The Longest Road In Argentina

Автор: admin  |  Категория: Statistics

The Longest Road In Argentina

Ruta 40, the longest road in Argentina, which runs 4,928 kilometers from Patagonia to the Bolivian border, and leads into emptiness. This is a region that has always been at the outer bounds. In the Quechua language, Tucuman, the name of one of the Noroeste provinces, means “toward where it ends.” The north of Argentina was the south of the Inca Empire. The road crosses through a land of red deserts and white salt lakes. Once covered by the sea, the timeless landscape is today dotted with volcanoes. For ten million years, the sediment-rich volcanic waters emptied into a 12,000-hectare salt lake, the Salinas Grandes, so dazzlingly white you can’t look straight at it. The sea withdrew a long time ago but it left its imprint in the local place names. Past Cafayate is a gorge called Las Conchas, the Shells. You can find them fossilized in the stone, here the land imprisoned the sea.

These landscapes send a shiver down your spine, not so much because they are movie-screen images, but because they tell a silent story, the narration is visual, it recounts how it took time, rivers and rains to forge these stony cathedrals. It is an emotional experience to see with your own eyes what were just words in a geography book, tectonic shocks, plate collision, earthquakes, folds, upthrusting. The sand and snow-laden “white wind”, el viento bianco, which gave its name to an Argentinian novel, will polish a car windscreen in just a few weeks. Over millennia, it fashioned canyons. Here they are called quebradas, great fractures in the rock whose edges are worn smooth by the wind. A red river runs through them, like the blood of the earth. Sometimes, the crimson water runs over the road, turning it into an open vein.

In Latin American “magic realism,” a genre represented in Argentinian literature by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares that emerged in the mid-20th century, reality and fantasy are intertwined. Looking at these deserts, you can understand how thought forms might spring from a geographical determinism. The mysterious light also fuels the imagination, it can be dark in the middle of the day and then suddenly blaze out from behind a mountain at nightfall, as if there were a world after the world. After San Antonio de los Cobres, the mountains take over. It’s called “la puna,” a term that refers both to the high, windswept Andean plateaus themselves and to the altitude sickness that hits you on certain days. “Today there’s puna” they say. You treat it by chewing coca leaves, but the sensation doesn’t last long because as soon as the landscape drops lower, the road follows.

When the road runs straight, it becomes a tourist attraction, named Recta Tin Tin, a section of the Inca Trail. Human cultures form layers like geological strata, always superposed. The Indians (Diaguitas, Calchaquis), the Incas, the Spanish. Along the road, small misas chicas, or itinerant masses, move toward Humahuaca, bearing the effigy of a saint, yet people also worship Pachamama, Mother Earth. Behind the procession ride the gauchos. Horses are another religion here, that of freedom, perhaps because they enable man to leave the road and travel across the wide, uninhabited spaces.

An absolute must-see, the Hill of Seven Colors in Purmamarca, as well as the Painter’s Palette in Tilcara. Everything can be photographed. Why is it that the tourist brochures focus on what seems like nothing?. For there is much more than the rock and its colorful show of different minerals, there is more than records, the highest vineyards in the world in Cachi, the train to the clouds that runs at over 4,000 meters in altitude. There is what you don’t see, but what you can feel. The spectacle of slowness, here where everything has come about through erosion, where time takes longer, passes more slowly.

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