauty of nature.

The Argentine Puna: one of the most beautiful experiences of my life

We continue through La Puna in north western Argentina and I enjoy the two days that follow as much as the days I've already had. So much to see, but so few words to describe it. One thing is for sure: this is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I look out in front of me and hum the song of Blof 'a beautiful day', which seems to be made especially for this place.

"The sun, the sand, the heat and the quiet river, the silence and the drought and the emptiness of this here. The heaven and the earth, the vastness of the land and the wisdom of one man, that's enough. The ground, the grass, the roads to the horizon that trembles. The time here is space, the depth here is wild. The nonsense and the necessity they are approaching the border, the love of one man was enough for me."

The sun, the sand, the heat and the quiet river, the silence and the drought, and the emptiness of this place.

Bløf - Beautiful Day

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