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Jujuy, Argentina / Spring 2020

A Region Apart

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At Cotopaxi, we’re just as fascinated by local escapades as we are by explorations far off the beaten path. But now more than ever, we want to experience more and “tourist” less. Seeing may be believing, but experiencing is paradigm-shifting. It’s intentional and balanced, all-encompassing and reciprocal.

This spring took us to northwest Argentina—to the Jujuy and Salta provinces. There, indigenous culture exists in surprising harmony with European influence, and the region’s diverse landscapes are steadily and manifestly shaped by the earth’s elements. Caught between two worlds, it’s a magical place with mythical aura.

14 Days on the Road 14 Days on the Road
1K Kilometers Traveled 1K Kilometers Traveled
(No Flat Tires!)
196 Empanadas Consumed 196 Empanadas Consumed During the Trip
10 Glasses of Wine Poured 10 Glasses of Wine Poured for Pachamama
15 Gourds of Mate 15 Gourds of Mate Consumed Per Day
3 Bags Lost in Transit 3 Bags Lost in Transit
(Don't Worry, We Found Them)

1 / The Trek

Quebrada De Humahuaca

23°11'48.4"S  65°11'38.1"W

This narrow mountain valley takes its name from the Spanish verb quebrar, meaning “to break.” An age-old economic and cultural crossroads, the Quebrada is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has been home to prehistoric hunter-gatherers, as well as a main thoroughfare for the Incan Empire. True to its name, it was also the site of numerous battles in the Argentinian fight for independence. Our visit to this historic ravine was one of the highlights of our time in Jujuy.

Left: Chelsie and Urich begin trekking in Tilcara. Below: Gonzalo and Chelsie wander the streets of Humahuaca with their Allpa packs before spending the evening at Aisito.
Gonzalo and Chelsie wander the streets of Humahuaca
Chelsie and Urich begin trekking in Tilcara

Santos the Sage

Our intrepid guide leads us into the mountains with llamas in tow, giving us a glimpse into his affinity for these fluffy mammals and their place in the region’s culture.

Below: Looking down on the Quebrada de Humahuaca from the top of our trek with Santos. Right: Wearing the Vamos Short, Daryl snaps a portrait of his faithful hiking buddy, Manchito.
Quebrada de Humahuaca
Daryl snaps a portrait of his faithful hiking buddy Top: Looking down on the Quebrada de Humahuaca from the top of our trek with Santos. Bottom: Wearing the Vamos Short, Daryl snaps a portrait of his faithful hiking buddy, Manchito.

Into the Llamaverse

Our journey out of Tilcara, one of Argentina’s oldest towns, means quality time with Cotopaxi’s trusty mascot.

By James Roh

Llama hooves steadily kick up dust along the loose trail and a breeze gives us a temporary respite from the unrelenting sun. As we slowly gain elevation, the magnitude of the landscape expands and offers even more impressive views of Tilcara and the surrounding Quebrada Humahuaca. These colorful mountains were once traversed by Incas, also with llamas in tow. Aside from our cameras, cell phones, and modern clothing, our group is similar to one that might have roamed the area hundreds of years ago—and that’s the point.

Llamas have always been an integral part of life in northwest Argentina. Locals create clothing out of llama wool, and llama meat is a regular feature of the region’s cuisine. However, as horses and burros became more commonplace, people relied increasingly less on llamas to carry heavy loads. Our jovial and thoughtful guide, Santos Manfredi, gives us this history lesson mid-hike, which really puts our trip into context.

Over a decade ago, Santos took it upon himself to revitalize the cultural practice of trekking with llamas. He believes this experience gives special insight into the region—something riding horses or driving a car doesn’t do.

“[Each llama has] a different personality,” Santos explains. “They are animals that you can connect with. Also, there’s the fact that llamas walk slowly, which helps you connect with nature. I think it’s unique.”

And Santos is right. At this pace, we appreciate the 600-year old cacti and exposed, rocky terrain of the Argentinian altiplano. As for the llamas, they entertain us with drawn-out moans and unforgettable loogies, plus they’re experts at silly looks and mouth breathing. We’re always laughing at their antics.

I can only imagine the Incas found them equally entertaining.

Left: Bria leads Mancho over rocks on the trail in a pair of Ara Joggers. Below: Allpa Travel Packs and llamas ... Can you name a better duo?
Allpas and Llamas
Bria leads Mancho over rocks Bria leads Mancho over rocks on the trail in a pair of Ara Joggers.

The Allpa Family

Don’t let conventional luggage weigh you down. The rugged travel packs in our Allpa Collection will help you stay light on your feet as you bypass baggage claim and wander the cobblestone streets of Humahuaca.

Llama Whispering 101

Impervious to the earth and resistant to bossy strangers, llamas need all the TLC they can get. So go ahead and cajole them, push lovingly, and yell vamos, vamos, vamos! Prepare for breaks on the trail, plenty of poop, and the occasional grade A glare. After an outing, approach your llama from the side, gently wrap your arms around its neck, and whisper a heartfelt gracias into its ear.

The Best of Humahuaca

Cerro de los Catorce Colores

Visit the Cerro de los Catorce Colores

Also known as the Serranía de Hornocal, these vibrant mountains are located 20km from Humahuaca. The Cerro de los Siete Colores is better known, but this range is more majestic.

Kick Back at Aisito Restaurant

Kick Back at Aisito Restaurant

Nothing revs the appetite quite like travel. Stop at this Humahuaca restaurant for beautiful ambience, regional cuisine done right, and live musical performances.

City Views

Catch City Views

Located in central Humahuaca, the Monumento a los Héroes de la Independencia offers the best views of the city and its surrounding valley. Just look for the huge statues!

2 / Homestay

Corralito

25°57'57.9"S  65°51'05.6"W

You wouldn’t find Corralito unless you were looking for it. It’s a small, sleepy town located off a nondescript dirt road. But appearances are deceiving, because this place is a veritable treasure trove if you’re on the hunt for authentic Argentinian experiences. All it takes is an awareness that Corralito exists, plus some back-and-forth with the local tourism co-op.

Below: Antonio takes the horses back to the stable via scooter. Right: With a Bataan around his waist, Daryl learns about caring for tomato plants from Antonio and Soledad.
Antonio takes the horses back to the stable
Daryl learns about caring for tomato plants Top: Antonio takes the horses back to the stable via scooter. Bottom: With a Bataan around his waist, Daryl learns about caring for tomato plants from Antonio and Soledad.

All in the Family

Soledad’s Corralito-based co-op, the Rural Tourism Network, promotes low-impact, familia-style cultural exchange.

Left: You would want to dance too after eating the meals we enjoyed in Corralito. Below: We embrace our gracious host, Soledad, at the end of our stay.
Our group embraces our gracious host Top: You would want to dance too after eating the meals we enjoyed in Corralito. Bottom: We embrace our gracious host, Soledad, at the end of our stay.
dancing after eating the meals we enjoyed

Close to Home

After days of dancing, horseback-riding, and empanada-making, leaving our new friends in Corralito was harder than we thought.

By James Roh

All at once, we swarm Marta for a big group hug. After an amazing few days, emotions are running high. Our homestay has come to an end, but no one is eager to leave. Pulling back, we notice Marta is tearing up.

Just a week ago, our hosts Soledad, Marta, and Antonio were strangers exchanging emails with us from the other side of the world. But after a few days of living, eating, and laughing with them at their farms in Corralito, we are good friends. Although saying goodbye is painful, we are all grateful to have crossed paths, to have shared a true connection. In this moment, it is clear to us that people are the most beautiful part of traveling.

Soledad helped to start the rural community tourism cooperative, Red de Turismo Campesino, with the goal of incorporating tourism into her farming community as a means to generate revenue, preserve its culture, and empower women to be financially independent. From the onset, she wanted to promote tourism the right way. This meant only hosting small groups and emphasizing the importance of respectful and open-minded cultural exchange.

“Having this experience of cultural exchange, we can share how we live and [visitors] can also share their life experiences with us,” Soledad explains. “I think one part of being a traveler is that you have to feel like you’re part of it in order to be able to really enjoy a country or a place.”

Exploring Corralito’s hidden red rock canyons gaucho style.
Exploring Corralito’s hidden red rock canyons
Exploring Corralito’s hidden red rock canyons Exploring Corralito’s hidden red rock canyons gaucho style.

The Del Día Collection

Our sewers in the Philippines use 100% repurposed fabric to create one-of-a-kind bags with unique color signatures. Lightweight and versatile, these sustainable carryalls are the perfect travel daypacks.

Empanada Nation

Empanadas are an Argentinian staple. Delicious, easy to find, and quick to eat, they were an essential part of our experience down south. During our sojourn in Corralito, we learned what it takes to make these savory pockets of joy, and lucky for us, northwest Argentina is especially renowned for its empanada prowess. Our hosts taught us how to prep, fold, and bake empanadas in a wood-fired oven so that we could sit down and enjoy them as a new-found family.

The Best of Corralito

Check Out Los Castillos

Check Out Los Castillos

This beautiful roadside attraction is only 15 minutes by car from Corralito. One of the area’s many geological wonders, these weathered, sandstone cliffs are living proof of the elements’ enduring powers.

Saddle Up

Saddle Up

There’s no better way to experience rural Argentina than on horseback. Talk to Soledad and Antonio—they’ll lead you through narrow slot canyons and teach you how to ride like a gaucho. Just be ready to hold on tight when those horses want to gallop.

Eat Some Fresh Goat Cheese

Eat Some Fresh Goat Cheese

It’s not uncommon to see a queso de cabra sign around these parts. In Corralito, you can experience how it’s made from start to finish. And yes, that includes milking the goat yourself.

3 / On The Road

Lessons from Route 40

25°07'13.0"S  66°09'44.8"W

We weren’t the first to cruise Route 40. One of the Southern Hemisphere’s most famous highways, Ruta 40 runs the entire length of Argentina, parallel to the Andes. Some make it a goal to go the entire route, from the glaciers of Patagonia through the vineyards of Mendoza and to the deserts of the north. We drove a less-traveled section of this legendary thoroughfare—a stretch dotted with small towns and plenty of larger-than-life views.

Left: After catching a ride into town with Antonio’s brother, Gonzalo jumps out of the car with a Teca Fleece, ready to go. Below: The guys find some nice colored walls in town.
The guys find some nice colored walls Top: After catching a ride into town with Antonio’s brother, Gonzalo jumps out of the car with a Teca Fleece, ready to go. Bottom: The guys find some nice colored walls in town.
Gonzalo jumps out of the car

In Harmony

Right on Route 40, Hernàn Perata and his family give us a quick lesson on the region’s musical traditions and their emphasis on connecting with Pachamama.

Below: Soledad’s friends give us a private concert. Right: After listening to Walter play the bandoneón, Chelsie hops in on the drums.
Soledad’s friends give us a private concert
Chelsie hops in on the drums Top: Soledad’s friends give us a private concert. Bottom: After listening to Walter play the bandoneón, Chelsie hops in on the drums.

Desert Sounds

In northwest Argentina, music is everywhere. And it’s not just for entertainment.

By James Roh

This region’s musical tradition does not discriminate. All sounds are welcome, and all people are too. Here, it is normal for prehispanic flutes to accompany Christmas songs. Likewise, the European acoustic guitar is strummed alongside the Andean charango. Over the course of our trip, we tried our hands at the quena, zampona, bandoneon, and caja.

Despite their differences, all the region’s musical styles are united in their ability to bring people together, to celebrate life, and to help people connect with their environment.

“It’s a special part of this place, that almost anyone, it doesn’t matter their age or profession, knows how to play a traditional instrument of some kind,” Lucas Gordillo, a musician from Tilcara, explains to his audience midway through a performance. “And that in turn makes people here aware of the importance of our music and our culture.”

During our travels through northwest Argentina, one musical style in particular challenged our preconceived notions of what music can be.

Just outside the town of San Carlos, Hernàn Perata welcomes us to his outdoor workshop where he handcrafts instruments using local materials. It is here that he and his wife, Julieta Yañez, perform a copla for us. A style of music native to the area, coplas combine singing with the caja drum for the purpose of connecting people to the land, celebrating the human experience, and performing rituals. There are coplas for everything ranging from love to philosophy to sorrow, but all are performed with the intention of unifying people and connecting to Pachamama, the Andean word for Mother Earth. As Hernàn explains it, singing along to the beat of the caja drum is the earth singing.

Hernàn and Julieta’s daughter, Catalina, visits us in the workshop and performs a copla for us. Her beautiful voice emanates throughout the property. Shyly, she hands her parents the caja and heads off to school.

“When I see my children and I singing together, it makes me feel a sense of unity because that’s what music does,” Hernàn says. “I also feel that seeing my children sing is the seed planted so that this cultural platform can continue.”

After saying our goodbyes, we reflect on the integral role coplas play in the area. Catalina, for example, has grown up with the understanding that music is more than just entertainment: it is an integral part of everyday life and spirituality. Witnessing this firsthand makes us ponder the role music plays in our lives back home. How do we experience music differently? Do we focus too much on critiquing it, rather than on enjoying it for what it is? Can we take what we’ve learned here in Argentina and apply it to our own musical practices back home?

We don’t have immediate answers, but it’s fun to think about. After all, what is the point of traveling if it doesn’t challenge your own perspective and worldview?

Left: Wearing Parque and Teca Fleece, northwest Argentina’s newest music group, Flute Girl and the Vino Boys, perform in Valle Encantado. Below: There’s no shortage of cute locals in Cachi.
cute locals Top: Wearing Parque and Teca Fleece, northwest Argentina’s newest music group, Flute Girl and the Vino Boys, perform in Valle Encantado. Bottom: There’s no shortage of cute locals in Cachi.
Flute Girl and the Vino Boys

The Teca Collection

The products in our Teca Collection are travel-friendly, convenient layers for your colorful side. Have a Teca Windbreaker or Teca Fleece handy along Route 40 for extra protection when the temperature shifts.

Below: After a week in the desert, the cool mountain air of Valle Encantado is incredibly refreshing. Right: On her way into town, Chelsie catches the breeze with her Teca Mira and Allpa Travel Pack.
cool mountain air of Valle Encantado
Bria scrambles over some rocks Top: After a week in the desert, the cool mountain air of Valle Encantado is incredibly refreshing. Bottom: On her way into town, Chelsie catches the breeze with her Teca Mira and Allpa Travel Pack.

Making Mate

Equal parts stimulant and social practice, mate is the most popular beverage in Argentina. And just like making your favorite cup of coffee, there isn’t one “right” way to brew this earthy drink. Regardless of your method, you’ll definitely need sugar and a good group of friends to enjoy it with.

Must-do’s along Route 40

Cachi if You Can

Cachi if You Can

Known for its white, adobe buildings and snow-capped mountains, Cachi is a peaceful town with artsy vibes. It’s a good stop for food, beer, and—if you must—Instagram photo ops.

The Flight of the Condors

The Flight of the Condors

Bust out the binoculars to spot some Andean condors soaring near Route 40. These legendary creatures are the largest flying birds in the world—their wingspans can grow over 10 feet long.

Valle Encantado

Valle Encantado

A quick detour off Route 40, Valle Encantado is pretty close to paradise. Set off on a winding road up the mountain, and your surroundings will quickly transition from full-on desert to an IRL Emerald City.

4 / Our Crew

In Good Company

Bria

Bria

Adventurous as it gets. She wasn’t even afraid to kiss a llama on the lips! Fluent in Spanish, musically gifted, and a hater of weak coffee, Telluride-based journalist Bria also leads adventure travel trips for young adults.

Chelsie

Chelsie

Serving up good vibes, the whole trip through. Chelsie’s up-for-anything attitude and contagious laugh were key to our trip’s success. When she’s not traveling the world, she’s teaching yoga in SLC.

Daryl

Daryl

Hardly ever without a camera in hand, Daryl is a passionate photographer and curious explorer. What can we say: Fort Collins is lucky to have this guy.

Gonzalo

Gonzalo

Spunky and fun-loving, Gonzalo is a biologist from Buenos Aires. He helped us learn Argentinian slang and also introduced us to many a local plant and animal species.

Mat

Mat

Mateo brings the stoke. He’s just as capable of snapping amazing photos as he is at cracking funny jokes. Always down for the ride, he’s perfect company on any adventure.

Easton

Easton

“Easy-E” was thrown onto a plane and shipped down to Argentina the second week of his internship. Cool as a cucumber and always able to get the perfect shot, he’s now our full-time videographer.

James

James

Jamesy (Papi) Roh. There isn’t a story that this guy can’t find. James is a master storyteller, seasoned traveler, and captures great moments better than anyone we know. Oh, and he plays the sitar.

Llama

Llama

One of the oldest domesticated animals in the world, llamas are always entertaining, gear-hauling extraordinaires. A trip to northwestern Argentina just wouldn’t be complete without one.