Next and final episode of my road trip around Salta, with many adventures on our way to the South of the region. Add incredible landscapes and nice meetings to this and you get a perfect combo!
On the road of the Tren a las Nubes
Tuesday 6th March 2018
After a nice and quiet night in our great hostal in San Antonio de las Cobres, we headed south in the direction of Salta. This time, we had tar road, which felt good after so many kilometres on dirt (and stony) road.
We made a stop at the ruins of Tastil, an archeologic site where used to live the Atacameño people, which used to a central trade area between the different communities of the region. None of us being really found of ruins, we didn’t stay that long. The road was following the famous Tren a las Nubes (a touristic and quite expensive railway but know for its beautiful landscapes and its rails more than 4 200 m high). We drove along the rails and huge rusty viaducts, admiring rocky landscapes becoming greener and greener… another amazing road to our credit.
Heads in the fog
We made a stop to have some lunch at El Carril (close to Salta) and then went on the road leading to the village of Cachi. The mountains could not be greener, which made a contrast with all the landscapes we had seen so far. The road was even closed at the some point because of the strong rains over the last weeks, forcing us to go on a small dirt road further down and to cross the river twice… it requires some self-confidence to drive with so much water in a small car like ours, but Steph handled the situation really well!
The road was then supposed to be superb, crossing the Cuesta del Obispo (a name that doesn’t sound really positive for us French, I know) up to the Piedra del Molino pass, located 3 348 m high. Unfortunately we climbed it in a very thick fog with no view at all at the arrival, too bad! And it was quite a challenge for Stéphanie to drive on this dirt road full of hairpin bends, without seeing anything…
We took two Spanish hitchhiking who were freezing and desperate, Martin and Marta, and started going down with them. The sky was already clearer a bit more below, as we crossed the wide areas full of cactus of the Parque Nacional Los Cardones. We then arrived on the Recta del Tintin, a long straight line of 10 km on asphalt, which was a radical change after all these curves.
From Cachi to Molinos, always more stones
Once in Cachi, we had a coffee (coca tea for me, which without any surprise, I really liked) and had a little tour in this very nice village. We decided to go on the road again with our new companions so to sleep in Molinos and move a bit forward for the following day.
The road was once again very tiring, with a lot of curves, earth, stones and mini bumps, and we had to finish in the dark. We arrived at nightfall in Molinos, where we had some troubles to find our accommodation. We finally landed in a nice hostel, but which had no kitchen. We had planned to cook a big tortilla but had to take a more simple meal: red wine and goat cheese, luckily both delicious! And it is rare enough to find good cheese in Argentina to underline it 😉
Too many stones = flat tyre
Wednesday 7th March 2018
We had a short morning walk in the village of Molinos, which is quite rural and quiet, and then head off to Cafayate. This time we were at least on the famous Ruta 40, but still without any asphalt! Still these tiring stones and mini bumps… but the landscapes were wonderful, with the stones on one side and the green valley on the other side.
We had a stop in the nice village of Angastaco and then reached the sublime Quebrada de las Flechas. Not difficult to understand the origin of its name when you see the shape of the rocks, all surprisingly standing like arrows. It was – once again – spectacular.
We arrived at the beginning of the afternoon in the village of San Carlos, which was the end of dirt road… and the death throes of our car! Indeed it burst during the last kilometres, which we realized once out of the car. We decided to first get some lunch and then fix the problem. It was the occasion to try the humita, a South American typical dish, made with a dough of cooked corn and other vegetables (oignon, squash) in a corn leaf. For once I could find a vegetarian local meal so it was worth mentioning it 😉
We let Martin and Marta take a cab to Cafayate (it only remained 5 km) so that they have some time to visit a bodega – as they had to leave early on the following day – while we tried to fix our flat tyre. We were finally lucky: not far from the main square, a mechanic was just back from an intervention 300 km away and could repair our wheel very quickly, for a reasonable price. We could then drive again without being too late.
Cafayate, land of bodegas
On our way to Cafayate, we made a stop at the Bodega El Esteco where we had a very complete guided tour followed by a wine tasting. The guide knew well what she was talking about and could reply very precisely to all our question; as for the wine that we tasted, we were convinced! The region of Cafayate is famous for its Torrontés, a dry white wine that is very fruity, but also produces red wine (Tannat, Malbec) that is more than decent.
Once in Cafayate, we found ourselves a hostel, did some grocery shopping in the city center and finally prepared the long expected tortilla that we were supposed to eat the day before, with some white wine to drink with it. Another very long and intense day, it was time to sleep!
Cafayate and its surroundings
Thursday 8th March 2018
We started the day with a quiet morning to visit Cafayate and among other things the Museum of Vine and Wine. A very complete and interactive museum, very interesting to discover the history of this vine which location makes unique: the highest vines in the world, an exceptional amount of sunshine and cold but clear nights.
We then took the car to start the Ruta 68, a road that is famous for its landscapes, crossing the Quebrada de las Conchas. As we were out of the city, we took two hitchhikers in our car, a French-Colombian, Juan, and a Belgian, Edward, who also wanted to explore this road. We immediately had a good feeling with them and indeed spent an excellent afternoon with them.
This road deserves it reputation, it is simply gorgeous! On one side the huge red rocks with incredible shapes (obelisk, toad, etc.), on the other side the green valley. We made many stops to explore the place, until reaching the Amfiteatro (where the acoustic was exceptional and each sound had a great resonance) and the Garganta del Diablo. We felt really small in such huge canyons!
On the way back, we desperately tried to find Los Médanos, some sand dunes that were supposed to be very close, but it was a fail! As it was getting quite late, we finally came back to Cafayate, where we prepared a nice picnic for our dinner.
An improbable evening
We wanted to see the sunset from the heights of the city but left too late for that. We settled close to the camping of the city, under a street lamp… well, we have already seen more bucolic places for a picnic but whatever, the atmosphere and giggles were the most important!
When we reached the town, there was a little scene on the main square for Women’s Day. Of course, cumbia was being played but well… we had a good laugh, especially with Stéphanie that was over-active. We finished the evening trying some wine ice-cream (we had to taste the specialties) but we were not really convinced. It’s much better to drink real wine than taking it like this 😉
Back to Salta
Friday 9th March 2018
Already the end of the road trip, time to go back to Salta. We gave a lift to Juan and went on the road 68 that we had visited the day before. The landscapes were still as magnificent and looked different again with the morning light. The second part of the trip was a bit tasteless and boring compared to it, and the arrival in Salta quite tiring (we are not used anymore to big cities!) but we finally made it to our final destination.
I spent the afternoon working on my computer (it was more than being late now, a catastrophe for the blog and the pictures!) and went running to the Cerro San Bernardo with Juan at the end of the day. It felt good to stretch our legs and spirits. We arrived at the end of the sunset at the top of the cerro but the sky was once again covered, as very often in Salta.
A not that studious weekend
Saturday 10th March 2018
I had planned to spend the whole weekend working on my computer but was finally not that serious. Indeed I spent the day strolling in Salta with Juan, talking about trip, our vision of the world and life. We even met some friends of him with who we shared a mate on the main square in the afternoon. The “hazards” of the trip, that make you meet again some people in the street…
We were lucky, this day was ideally sunny! We had to come back to the Cerro San Bernardo to see the sunset… this time we climbed it more quietly and I had the chance to take better pictures than the two other times. I still managed to spend a few hours on the computer once back in the evening and had not regret, the day being very nice and relaxing. And it would have been a shame not to enjoy this ideal weather!
My first bungee jump
Sunday 11th march 2018
Another day during which I was supposed to work but I was offered by Juan to join him and some of his friends to do a bungee jump. It was something I wanted to try for a long time so how to resist?
We took a bus at the end of the morning to the dam Cabra Corral, from where are made the jumps and where we joined his friends, who came directly by car. I had a short moment of hesitation before jumping but one shouldn’t think too long! The jump was “only” 35 m high, but it was perfect for a first jump. It was already impressive and thrilling enough and made me want to try a higher jump another time.
Once we had all jumped, we left to a camping located a few kilometres away, along the lake. It was peaceful and pleasant, although we couldn’t stay long as I had to take a but in the evening in Salta and couldn’t leave too late.
We decided to come back hitchhiking with Juan, found a nice couple of Argentinians to drive us and split once at the terminal. He would go to the North and I to Catamarca, where I would start a new volunteering.
To be continued…
Tips & practical infos
Bus Salta – Coronel Moldes (terminus at the dam “Dique Cabra Corral”): $48 – 1,92€
Molinos – Hospedaje Las Tinajas : $200 – 8€ per night in a 4-bed dorm without breakfast. Pleasant and clean hostal but without any kitchen, only a small portable stove to boil water..
Cafayate – Hostal del Suri : $230 – 9,20€ per night in a 3-bed dorm with a private bathroom, breakfast (excellent fruits, small fresh breads, tea, coofee…). Suiet and nice hostel, with a well furnished kitchen and a very welcoming staff. Very close from the city centre but still away from the agitation, a perfect location!
Salta – Hostel Salta por Siempre : $250 – 10€ per night in a 3-bed dorm, breakfast included (bread an jam, tea, coffee). About 15 minutes from the terminal and the centre, with a shady and nice patio. Welcoming owners and staff.
Bodega El Esteco : $150 – 6€ : A guided tour of more than an hour with a wine tasting at thend. Very complete and interesting, with a bilingual guide that could knew well her topic and could reply to all the questions. It is known to be one of the most beautiful bodegas of the region.
Bungee jump with Extreme Games at Dique Cabra Corral : $580 – 23€