After a breakfast (desayuno) of coffee, granola, and fruit, I pick up a picnic lunch from Pat, the helpful, English- speaking hotel manager, borrow a walking stick, then set out to hike to a nearby canyon and waterfall.
Garganta del Diablo (Devil's throat) is about 6km from Tilcara. My plan is to get there and back by midday so as to avoid the chilly afternoon winds that sweep down the mountain.
The trail is not particularly steep and junctions are well marked (in Spanish) but I can feel the altitude. As I hike up the mountain the plants change from grass and scrubby trees to flowering sage and cactus plus many yellow flowers.
The trail follows the Huasamayo river which is Tilcara's water source. At the slot canyon, the Devil's throat, much of the river water is routed into an open channel which is collected and then fed into Tilcara. Most of the town's buildings have rooftop water tanks for storage and pressure.
The trail is shared by tourists (Hola!) and locals driving burros laden with stuff. I feel like a rich gringo trespassing on their land, with fancy hiking clothes and a camera that costs more than they make in a year, two years, who knows. But later I read that the locals want tourists who bring money to their community so my discomfort is eased though only by a small amount.
The hike gives expansive views of the surrounding mountains which feature a lot of water-carved geological features and a beautiful band of red-rock, all of which continues to remind me of one of my favorite places, Death Valley. Mornings are especially beautiful as the sun gradually highlights the bands of white, brown, and red rock.
Once I reach the trail's highest point (about 3000 m altitude) I check in at a small station manned by a friendly local. I pay ten pesos then sign in. He then walks me around to explain (in spanish) the path from this point to the falls. I know this because he gives me a Spanish/English pamphlet so I can follow along.
I then climb down from this overlook to the riverbed. The falls are up the river. Unfortunately, the last short bit to the falls involves several river crossings and I'm not interested in getting wet, so I stop to eat lunch and take more pictures. I'm not actually disappointed; I've seen a lot of waterfalls. The beautiful mountains, the plants, and my friendly fellow hikers are enough for me.
The hike down is easier than the hike up, of course, and I arrive back at the hotel just as the cold winds start up. Oh and please excuse typos and grammar as the Internet is slow - satellite? - so I am writing off line then transferring to this blog. Ciao!