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
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