Pre-Blog Highlights

1. Las Altas Cumbres between Córdoba and Mina Clavero

The route between Córdoba city and the town of Mina Clavero takes you through a picturesque mountainous area – when we drove through, it was very foggy, giving it a mysterious vibe. After breaking though the foggy ascent, we stopped at some pretty rock formations where we were on level with the clouds. A bit further on, we visited a location called La Ola, or The Wave, where there are a few climbing routes, as well as a pretty stream across the highway. Córdoba was one of the first places Tincho came to climb, and while this was not the very first location, it definitely brought back some memories for him.

2. Los Elefantes in Mina Clavero

An interesting formation of rocks; I imagine this waterfall and river used to be much deeper. Tincho says the name comes from the fact that the rocks look like elephants, but I don’t really see it. Perhaps the round puddles look like elephant foot steps?

3.  La Yunga

En route from San Miguel de Tucumán to Tafí Del Valle on road number 307, there is a sub tropical rain forest in a region of the small mountain range called the Nevados del Aconquija. It’s quite a surprise to hit this wet area, especially when a lot of the north is so arid. The route has significant historical importance as well as it was one of the first routes through the Calchaquies mountains.

4.  This sweet dog who adopted us in La Rioja – there were lots of stray dogs wandering around in each town. I’m a dog lover but figure as long as they are able to eat, they are doing alright (though we did drive past a few who had become road kill 😓) This fellow trotted right up to me in the centro of La Rioja, put his paw on me, and hung out. We got up to leave, but ran into him again half way across town 30 minuetes later! He followed us as we walked back to the hostel.

5. Talampaya

This is the name of an incredible red canyon, as well as a national park. We got marooned in La Rioja as we waited for Monday (and an open auto repair shop for a clutch replacement), and ended up taking the local micro to the park. There, we treated ourselves to the best guided tour available – it had everything; a sweet guide, crazy old ladies fighting over seats, local fauna sightings, as well as wine and snacks, including some yummy fried dough sticks (I may never find them again) and amazing locally grown olives. I learned that the ostrich is called a Suri there, there are animals related to the rabbit called the Mara, llamas are called Guanacos, and there is an endangered bird called a Matineta. I have to admit I asked the guide far more linguistic related questions than geographical ones. The area is gorgeous and we wish we had had more time to explore the other paths and routes that visitors take.

Formation called The Cathedral

Formations called The Totem and The Tower (others were called The Monk and Temple – yes folks, there was a theme)

This canyon is special because of it’s very straight walls, caused by, what else, a prehistoric river.

The site has historical significance – scientists believe that it was a point along an ancient trade route, as evidenced by hieroglyphs in the area.

6. A bit tongue in cheek, but gaining confidence in driving stick shift was also a high light on this trip! Getting into first is still a bit tense, but these past couple of months I came a long way 😎

Las Salinas Grande de Jujuy

Friday, May 19

We leave the lovely Estela behind in Cachi, and make our way along la ruta 33 en route to Las Salinas Grandes in Jujuy. We pass through the Cardon National Park and along La Cuesta del Obispo, a winding, picturesque road through the mountains, down into the eponymous capital of Salta. Horses, cows, goats and sheep all graze pretty freely along the side of the road. We play tag along the picture points with the one other couple from the hotel whom we made friends with over breakfast, and Tincho hopes that the road will descend directly through the bank of clouds we see below us at the other end of the valley.
Tincho’s dream didn’t come to pass, but we did stumble upon some empanadas worth mentioning at a little hole in the wall restaurant called La Casona in General Güemes, a suburb of Salta. I recommend the cheese and onion.

After the quick lunch we high tail it up to Purmamarca since I want to hit up the salt flats and we need to turn back around and make our way back to Buenos Aires post haste tomorrow.


We pulled into Purmamarca at about 3pm to find a veritable tourist trap. However, I am in heaven – it won’t be difficult for me to step away and buy an alpaca sweater or two. It’s been perhaps 12 years since the family trip to Bolivia that began my mother’s alpaca craze, and you really can’t get a better deal than here in the middle of South America. I’m also hell bent on getting an ornamental piece of cardon for the apartment back in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, the majority of the textile goods and alpaca clothing available are imports from Bolivia (including the one I am wearing below). However, if you find any hand woven items in cream, brown, or gray, it’s a good bet they were made by local collectives.

After a quick tour of Purmamarca we left for the Salinas, which are about an hour away, so we end up pulling over into one of the stations set up for tourists just as the last guide was leaving for the day. Though we asked if we could go out onto the flats and she said “not without a guide,” we pull the car out anyway – the only witnesses are the salt miners on the other side of the highway and a couple on their honeymoon – Tincho offers to take their picture. We’ve reached the farthest point we’d planned for on the trip, the Peugot is covered in a not-so-fine layer of dirt, and we are feeling pretty satisfied with ourselves.

The region is already bone dry and our skin has been feelin the effects for the past couple of days, but the Salinas are brutal. These flats can barely compare in size and scope to Uyuni, Bolivia, but it is only 10 degrees Celsius out here, and Tincho’s sailor friend Tom would be gleeful about how fast the wind is blowing.  We run in circles for a few minutes, trying to capture the best light. Both of our phones die, the wind in my ears gives me a head ache, and Tincho is so static I bet he’d light up like a Christmas tree. Two hours later we climb back into the car, exhausted and content.


The next morning we do a quick “vuelta,” or a turn about, Tilcara. We pick up some papas andinas for Tincho’s dad (they aren’t really available further south, not even in Purmamarca or the capital of the Province, Jujuy) and have a quick lunch of empanadas. The region is known for having great empanadas, but we struck out with a place called Malka. In Tilcara, we saw even more of the Wiphala, or a flag of rainbow blocks. Our host told us that the flag represents all of the small towns in the north that resisted Spanish colonialism, and Wikipedia informs me that the flag represents all native Andeans, with a strong presence in Bolivia, and notes the symbolism of each color.

A note on Purmamarca versus Tilcara; If it weren’t for the myriad of stalls and stores, Purmamarca would be a tiny, sleepy little town. It is subject to the waves of tourists who rumble through, shop, take pictures, then leave. The locals then wait around for the next wave. While there are some high end hotels and shops, there wasn’t really a “cafe,” which tells me that it is not a place to hang out and relax. Tilcara is a bit more cosmopolitan, and has a few museums and historical attractions to boast of. When people heard we were heading to the Salinas, they asked, “Tilcara?” I’m under the impression that the extranjeros go to Purmamarca, and the Argentines hit up Tilcara. It also wasn’t till we got back to Buenos Aires that I noticed that two of the four items I bought were defective – stained in once case and an inconspicuous hole in another. A third item was the result of a bit of hunting – the first few I tried were not quite up to par… I’m inclined to advise against shopping in Purmamarca.

For next time:

– The hills of 7 colors and 14 colors (Purmamarca)

– The cactus garden in Tilcara – go on, call me nerdy

– El Tren de las Nubes; an old steam powered train that has been converted into a restaurant (Salta)

Intro and Cachi

I start this log near the end of our lil road trip here in the north of Argentina… it really hadn’t occurred to me to keep any sort of record until day 8 of 11. While I can’t promise amazing photos (Tincho is more often  exasperated with me than not), elevated prose (I will be writing from my phone), or even that I have done any research or planning at all (estilo Argentino?), I can promise to do my best in sharing my experiences with anyone who cares to read.

Thursday, May 18

We are currently in Cachi, a small town in the province of Salta, located on the famous Ruta 40 (known for traversing the entire length of the country as well as for being unpaved). We rumbled by laborers laying paprika peppers out in the sun to dry (suggestion: bring lotion), and pulled into town at about 4pm. We often hit town right in the middle of siesta – a term that we Americans think we are familiar with, yet we don’t fully grasp; it can last as long as 6 hours here in the far reaches of the country! I imagine it is similar in other regions that take part, and back in Buenos Aires it is more often 2 hours, while many do not take siesta at all. We have found that while the majority of the pueblo will close up shop, you can still find a “resto bar” open all day long on the central plaza. We have tended to eat lunch between 2 and 4, so have often relied on finding a place that is open. Tincho is also unfamiliar with the region, and tried to fall back on the age old tradition of “asking the locals” where to eat… however, I have to say it doesn’t often work out for us. A typical conversation follows;

Tincho: Where can we eat around here?

Local: Around the plaza.

Tincho: Somewhere rico?

Local: Si, around the plaza.

Occasionally we’ll tease a good restaurant out of the people we stop (such as El Hornito in Cafayate), but the trick seems to be finding someone who actually does eat out on occasion, can mentally compare various places and direct us.

In Cachi we ended up at Cafe Oliver and were pleasantly surprised to find a bit more inspiration in the menu, probably due to the owner’s time spent traveling outside the country. Our experience here in Cachi as well as Cafayate leads me to believe that the towns along route 40 are more frequented by tourists traveling the famous camino, and thus have a little more to offer in terms of food and accommodations. We definitely found more “Instagram worthy” subjects in these two towns. Additionally, the locals in these towns tended to be more relaxed laid back and open.


We had planned to drive on the next 5+ hours to Purmamarca in the late afternoon, but us being us, we ended up staying the night and found an amazing hotel called Hosteria Villa Cardon. The cardon is the wood that comes from the cactus that is prevelent in the area, and which has many uses. We really loved the large upright trunks used to hold little decorative plants. The proprietor Estela was an amazing host, and very patient with outsiders. The house itself dates from around 1800 and has traditional double mud walls that are up to two feet thick in places. The roof includes cardon wood with beams of algarrobo, both of which are now protected from deforestation and thus not available for purchase to use in modern construction. Our room cost arg$700, or $46 usd (the most we have paid for accomodation on this trip and with good cause!) For a little more you can get a room with a sky light which I would highly suggest as the stargazing in Cachi was amazing – I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Milky Way with my bare eyes before. I’ve included a photo of the amazing place below as well as a detail shot of some Cardon.

detail of Cardon wood

Detail of Cardon wood

Hostería Villa Cardon

Estela rules the roost from behind this small kitchen
The heart and soul of the hotel, or, the small kitchen from which Estela rules the roost. This room doubles as a tea shop, so even if you don’t stay the night you can stop by for a chat and a cuppa.

The aforementioned ceiling made using Cardon and algarrobo.

For now, we are on our way to Jujuy and updates will certainly follow.

For next time:

La Poma – location of a naturally formed bridge called La Puente del Diablo, includes swimming in a cave! Best for spring.

El Nevado de Cachi – a picturesque group of mountain summits