After a night in Yakima, we headed south to the Columbia Gorge.
Driving south with my daughter, we were struck by ways the landscape varied every hour: scenic lakes and soft hills giving way to arid, rolling dry grasslands, then a meandering river.
At the end of my travels, I sit drawing, in a peaceful garden in Pinamar unwinding with a pencil, thinking about Salta and all I have seen. Next day, with paints I sit under this pine, listening to parrots chattering and squawking. These small green birds are wild. In summer, they party in a cherry tree once lower branches are picked and fruit has begun to ferment. The result: rowdy drunken parrots falling onto the lawn; their large messy nests must be filled with hung-over birds.
We descend from the harsh heights above Purmamarca, into a softer friendlier area, leading to Salinas. Wild donkeys live here, happily grazing, descendants of burros set free by the Spanish army drove mule trains, following the edge of the Andes south. They graze here as Salinas is pure salt, refreshed every year by rains washing fresh salt to evaporate here. The land can literally blind one. The road cuts straight across.
“Bajo la luz y se llevo todo.” The light dimmed and everything was swept away … when a storm washed out the road to Tilcara. The intense reds and ochre are complimented by the greens, make the land sing. Yet as I celebrate these colours, I am told this is a harsh, challenging place to live.
We climbed up from Purmamarca: Purma atop – marca is settlement. Mesas here are eroded into gothic cathedral-like shapes. They are bare of animals, we are told. Ines is sitting quietly in the back. At the summit, I ask how she is doing. OK, she smiles but she has a touch of siroche. Selfishly I feel fine.
Our next stop was in Volcan – not a volcano but the name of a storm that brings sand and stones down from the mountains, altering landscapes by burying roads and houses. (Glad we were there on a calm, sunny day). No wonder pueblos are built high: closer to God and wind damage in Purmamarca Canyon.
As I settled into the Salta journey, no day felt complete without a sketch. Words also had to be included, such as Sandwicheria: a mesh of Anglo Spanish.
Sugar cane in Salta is used for sugar. In Tucuman it is also used for alcohol and paper as it is of poorer quality. Or so I was told in Salta!
We drove along the fertile valley of the Rio Grande and I drew the little houses with their water tanks jauntily on high.