Hiking in Search of the Pachamama, Andes, in Argentina – Part 1.f.2

In a previous blog post, I introduced you to the Pachamama, the Andean culture’s Mother Earth, who is celebrated from Peru, through Bolivia and into northern Argentina.

A Hiking Adventure with the Pachamama

In the town of Tilcara, in the valley called Quebrada de Humahuaca in northwest Argentina, my travel group first stops at a llama ranch, for we are hiking up the mountain with these gentle souls transporting our supplies to overnight on the mountain.

But before we set out and start our adventure, we stop at a cairn of rocks, where we offer thanks and prayers for a safe journeys to the Pachamama by rubbing dried cocoa leaves between the palms of our hands and letting them drift onto the round stacked-rock structure.

Connecting to the Ancient History

There in the crease of valley floor and mountain above, I begin to feel a connection to the earth in ancient waves, knowing my path will be one already crossed by civilizations stretching millennia behind me.

In travel, learning ancient traditions and customs of the destination enhances your journey. Click To Tweet
Ancestral Farm Don Isidro Martinez in the Andean, Argentina

Arriving at the Ancestral Farm Don Isidro Martinez

Our travel destination is the ancestral farm of Don Isidro Martinez and we are led there by his daughter and nephew.

Adele urges us along the steep climb of 5 hours with her steady calmness, while Julio provides insight into the area. Our llamas keep a slow and steady pace, much appreciated on the long steep climb. Still, we laugh and chat, excited in the new experience.

Finally our 5 hour hike brings us to our humble destination.

Our path winds us high above the valley and around the mountain so that, when we finally reach the farm in the shadow of an even higher peak, we wonder how anyone can live here, let alone bring goods to sell in town!

Rustic, Raw, Authentic

The farm is merely 2 small adobe structures, one more developed with a patio adjacent, and one 2 room dwelling which is where we will bunk for the evening in cots on its earth floor.

Julio leads us around the mountaintop to show us how farming was done on his family’s land. We walk through terraced fields, along and ingenious canal system that brings water still from the higher mountain, and past the ruins of Don Isidro’s parents’ and grandparents’ houses.

Don Isidro and his family have only begun to open their simple rustic home with no electricity on only a pit toilet in an outhouse to tourism; this visit is special in its underdevelopment and raw authenticity.

Sustainable Tourism to Preserve Heritage 

I am grateful not only to witness a family’s social enterprise, but be a part of preserving their heritage and way of life through sustainable tourism.

Sustainable tourism preserves ways of life and tradition that could be lost in modernization. Click To Tweet

Don Isidro himself seems ancient, and I have quite a few amusing conversations with him in my broken Spanish about his age, which he refuses to fully answer, but I understand to be somewhere between 70 and 87. Julio refuses to clarify, and it becomes a happy joke among our travel group.

Thanking Pachamama for Blessings and Fulfilled Days

Adele has brought a chocolate-laced coffee cake for our late afternoon snack and we eagerly devour it with cups of matte, a communal experience we received education on from our travel guide, Fede.

Late that night we help cook and feast upon a goat asada on the patio, consumed with my wine.

Our first toast is poured upon the ground in thanks to the Pachamama for our days filled with blessings of natural beauty, companionship of each other and our docile llamas, and new friendships.

One way to immerse in authentic travel is through sharing food with local people. Click To Tweet

Andean Music and Dance

Julio proves to be a great musician and singer and introduces us to Andean music and dance.

We end the evening by dragging Don Isidro into a dance off to “Despicito” from the wonders of an iPhone download.

The sky is cloudless and we marvel at the southern constellations before retiring to a deeply dark and silent night to rest.

Don Isidro's wife at her goat farm in the Andean, Argentina

Meeting Don Isidro’s Wife Presentacion

The next morning, there is one more family member to visit – Don Isidro’s wife, Presentacion!

She lives up another mountain in the Argentinian Andes, which Don Isidro say takes him 40 minutes to walk, and I am chagrined to know it took us 2 hours!

Along the way, we pass an old posta, a stop where travelers on trade routes stayed for a night, had a meal, changed animals for fresh ones.


Arriving at the Goat Farm

Huffing and puffing in high altitude and fueled by cocoa leaves in our cheeks for energy, we finally make it to Presentacion’s adobe dwelling where she tends 150 or so goats.

Goat meat, covered from flies by skin pelts are hanging on strung lines in the yard. She declares she has never had this many people (16) at her house before, but she has the help of younger daughter and a granddaughter, and they are ready with goat meat-laced soup and tamales for lunch.

We eat sitting outside; her house is too small for anyone but her and her daughters.

Her land is on another broad mountain top from which we have a dizzying view of the valley far below. We learn that on Easter the villagers carry a statue of the Virgin Mary even higher up than we past this house – worship, and then head back down all in a day!

It makes me question my “countrified” life and gym membership.


Thanks and Another Blessing from the Pachamama

On our way back down the mountain with our llamas later that day, we are mostly silent.

I contemplate the hearty goodbye kiss and strong hug Don Isidro gives me before he pinches my cheek with a twinkle in his eye – still teasing me!

My sweet llama chooses occasionally to lay his head on my shoulder, which is comforting as my muscles are becoming tired.

At the end of our adventure journey we again pause to give thanks to, and receive a blessing from, the Pachamama. In stillness brought on by the vastness of our surroundings, the sound that comes from quietness, the calm brought by effort, I feel I am becoming more connected to the continuum of past, present and future and the fragile preciousness of our Earth.

Adventures in travel broadens perspectives, challenges limitations, and is transformational. Click To Tweet


Note: My adventure journey was arranged by Say Hueque, who arranges travel throughout Argentina and Chile.


Don’t forget to check out our other Argentina blog posts from this series:

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luxury travel advisor Theresa Jackson on one of her adventures journeys

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