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Quebrada del Toro

The Quechuan people of the Andean regions in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru believe that the mountains have spirits and are protectors of the land. A visit to this canyon is enough to convert most modern scientific minds who might scoff at such a belief. The Río del Toro, after which the Quebrada is named, runs through its center and all throughout is diverse plant life, ranging from various species of catcti to groves of ceibo trees, whose corral blossom is Argentina’s national flower. On either side rise the majestic Andes, often shrouded in their characteristic mist, and always so massive and awe-inspiring it would be difficult not to believe they had spirits.

For most of the year, the title River of the Bull seems something of a misnomer, but there are times—during spring especially—when the quiet trickle becomes bullish indeed. Whether torrent or rivulet, however, one thing is certain: the Río del Toro courses through a vast, geographically rich canyon, where even the mountains change. In the lowlands near Salta, they are a stolid-looking grey granite, peaking out through verdant shrubbery. But as the road approaches Santa Rosa de Tastil the climate becomes drier and the mountains change from monotone grey to vivid layers of sedimentary rock.

The canyon has a long history as a transport route for goods and communication. A portion of the Inca trail extends through its mountains, along which are several sites that seem to have been used for visual communication throughout the region. When the Spaniards arrived, they used the Quebrada to move cattle and mules from Salta to the Atacama Desert of Chile, and then in the mid-20th century the completion of the Tren a las Nubes (Train to the Clouds) aided commerce by simplifying the transfer of goods.

Route 51, the bumpy highway through the Quebrada, runs parallel to the railway. It begins in Campo Quijano, the lush weekend retreat also known as the Portal of the Andes, and climbs its way higher and higher before reaching the puna. Along the way it passes through Santa Rosa de Tastil, best known for the ruins of a massive pre-Incan city, before it ends at the mining town of San Antonio do los Cobres.









By Suzanne Russo
Suzanne's childhood travel experiences were limited to road trip forays with her parents, and the thrill that came with crossing the state line,...
24 Nov 2010

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