January 20, 2010

Discovering the Valley of Calchaquies

So here we were, on the road with our rented car. Readyyy??? We knew more or less where we wanted to go but decided to let some space for improvisation. It was raining a lot when we left Salta but it stopped quickly to let the sun shine. We wanted to go to Cachi but we got stopped by the police, the dusty road was cut because of the rain. So we decided to do the loop in the other direction: Salta –Cafayate –Cachi and back to Salta.

The road to Cafayate is paved all the way and crossing the Quebrada de Las Conchas. The road is sinuous between the eroded red rock formations. The first stop was the Garganta del Diablo (Evil’s throat) which is represented by an immense circular wall about 15 meters high, eroded by water, forming a human trachea.  Then we stopped at El Anfiteatro (The amphitheater) which is forming a circular space, where the acoustics are so good you do not need power amplifiers for recitals. There was a guy playing guitar when we were there.  All along the road, the scenery is beautiful : mountains with different colors and with some amazing desert oasis.

La Garganta del Diablo

We arrived in Cafayate to look for a hotel. But Cafayate is very touristic and especially during the summer season, it’s hard to find a room especially if you’re four. But after looking around, we finally found a room in a basic hotel.  Cafayate is surrounded by wineries and is well known for its wine. So the next day we went to visit the Bodega Nanni, small with organic wine.

Then it was time to hit the road to make our way to Cachi. The 150 kilometers were on a dusty road, passing through the Quebrada de Las Flechas. The road go through a forest of arrows carved by the wind and erosion. A super rocky landscape of many colors! We stopped in the middle of nowhere to have lunch and took an guy who was hitchhiking. Who thought we could fit 5 persons with big backpacks in an opel corsa? He was from Tucuman and traveling for his holidays. We arrived in Cachi in the late afternoon and found a small hostel to stay.

At 1228 meters hight and with a population of 7000 inhabitants, Cachi is like a frozen picture with its narrowed stone streets, its typical colonial houses built entirely with materials from the region: cactus wood and floors in rustic adobe. Cachi kept intact its ancestral customs, inherited from the first inhabitants, the weaving, pottery making, regional foods and so on. On the 8th of January, in the morning, we climbed to the cemetery to have a view on the city and surroundings. Then we went to the Parque Todos los nuestros. They have constructed replica building from several phases of the Valley’s history. It’s really well done!

Street of Cachi (up), a local couple (down)

At the Parque Todos Los Nuestros ; making bread :)

On the way back to Salta, we took the Recta de Tin Tin, a straight road at 3000 meters high with cactus along the road. Off course we stopped for our cactus photos! As soon as we left the paved road, we met with frog, rain and cold! We went up to 3,348 meters high. The temperatures went down from 30°C to 10°C in a few kilometers, crazy!!  And as soon as we started going down the mountains, the landscape changed and we felt like we were in Ireland: green, green, green!
We arrived back to Salta tired but with amazing pictures in our cameras. We went back to the same hotel and felt almost like coming back home!

the Cactus Park and recta de Tin Tin

as soon as we left the paved road, we couldn't see anything!
We were in T-shirt but it was really cold (12°C!)

Doesn't that look like Ireland?


Christine said...

Great written stuff, Claire! And it's all true!!

Dorothy said...

Where exactly is this?

nonoguate said...

It's near Salta, in the north west of Argentina. An amazing place to visit!