Roadtripping the valleys of Cachi and Cafayate

Argentina's flag
South America » Argentina » Salta » Calchaquí Valleys
June 16th 2009
Published: June 19th 2009
Edit Blog Post

After taking a bus from Salta to the extremely polished and clean -though pretty- village of Cachi, i had a problem. I was in a perfectly beautiful region, with high mountains, exploreable surrounding towns, a legendary valley to venture into and more, and i felt indifferent. Perhaps it's the 'last days syndrome' kicking in: i look forward to being back, but at the same time i want to keep on going, and i want to make these last weeks as impressive as possible. This pretty much immobilised me: what to choose between taking your time, or to fit in more sights?
I solved the problem by ordering a beer and tasty provoleta, on a sunny terrace, with Mario Vargas Llosa's 'El pez en el agua' to accompany me. It's -like alway with Vargas Llosa- a fantastic book, and autobiographical. It tells about his younger years, how he became an author, and about his political career at the end of the 80s, when he was running for president in Peru with a radically liberal program. Since radical liberalism is something i can not in the least identify myself with, it made for a very interesting, conflicting read. Vargas Llosa's idealism and 'clean politics' are admirable, yet at the same time it is obvious that his politics would turn the country in yet another sweatshop for the west.
Anyway, since reading was so much fun, i decided to get far more into it (up to this moment, i had only been reading 'Footprint's South American Handbook 2007' and 'Quick Fix Spanish Grammar'), and to combine that with hitchhiking slowly towards the south (initially, i wanted to get to Mendoza this way), stopping to stay the tourist attractions, but staying in small, unexplored corners.
The owner of the restaurant i was having my beer at got me from Cachi to San José, a dusty town with crumbling old buildings - all in the portico-style common for this region, with columned galleries in front. From there, i walked until i got a ride in the back of a truck -transporting tasty mandarins- that led me to Seclantas. I got a bed in the local auberge and got showed around town by a man that had lost his marbles and was convinced he was a very good impersonator of Robbie Williams.
The next day, i walked for a while before i got picked up by a van dropping me off at Molinos. A short walk later (this all happened in a really pretty valley, full of candelabra cacti and bordered by imposing mountains), i got a ride from an SUV with a wealthy Argentine couple inside. We cruised the impressive Quebrada de Flechas, a rocky canyon with sculptures made by wind erosion, while talking politics and the advantages of sending one's children out into the world instead of having them stay at home for too long. At the nice town of San Carlos, i got out to get a beer and read in the sun.
Since the campground of San Carlos was not too interesting, i walked until the sun went down, and asked a farming family if i could stay on their land. There, i played with a nest of puppies and tought the two young boys present the basics of vegetarian camping cooking without setting one's self on fire.
On the 14th, i got to Cafayate, a grand tourist centre, where one can visit vineyards. I tasted a tasty Torrontes at a bodega, and set out for the ruins of Quilmes. I found a car that dropped me off at the road to those, where Paola and Ricardo (i hope that's his name) picked me up. The ruins of Quilmes are very impressive: all the walls of a pre-incan Daiguita town of 5000 people, set against a mountain side. The location was so good that it was never conquered by the inca's, and it took the conquistadores 150 years before they could finally control the place. From the top of town, you can oversee the whole layout, made even better by all the giant cacti. The setting and history might be less legendary than Macchu Picchu, but the architectural side of the Quilmes town need not be ashamed when compared to the Peruvian ruins (i guess).
My driver friends took me further down South, through the valleys of Tafi del Valle and the lush selvas, until we arrived at Tucumán, where they even found me a hostel. I felt like one lucky hitchhiker. The two following days, i hung out with artesano Diego and other hostel guests, and read in Tucumán's giant park. After finishing 'El pez en el agua', i made an exchange to Gabriel Garcia Marquez' 'El amor en los tiempos del cólera', a fine read so far. There is not a lot to do in Tucumán, but it's refreshingly untouristy, so i could slip away into city life.
While reading on the main square, i met a prophet ("no soy de la tierra, vengo del cielo"), who tried hard to make me see the red letters in the sky, but to no avail. He was preparing for the apocalyps (should happen next month), and if i just did my best, i might get saved.


Tot: 0.059s; Tpl: 0.014s; cc: 8; qc: 53; dbt: 0.0119s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.3mb