So, a week after picking up our motorhome and some 1500 Kms from Buenos Aires we arrived yesterday in Salta which is around 4,000 ft above sea level and close to the Andes. In fact we are much nearer the Pacific than to the Atlantic now.
We came here a day earlier than planned and joined thousands of pilgrims who were coming here for the Semana del Milagro, or Miracle Week. In 1962 there was an earthquake and it was felt that it was a miracle that more homes were not damaged for which the Virgin has been given credit. As we approached the town there were walkers, cyclists, pickups and big old saloon cars with madonnas or crucifixes atop. A very jolly scene as the locals had set up feeding stations so the walkers could have drinks and food and at one point there was a small group singing and clapping as walkers came by. As we stopped to look they started singing to us - bienvenidos touristas. how did they know we were tourists? We are very very pale in comparison to everyone else as many people here are native Indian people.
Our campsite, Camping Carlos Xamena is described in Lonely Planet as probably the best campsite in Argentina, perhaps it was the case in the past but it's a bit tired now and I don't think Lonely Planet have checked recently either. When we arrived it was packed with pilgrims all picnicking and preparing for their final walk up to the cathedral and we rather doubted if we would find space for our seven vans but it was fine and we settled in amongst the crowds the barbecues and the noise. As it happened these pilgrims were setting off soon after and we had a quiet if tatty camping area to ourselves.
Salta was packed when we arrived as Saturday was the fiesta day and when we arrived pilgrims from different towns were processing through the main square, all in groups from their villages or districts with flags and virgins. It was all very jolly and movers good natured and we were really pleased that we had chanced upon it all.
The Inca people regarded these mountains as sacred and would make sacrifices to them. In 1999 some archeologists investigated a sacrifice site and discovered three young children who had been sacrificed to the mountain, a little girl of 7 a boy of 6 and a girl of about 15. The altitude and the cold meant that the bodies were perfectly preserved and there is a fascinating museum here in Salta dedicated to this find. We visited this yesterday and it was really interesting to learn more about the traditions of these ancient people and to see their skills in all sorts of materials. The mummy of the little girl was on display in sealed unit to preserve her condition. The children were from good families and it would appear to have been an honour to be sacrificed so you could join your ancestors and look down over your living relatives. The children had been given alcoholic drinks so were unconscious when they were left on the mountain, the condition of the mummies suggested that they never woke up. Still very sad to see. We couldn't take photos but if you check the website you may learn more at www.maam.culturasalta.gov.ar