March 1, 2014
Carpe Diem is a European style B&B in an old Spanish home. Silke and Riccardo, the hosts, speak a multitude of languages and are gracious but reserved. Though presenting nothing more than a door on a busy Salta street, the spacious home but a short walk from Plaza 9 de Julio, features many comfortable sitting areas as well as a spacious garden. I was a little cool on the Place at first but I have grown more pleased with it.
After a breakfast of cold cuts, fresh bread, cheese, and cafe au lait, I head to Salta's Museum of High Altitude Archaeology (MAAM). The museum is famous for one thing, the Llullaillaco children.
In 1999 archaeologists found the preserved remains of three Inca children buried 500 years earlier on Mount Llullaillaco, a 6700m mountain in the province of Salta. The Inca, revering the sun and the restless volcanoes, sacrificed their children by leaving them to die on the tops of mountains. Theses three children, one of whom is on display at MAAM, were 6, 7, and 15 years old. On the day of their burials, each was dressed in fine clothes, married to a member of another clan to cement clan-clan ties, then buried alive after drinking an alcoholic brew so as to put them to sleep.
The story makes me wonder about the actual pre-burial process. Climbing to 6700 m (21,900 feet) is no walk in the park. This is a very far distance, icy cold and low in oxygen regardless of time of year. Where was the ceremony, at the top of the mtn? Did the kids know what was to happen, when did they start drinking? It is all very curious.
The museum is controversial with some. They don't like their ancestors to be disturbed.
Later in the day I walk about twenty three city blocks to a large market for artisans. Based in an old mill house, the items sold have been certified (no factory-made junk) and prices controlled, whatever that means. Today the market is also hosting the first day of carnival celebrations with live music by native people as well as face painting and a lot of glitter/confetti floating about, which is also popular in Tilcara.
Tonight I eat dinner at a French-ish restaurant. Paul eats ravioli and I have chicken. No llama today. Towards the end of the evening the cook (complete with cook's hat) walks out to talk to each dinner guest. As I walk back to the B&B I pass a large old building running occupying a whole city blocks, a convent, and in front are several setsof newlyweds having their pictures taken.
Salta is an interesting city. A bit worn but with enough charm and variety to offer several days of enjoyment for the traveller.