Only 16 hours by bus and 1,000 kilometers separate the “european Argentina” from the native one.
I can’t really call this area more authentic but definitely is very different from what I have seen so far.
As soon I have surpassed the boundaries of the province of Buenos Aires entering into the province of Salta, women and men with traits Europeans are replaced by people of small stature, black hair and darker skin.
This Country never ceases to amaze me, the versatility and diversity of the territories reflect a population that is far from homogeneous.
North Argentina trip Photo Essay – From Cafayate to Salta
I arrive to the north of Argentina directly from Buenos Aires with a bus trip of 20 hours.
First stop: Tafi del Valle, a delightful little village 2 hours drive from Tucuman.
Even if very tired I still have a bit of strength to walk through the small town, everything is closed, it’s siesta time, so I sit in a bar having a chat with the bored and not very busy waiters waiting till the 5pm drinking mate de coca e reading a bit.
One main street where all the little tourist activities, few people around. It’s low season and, I guess, a usually sleepy town this days is even more sleepy than during the high season.
Despite this scenario reminding me some western movies, Tafi del Valle is introducing me into an Argentina completely different from what I have experienced until now.
I see blades nibbling in the unfenced field next to my hostel, as I walk the streets deep dark eyes of women and children stare at me, this situation takes me back with the memory to some Central American Countries.
The next day I decide to go to Cafayate (pronounced Cafasciate, the y in Argentina sounds more like a “scg”), the land of Torrontes, the famous white wine and the vineyards in the desert and also town of the Quebrada de Las Conchas.
The microclimate of Cafayate is so particular that despite the arid desert an high-quality wine is produced, and this kind can only be made with this particular climate.
Just moving of thirty-kilometer further the vineyards scattered with huge cactus in the middle of the finca disappear, making room for activities devoted to hand-crafts or the cultivation of pepper and tobacco.
Without even realizing I got to altitude 1680 on the sea level.
Cafayate has a population of about 12,000 inhabitants, the town sits in the valley of Calchaquí, about 4 hours by minibus from Tafi del Valle.
Beyond the roofs of the houses I see only high mountains, it’s like around us there is nothing.
This dormant and silent town has a special charm. Small and low houses with colored walls make me feel for the first time in a long time in the Latin America I expected.
Women gather long hair blacks and smooth tied in long braids, men smoke cigarettes in the sun or chew coca leaves sitting at the bar, all walk slowly along the dusty and sunny streets.
People here seem to live with little and thoughtless, as if there is no hurry. Actually there is not hurry at all, no stress, no traffic. There is always enough time to ride bikes or walk, slowly because not all roads are paved.
In a side street not far from the bars and restaurants for tourists I ate at a local Comedor (local restaurant), Dora, one where there is no menu and you eat the dish of the house. For 17AR $ (just over EUR 3) I ate a good picada de fiambre with mushed potatoes and drank a coke.
During the walk through the many craft markets known that local stalls selling things I would have imagined to find in Peru or Bolivia.
Another confirmation of this slow approach to the two countries a little further north. And I am entering fully into the mood of Latin American trip.
In the hostel (Hostel Ruta 40) sparsely populated, is low season now, the chance would I met Liz, Juan and Magui (from Brazil, Spain and Argentina respectively) that the next day they would go to Salta via Cachi with a taxi.
There is an empty seat. Without thinking twice I join them!
For AR$ 250 ($50 € each) Omar made me live one of the most beautiful and impressive experiences on the road of my year and an half traveling.
The journey from Cafayate to Cachi is only possible by private as there aren’t micro (how mini-bus are called) that lead to this other famous tourist destination.
There are minibuses only from Salta. The journey lasted about 12 hours (with stops and lunch but still intense) it has been rewarding and totally justified the expense.
The landscape has changed many times, we have gone from what millions of years ago was a lake and that now is a dispersive Valley filed rocks eroded by wind and rain, deserts populated by huge cacti, including the National Park Los Cardones (ie cacti), hectares and hectares of cactus taller than 4 meters, drank mate de coca, sucked coca leaves when we got up to 3400 meters on the sea level, where the landscape wasn’t the desert anymore but became a green and huge paint of impressive mountains.
All this along the famous Route 40 that leads on from Patagonia up to northern Argentina by crossing in long, well-5,000 kilometers of road.
Instead of typing in words the particular day I leave this arduous task to photos.
This is a journey not to be missed in Argentina remote that shows itself in its incredible variety human and territorial.
Routa 40 – From Cafayate to Salta
The day begins at 8 am in Cafayate. Omar comes to pick us up at the hostel and the adventure begin. 4 backpackers and 8 backpacks. Omar masterfully manages to put all the bags in the trunk. Here you go!
Along the way we pass through small villages that seem uninhabited, villages with dilapidated houses some of which are abandoned. The scene starts to get rocky. Slowly we get to the bottom of what millions of years ago was a lake and we arrive at the spectacular Quebrada de las Flechas and Angastaco National Monument.
The view is unique and the photos do not do justice!
We stop for a coffee in Los Molinos. This is a small country in the middle of a desert valley. There seems to be no one in the streets. We sit at the elegant resort Los Molinos where currently there are no tourists. Do a tour of the pretty rooms of the colonial villa, had a coffee in the beautiful patio under the hot midday sun.
The area as well as being named the Ruta del Vino (wine route) is also famous for craftsmen working the blade wool. Splendid works of fine wool ideal for the cold climate of the Argentine night.
We finally arrive in Cachi, we reached 2800 meters on the sea level. It’s time for lunch. For me: stuffed peppers with meat (relleno Pimienta), typical dish of the area and for a perfect digestion of course we drunk tea of coca leaves.
The village is that small that 30 minutes are enough to see it.
At 16:00 we go back all in the car. Driving along Route 40 until we get to the National Park Los Cardones (Cactus) and climb up to the highest point of the mountain at 3400 meters before falling back down and move towards Salta.
We follow the road downhill. The sun is going down and in about 2 hours we arrive in Salta. We greet Omar and who knows if one day meet again.