Cachi and Salta

November 1, 2018

The House Sparrows were very active shortly after 6 am, so we got up earlier than usual. After the usual Argentinian breakfast we checked out and then went for a walk around the hotel to see what birds we could see.

Before leaving Cachi we went back to the artesania shops again. We bought woolly slippers for the grand-nieces and Rosemary bought one of the alpaca sweaters for herself. And we bought a few other things too; everything was surprisingly cheap by our standards.

One llama or three llamas?
One llama or three llamas?

Then we headed off back to Salta. In the outskirts of Cachi we saw some flashy birds we hadn’t seen before, and then the road turned upwards, into the cardón forest. The weather was lovely, with blue skies and no wind.

Burrowing Parakeet
Burrowing Parakeet

We were looking for White-fronted Woodpecker, a species which sits on top of cardóns and feeds on their flowers and the bugs around them. There were a fair number of birds flitting around, but no woodpeckers. And then we saw a bird sitting on top of a cardón. Rosemary braked hard, and her camera slid off the back seat onto the floor!

Flowering cardón
Flowering cardón
Common Diuca-Finch (“Camera Breaking Bird”)
Common Diuca-Finch (“Camera Breaking Bird”)

Well, now the camera didn’t work. It would only go into live viewing mode. That was a bad thing. We carried on up to the pass and down the other side, which was in the same clouds as yesterday. Today the clouds were producing some rain, and this part of the road was dirt, so any serious rain would make the road slippery. However we made it down to the valley bottom without any problems.

Andes from Los Cardones
Andes from Los Cardones
Guanacos in the puna
Guanacos in the puna

We arrived outside the Hertz office in Salta at 2 pm—apparently one of the busiest times for cars on that street—and returned the car to them. It was a rather complicated procedure but once it was done we walked down the street to our hotel. We were both tired after all the driving so we stopped at the Coffee Store for tea and toast.

By the central square is the Museum of High Altitude Archeology. In the museum are housed the mummies of Llullaillaco: a young girl aged 6; a young boy aged 7; and a 15-year-old virgin maiden. They were sacrificed in Inca rituals about 500 years ago and buried on the summit of Llullaillaco, a nearby Andean peak. They were first discovered by mountaineers and then excavated by archaeologists.

The rituals were not very nice; the boy had been tied up so tightly that some of his ribs were displaced. The children had been given enough alcohol to make them sleep and then had been taken to the top of the peak and left there to freeze. We were in there for about half an hour and it was very interesting. Although it was strange to see a museum exhibit which had once been a human being.

Once we were finished at the museum we headed to the camera shop to see whether anything could be done for Rosemary’s camera. The shop was supposed to open at 5 pm but nobody came to open up, so after a while we gave up waiting and headed back to our room.

For dinner we went to another steak house, Posada de los Caseros, and as usual we were the first customers. It wasn’t as fancy as El Charrúa but the food was similar. We both ordered the same steak but Rosemary had mashed potato and pumpkin and Paul had a mixed salad. The waiter offered us an English menu but the translation was so bad that we put it aside.

November 2, 2018

This morning we had breakfast and then took a taxi out to the airport, to catch our flight back to Buenos Aires. The flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11:25 am so after checking our bags in, we went outside to look for birds. We had already seen a Striated Heron on the grass outside, so the birding looked good.

Rufous Hornero (Argentina’s national bird)
Rufous Hornero (Argentina’s national bird)
Vermilion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher

We found a few lifers, including an incredibly beautiful Vermilion Flycatcher. And there was a swallow using a Hornero’s nest—the nest really does look like an adobe oven! Paul had brought his little Nikon point-and-shoot camera with 30x zoom, and Rosemary used that for photographing birds. Especially the Vermilion Flycatcher! It’s good enough for photos of birds which aren’t very far away.

Hornero’s nest (with Brown-chested Martin)
Hornero’s nest (with Brown-chested Martin)
White Monjita
White Monjita

The morning was getting hotter so we headed back to the terminal to wait for the flight’s departure. When we looked at the board we saw that our flight was delayed. Originally the scheduled departure was 11:25 am, then it was 12:15 pm, then 12:45 pm. All of those times went by and then there was an announcement “… (our flight number) … cancellado…”. A lot of people got up and streamed towards the check-in desks and we joined the queue.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Fork-tailed Flycatcher

But Rosemary had signed up for a service which notified us about flight changes, so by this time we already knew that we had been rebooked on another flight, leaving at 1:15 pm. Once we had our boarding passes we headed straight up to the departure lounge. This flight left on time and in less than two hours we had arrived in Buenos Aires.

Next: Buenos Aires part 1