Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Amaicha del Valle

Amaicha del Valle is a beautiful town 55 kms from Tafi del Valle. It is a sleepy small place with a micro climate that has 360 sunny days a year.

The town is high up in the Sierra de Aconquija and is the traditional home to the Calchaqui Diaguita Indigenous community. It is said that inhabitants of Amaicha have the purest indigenous blood in all of Argentina.

Part of the reason for this is the nearby Quilmes Ruins. The Quilmes were indigenous people who built a terraced city in the mountains and managed to hold out against the Spanish for 130 years. The survivors of the bloody struggle were sent to various distant parts of Argentina to prevent them gathering in force and re-taking their Holy Land. The story of Quilmes is fascinating. The ancient city was sold for a mere $70 to a business man who built a luxury hotel with swimming pool at the foot of the ruins. Only after prolonged legal action did the Quilmes people finally get their holy city returned to them. This was in the 1970s. Since then Quilmes has become one of Argentina's less well known but very significant historical sites. Like Tilcara it is of immense archaeological and sociological significance. It is the Machu Picchu of Argentina. And like Machu Picchu the area has an indescribable aura of ancient mystery and colonial brutality. The terracing goes in a narrowing V up a gorge with vertiginous look out posts on either side. The surrounding area is an untouched desert wilderness.

To get to Quilmes Ruins you can catch a bus that drops you at the road leading up to the site (about 5km walk) or you can hire a taxi or you can go with a tour group. It is very possible to hitch hike back to Amaicha after you have seen Quilmes Ruins.

In Amaicha there is the Pachamama (Earth Mother) museum which contains a history of the region and many startling examples of indigenous art.

9 kms outside of Amaicha del Valle are a series of waterfalls called El Remate. The trek to the falls and back makes a good day out. For those who enjoy horse back riding there are countless trails to follow including one to Tiu Punco, the desert's door.

Amaicha del Valle hostels are cheap. They offer dorms, private rooms and camping.  In the summer Amaicha is very popular with young alternative people. It is sometimes jokingly referred to as 'Jamiacha'. Be warned, police sometimes search foreigners leaving Amaicha for drugs.

Finally, every February Amaicha del Valle holds a popular Pachamama Festival.

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