Monday, 23 April 2007

Heading up to Cachi

My guide book (The Lonely Planet's Argentina - incidentally the worst LP I've ever used - pretty sure the authors didn't leave their 4 star hotel in Buenos Aires!) says children are held up to the bus window on the journey to Cachi to keep them quiet, so wonderful are the vistas.

But there was a problem. No public transport from Cafayate to Cachi, only from the city of Salta. This did not deter me, Ezequiel and Delfina (both PorteƱos)searched and searched for reasonable cost options to make this trip. It worked. A young chap with a very old and tired Peugeot was will to take us for a tenner each. I am so glad he did.

Heading up towards the mountains we passed through the sharpest most jagged peaks I have ever seen. The tilted strata had eroded to form teeth like peaks with narrow valleys in between. It resembled to me the landscape of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings films.

Crossing this range we began our ascent to the Cachi valley. Multi-coloured mountains, dotted with cacti, surrounded us. There was very little traffic on this dusty road, and settlements were few and far between. This was definately off the beaten track.

So imagine the alarm when steam billowed from the bonnet! I think the driver knew this would happen as the boot was full of water bottles to refill the cooler system. Water exhausted we broke down again, but fortunately near a few peoples homes who were able to replenish the water needed. We just made it to Cachi. A six hour journey through wonderful, but lonely, scenery.

Cachi was a tiny village, full of colonial charm. Just a few streets surrounded the tree shaded central plaza. Looming over the village was the snow draped Nevada to Cachi. Although the road Ruta 40 continued northwards over these peaks the next section is only passable with a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Dinner for me in Cachi was something new. Roast shank of goat, a regional speciality, and very good it was too. Up here in the remote Andean valleys the people are mainly indigenous. Dark skin, small stocky stature, and thick black hair, generally plaited for the women folk. This was not European Argentina, this was the area where Spanish rule was resisted most strongly.