In San Pedro we bumped into a Dutch couple who were traveling with their 9 year old daughter in a Mitsubishi 4×4. They flagged us down when we passed, on our way to the garage. Their motor cooling system had failed and despite several repairs was still not working. They followed us to the garage we had identified. Later on in the hostel we saw them again. The temperature problem could still not be solved. They would drive slowly to the mining town of Calama the next day, and hopefully there the problem could be diagnosed and solved.
We left in the morning after a good night sleep and a warm shower towards Argentina. Firstly, the road slowly climbed up to 4200 m, and then following the Bolivian border, rising further to a maximum of 4835 m. Nothing grows at this height. You’re driving through a dusty valley with mountain peaks left and right of over 6000 m high. A nice drive since we were used to this height by now. The border crossing into Argentina went, as usual, without any problems. Again both the Chilean and Argentinean customs were very friendly. We slowly descended the mountains to the Salinas Grande (salt lake) at 3400 m to climb up again to 4200m. The Salinas is by far not as large as that of Uyuni so we did not stop here. Too much Déjà vu. What goes up must come down. The descend is beautiful along a steep winding road. I am impressed how the long trucks full of cars coming from Chile and going into Argentina can make the sharp curves. Further down the mountain we started to hear a 3 beep alarm at every other curve. It was not clear what the message was on the dashboard since the warning light went out too quick. We reached the bottom and found a camping spot in one of the side valleys just before sunset. After checking the camper manual, it suggested that we were low on cooling fluid.
The next day we first drove to the nearby tourist town of Purmamarca where we bought some cooling fluid and filled up the reservoir. This town is known for its colorful rock formations which we visited. In fact the whole valley going north to Bolivia (Quebrada de Humahuaca) has several colorful rock exposures.
In Humahuaca we admired the town square and independence monument before turning around and heading south, down the valley and the mountain.
First we were driving above the clouds in the distance valley but at one point we went through them and below the clouds (<2000 m), the valley suddenly became green and there were trees again. That was a very strange feeling after having seen no forests and green countryside for weeks. During the descent the 3 beep noise started again and, since the display finally worked (the display goes on and off), the message was clear. STOP driving and add brake fluid was the message. We reduced speed and drove to the nearest petrol station to buy the brake fluid. Unfortunately when I tried to fill the container, it became clear that we bought the wrong fluid (Dot 3 instead of Dot 4, whatever that means?). By that time we had driven further down the mountains and the alarm was becoming more serious. So with caution and breaking on the motor as much as possible, we found another petrol station after 60 km. We added the whole 200 ml and never heard or saw the alarm again. We camped outside the town of Jujuy at a water reservoir where in the morning trucks come to collect gravel. During the night we heard a big metal bang. In the morning we checked everything under the car but could not find anything wrong. When driving we could hear a rattling noise and upon inspection (again), we found the left rear spring broken.
We took the small but scenic RN9 down to Salta. The road winds slowly around the mountains towards the town. It was very slow driving. Fortunately there is a much better road further down the mountains towards the east which takes most of the traffic. RN9 is more for the tourists nowadays, so there are several camping along the way. In Salta, we drove to the large municipal camping just outside the town centre. At a nearby petrol station with very fast Wi-Fi, the blog was updated. Rudy then went on the bicycle to find a suitable garage. The mechanic wanted to see the car but after seeing the broken spring, he said that it could not be welded. This was not a surprise given that a weld is rigid and the spring metal is flexible. Jamaliah managed to get the broken piece out of the spring and hopefully no rattling sound anymore. Now the last 850km to Cordoba but first a visit to town.
We ask at the gate where you could buy a pass for the bus. They pointed to an unknown place down the road. We actually walked all the way into the town centre and still could not find where we could buy a bus ticket.
We passed a large food court on the way to the city centre. I had promised Jamaliah that she did not have to cook. She needed a break. However in the afternoon when we passed the food court again it was closed. So that promise still stands. In town we did find a very nice small place next to the St Francisco church which sold great empanadas. It was mentioned in Lonely Planet so more tourist dropped in. We had several empanadas and also 2 salatinas which is a corn passed wrapped into a corn leaf. These ones were delicious.
In the centre of Salta they have closed off a large section which is only for pedestrians. That makes exploring the city centre a lot more enjoyable. I which they had done this in Sucre and Potosi in Bolivia as well. The central place was also well laid out surrounded by old colonial buildings with archways. In one of them we visited a museum which showed 3 child mummies which were found on top of one of the nearby holy mountains (6800 m). They were laid to rest in Inca time as a sacrifice to the gods. The children were between 7 and 15 years old and came from elite families.
Further down the road we visited a private collection of pre-Columbian art. The caretaker was very enthusiastic and led us around the museum showing the relationships between all the different cultures.
During the siesta time the churches were still open so the Cathedral and the already mentioned St Francisco church were visited.
Since we still had no bus ticket it was a long (5 km) but pleasant walk back through town. Rudy did however pay the price for the long walk having an annoying foot pain all night and the next day. The lumps in the Orthopedic shoes are not always in the right place especially when your foot slides back and forth in the shoe.