Special to Wolfman Luggage
Argentina is huge and you need at least few months to to explore its full diversity. But don’t let that dissuade you. If all you’ve got is a couple of weeks, there are plenty of day trips where you’ll find yourself happily in the middle of nowhere, or at least happily far far away from the tourist types. This series will focus on not-be-missed roads and the special places they will take you.
Ruta 83 Parque Nacional Calilegua
After spending time exploring the painted beauty of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, it’s time for an abrupt change of scenery. A lesser known, and therefore lesser explored area of Jujuy is on the eastern slope on Ruta 83, home of the lush Jungas of Parque Nacional Calilegua.
An easy and not particularly scenic drive, you’ll head south on Ruta 9, skirting the main city of San Salvador de Jujuy and connect with Ruta 34 north. You’ll pass through mostly rural landscapes and the occasional scrappy little industrial town, before you reach the entrance to the park after about 2.5hrs (181km). This is where the fun really begins!
Look for a clearly marked turnoff into Calilegua, it’s hard to miss because you’ll notice the Rio San Lorenzo, where you’ll find local families cooling off in the water and enjoying an asado along the roadway. It’s a good place to stop, stretch your legs and also assess your supplies. Because where you’re going, the amenities are very few indeed. From experience, snacks and petrol and the keys to success. If you’re in good shape then onward for the next leg of your journey onto the gravel of Ruta 83 and deep into the Jungas!
Ruta 83 is a single lane gravel road which runs deep into Calilegua connecting the world with several small villages. To reach our destination, the village of San Francisco, it’s a modest 39km, but you’ll be driving much slower, along medium to poor gravel with potholes and baby heads, switchbacks and coping with oncoming traffic around precarious bends. So speed is not an option here. Slow and steady, to keep safe, but also enjoy several views along the way. Honking as you approach blind corners is good etiquette.
Two hours would be a good approximation of time to reach San Francisco. When you finally make it you’ll certainly be ready for a beer and food, but suppress the urge and instead sort our your accommodations before dark. It will be extremely hard to find a place to sleep while wandering around with a head-lamp. There are a few families in this tiny village who let out rooms and offer meals in a bed and breakfast style. The local hostel might catch your eye first, as there are two on the main road as you enter town, but we recommend seeking out more familial accoms.
A local sent us in the direction of the Sabastien family who had a small, but clean and comfy building on their property with rooms and private baths and a garden. They were more than happy to include us in their dinner and breakfast planning for the time were were there. The cost was 200 pesos, which is approx $25 Cdn. They also had secure parking, but I’m not so sure that would be needed here. Worth noting that they don’t speak English, but basic Spanish and sign language goes a long way.
Once settled you now have as much time as you like to explore the area. The village itself has a lot of character and developing features such a power generator rather awkwardly located in the middle of town. This is mixed with the serene beauty of the jungle and local farms butting up against the scattered homes. Horses roam freely all over town, as do dogs, chickens and of course the local kids playing football. As aforementioned, there are not many amenities. We found the local “restaurant” which doubles as a community gathering space among other things to have beers and snacks. There is also a TV with satellite for watching football matches, the news and daytime dramas.
On our second day we hired a local guide to take us for hike into the Jungas to a popular waterfall. It was not a strenuous hike, but very pleasant with views of the valley below. If you’re more athletically inclined there are many more adventurous hikes in the area that take you to see some dramatic features, such as watering holes and more spectacular waterfalls. If you’re feeling lo-key like we were, there are also lots of nice walks into the rural outskirts. It doesn’t take long to adapt to the easy-going pace of village life and all those horses milling around.
One thing to mention, is while village life has a sleepy quality to it, the nightlife is VERY active. So bring earplugs if you want to get a wink of sleep, because the cacophony of dogs, cows, horses and insects go from dusk till dawn.