A little luxury en route....

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Saturday, November 8, 2008

After the long drive yesterday, today's trip was much shorter. We head off to Cachi after breakfast in the local panaderia (Bakers). It was quite nice sitting in the bakers eating our breakfast as all the locals came in to get their daily bread and cakes. Argentines love their cakes and every shop is full of gigantic cream cakes. Whilst we were sitting there an old lady came in with her supply of homemade gateaux which would be sold in the shop.

Although less kms, the route was, if anything, even more scenic as we drove through the Valle Encantado (Enchanted Valley) and a National Park, famous for its giant cactus forests, mountains and wildflowers. It is also know for a stretch of road called the Recta Tin Tin - this is 10km of dead straight road (quite something after all these days of bends), which, due to the landscape provide an optical illusion and makes it looks as though you are going uphill, but you are really going downhill - weird!

The park, called Parque Nacional Los Cardones is full of the giant Cardon cactus and we stop to take many photographs along the way. These massive cacti go on for miles and as they spill down the mountainside they look like soldiers on the march. How these huge plants - some are over 5m high - can cling and grow to nothing but rock is amazing. In places they seem perched on top of an eroded mountain, holding the surface of the mountain in place. Apparently they grow at a rate of 2mm or so a year and, given that some of them are 25m high, this must make them very old indeed.

The road once again winds around the mountains and gets quite high.  Right at the top there is a shrine to the patron St of Travellers (St Rafael), so we have to stop and light a candle inside. 

We arrive in Cachi which is a pretty village that many Argentines visit for their holidays. We had heard about a Finca (Farmhouse) outside of town and set off to find it. The Finca La Paya was fully booked for that night but so nice that we decided to hang around in Cachi and stay there following night.

As we were staying in Cachi we decide to do a little exploring by walking around the very pretty whitewashed square and, while wandering around, we notice a large white building perched high on a hill above the town. We take a drive up along the very narrow steep road to the top to see what the building is all about and to get some superb views of the town. When we get there, we realise that it is the town cemetery and chapel. The posts all along the road showing Jesus in the various stages carrying his cross to the crucificion should really have given us a clue! We wander through the cemetery and see the various elaborate tombs which, because of the rock of which the hill is composed, have been built above ground. There must have been an earthquake at some point recently because some of the tombs were falling down and the coffins (and in some cases the contents!!) where exposed. We walked out to the edge of the cliff and watched the eagles soring all around us - magnificent!

The Finca farmhouse dates back 200 years and is in the local style, but much renovated to a boutique style hotel, with just 9 rooms. All the food (except meat) is produced on the farm. We had an excellent 3 course meal (no choice of menu, you get what they are serving that day) which included Aubergines braised in Red Wine and Artichokes among other things on the salad table, followed by beef fillet, wrapped in bacon and served with a sweet potato puree. All delicious. Our room was great, with a bed made out of stone. The family running the place (2 daughters and their father) were very good at ensuring everything was perfect and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The father was a real character and spoke very little English, but every time he saw Clive he gave him a slap on the back and said Ah! The English boy!
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