A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Around the Bend


Hasan, our guide for the day, picked us up at our hostel at 7 am.

We planned to drive three hours north of Salta to see the Quebrada de Humahuaca, an often-photographed, stunningly beautiful gorge surrounded by multicolored mountains.

Crossing into Jujuy Province, we entered the gorge at the valley bottom, and began the 90 mile drive to the town of Humahuaca.


As we approached the small village of Purmamarca, Hasan pulled the van over to show us the Cerro de los Siete Colores (Hill of Seven Colors, see below), a unique geological formation. We fired off dozens of photographs, both cameras going full speed.


Once we were satisfied we had a decent shot, we headed into the Purmamarca “market,” a tourist trap we hadn’t seen the likes of since Cusco.

Hasan suggested that we meet him back at the van in forty minutes.  We wandered around the village square, looking at the same hats, blankets, sweaters and trinkets we’d seen in a dozen different South American markets.

Call me gullible, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next.

We entered a small courtyard and began browsing through the merchandise.  I stopped short when I saw the Incan wall hanging that I had bought for Dani on the Uros Islands in Peru.  The woman I bought it from assured me that she had made the print herself.


All I could do was shake my head.  As I turned around to leave, there hanging from the wall, was the Ecuadorian wool poncho Conor had bought in Otavalo.  Made locally, we were assured, when we’d paid twelve dollars for it.

Now I was running for the exit, but not before I saw same exact alpaca chullo hats Caroline and Conor had bought from the Quechua children at the entrance to Cotopaxi National Park.

I had to confront my secret fear: That all South American collectibles are made in a factory in China.


We found Hasan and continued on to the town of Humahuaca.  It was time for lunch.  Once in town, Hasan led us past a number of nice looking restaurants to a large building down a side street.

As we entered, we saw dozens of tables filled mainly with senior citizens straight off a tour bus.  Shortly after we were seated four musicians went to the front of the room and began playing “local” music.

The third song they played was “Hotel California” – on the pan flute, of course.

With this we knew it was time to go.  We have loved South America, but a feeling of deja vu was beginning to creep in.

Half an hour later we were on the road back to Salta.  As we approached the village of Tilcara, Hasan pulled off the highway: “Would you like to see the square?  The market?”

Dani and I exchanged glances. She broke the news to him:  “Hasan, we’re really tired.  We’d prefer to skip this lovely town and head straight back to Salta.”

From the look on his face it was clear we had disappointed him.

After another hour’s drive we were caught in slow moving traffic.  Caroline, who had been dozing, suddenly said: “Hey look!”

A tractor trailer was stopped to the right of our car.  Its cargo?  Circus animals.



Moments earlier, we’d thought South America couldn’t surprise us any more. But once again we were reminded that on any journey, you never truly know what lies just around the bend.


1 Mark H { 10.27.08 at 4:19 am }

I don’t want to know that my indigineous hand-woven sweater was made in China for 20 cents and shipped to the South American markets.

2 Longhorn Dave { 10.27.08 at 12:53 pm }

So which was better, Salta or Iguazu Falls? We were torn on which to go to on our last trip in Argentina.

3 Craig { 10.27.08 at 8:35 pm }


Salta and Iguazu are very different, both worth seeing to get a fuller appreciation of Argentina. But if I had to chose one or the other I’d have to recommend… Iguazu. It is simply stunning.

That said, Salta is a great town, and there’s much more to do in there than at Iguazu…

The best advice I can give: See both!

4 mom-mom & pop { 10.28.08 at 5:43 am }

where was my sweater made?

5 jamie { 10.28.08 at 2:11 pm }

My mom’s personal quest is to only bring home souvenirs made in the country she is visiting. It’s become a bit of a jihad for her, and has netted us some strange souvenirs, since places like Croatia don’t do much manufacturing!

6 Kay { 10.30.08 at 9:51 am }

Hecho en China!

Yes, sadly, most (if not all) souveniers and handicrafts in South and Central America come from China. Occaisionally, you might even find an “Hecho en China” sticker on products that the vendor forgot to remove!

My Recommendation: avoid guide and tour groups. Go out on your own. Talk to locals, get to know your hotel owner/waiter/bartender and ask what their favorite places to visit are.

7 molly { 10.30.08 at 5:28 pm }


8 molly { 10.30.08 at 5:29 pm }

but i bet there stuff is from china!

9 Jessica { 11.08.12 at 5:20 pm }

I’ve been living in Argentina for over a year and I wondered the same things about products. My boyfriend is Argentine so sometimes he can get the real story. When we asked someone in (I forget if in Argentina or Chile) they said most of the textiles were from Ecuador. Psuedo-authentic, perhaps?

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