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Hotel La Casa de Tata (= The house of my grandfather) was not only comfortable and photogenic, but the restaurant had an excellent kitchen and a great house red wine of which many a carafe were sampled. Despite this we stuck to our 7 a.m. alarm call, 8 a.m. breakfast and 9 a.m. on the road routine. At least that was the plan. As I stood under the shower, nicely soaped and ready to rinse myself down, first the hot water, than the cold water stopped flowing. These things happen in South America and are usually fixed in minutes. This time word soon spread from hotel management that there must have been a fault with the town’s water supply that had been updated in recent weeks. Never mind, at least I had my shower, sort of, but the others were less fortunate.

It should again be a relaxed drive to our next destination as in 2008 we had managed the full La Quiaca to Campo Quijano stretch in one day. The only unknowns were the ease with which we could negotiate two state capitals: San Salvador de Jujuy and Salta.

But first we went to check out a stop that Brian Bates had sent through that morning for Blossfeldia along RN 9, near the turning to RN 52, the road to Purmamarca. Rather than a set of GPS coordinates, he had provided a set of cryptic clues rather like those of a treasure hunt rally. There was no information as to how old this data was. We were to look for a picnic table along the side of the road – not found – and from there go past a ‘prayer shack’ – small church? road side monument? Again, nothing fitting these descriptions in the widest possible sense were found. No disaster, as we had found Blossfeldia near by yesterday, but it would have been nice to have added another spot to the list. We took a wide angle picture to send to Brian in due course to show him what we had seen. May be we were miles off the spot where we should have been, but no picnic tables were spotted between Maimara and the turning to RN52.

SS de Jujuy turned out easy to negotiate as there was a nice modern highway style bypass.

We followed RN 9 as it turned from a multilane highway to a very narrow, in places single track, tarmac road that took us through the subtropical rainforest that had amazed us in 2005 and 2008. Not so much the flora itself but the great contrast with the conditions when we left this morning.

We had moved from dry Andean conditions, waiting for the summer rains in December – February and were driving through a subtropical rainforest with epiphytic cacti, all kinds of Bromeliads, ferns and Orchids hanging from the trees, some of which were in flower themselves.

But wait a minute! These trees were also much drier than on previous trips and some were showing the effects of lack of water by stem sacrifice, shedding branches. Some were just coming into leaf – it is Spring here, after all, but others had not and could be dead?

S1933 and S1934 were for pictures taken at various brief stops along this very scenic section of some 30 km of RN9, then it was on to do battle with Salta.

I felt a bit more confident with Juan and his SatNav leading the way. That was until the right turn it recommended turned out to be a one way street! They were improving the roads (much needed) which meant diversions which sent SatNav in a spin. Ian, Cliff and David behind the steering wheel of Big Red were following closely, at times confused by my last minute turns. When ever possible, Angie would communicate Juan’s instruction via the Walkie Talkie’s. It worked well and the team ended up on whet looked like a motorway being built. Just a lonely truck in front of us, no other traffic or traffic signs or road markings and by UK standards not yet ready for traffic as the surface had not yet been swept.

We passed a sign that said that bicycles were not allowed on the road. Next we passed a couple of cyclists. At last we came to an intersection where motorways petered out and found a sign to Campo Quijano, our destination for the night. A cheer went up in both cars.

We found the hotel that had served us well in 2008 and booked in again for the night. After some prompting, the owner remembered us. Not much had changed. Even the Christmas decorations were still up. Or was it ‘up already’?

With plenty of daylight left, we decided to make the stop at Campo Quijano Station this afternoon. It left us unimpressed, plant wise, again lack of water being the issue. Pictures recorded as S1935.

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