Patrick picks the place with the pool

Trip Start Oct 16, 2008
Trip End Apr 16, 2009

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Where I stayed
Llaqta Mawka

Flag of Argentina  , Northern Argentina,
Monday, November 24, 2008

For breakfast the school teacher with the hair sent us with a coupon to a cafe around the corner, where the woman took twenty minutes to deliver us two coffees, a submarino and a selection of pastries.  The delay was probably that she didn't actually have anything to serve us and had to run down the street to the bakery to buy supplies.  We chuckled when as soon as she had us all sorted out, another couple showed up with the same coupon and she had to do it all over again.  We were reluctant to leave the lovely Cafayate with its vineyards, mud-coloured church, and of course our apricot tree, and we lingered for the morning, strolling around the square and soaking up the atmosphere.  We also had to wait for opening time at the little kiosk where Blair had bought the beer the day before (the owner assured him he would be open by 10, but it was well past 11 when he got there) so we could return our empty bottles and retrieve our hefty deposit .... it was the principle more than the nine pesos, Blair was convinced the guy thought we would never come back.  Showed him.

This day's drive would take us 180km north to "mystic" Cachi, and almost immediately we left town the road turned to gravel and stayed that way for the entire day.  It was a very challenging drive, dusty and hot (no aircon), the road was corrugated and covered in sand, but the scenery made it all worthwhile.  We drove through narrow canyons and vast valleys with more amazing rock formations, across dry riverbeds, up and down mountains.  We stopped for a cold drink in the absolute middle of nowhere, and I asked the woman at the little cafe what month/s of the year she sees rain.  She said never.  I asked again, thinking maybe it was just my poor grasp of Spanish, but she repeated the word nunca several times to be sure I understood.  Those massive dry riverbeds are always dry.  We were in some serious desert.  When we finally bumped our way in to Cachi, the green and the lushness of its valley was startling after so much dust and sand.  It is apparently due to a pre-Inca irrigation system that the valley is so well-watered.

We debated long and hard over where to stay for the night, there were lots of choices but nothing was absolutely perfect or excellent value for money (and Andy's recommendation, which looked great, didn't have a triple).  Eventually we let Patrick made the final decision, and he picked the one with the pool so he could try out his new goggles.  We got changed right away and went to the pool, but soon realised why nobody else was in it.  It was freezing!  But we stayed in long enough to cool off after our hot and dusty day and at least tested out the goggles.

I don't know quite why they call it "mystic" Cachi, but it was a pleasant little town at the foot of a huge mountain, with a quiet square and lots of traditional restaurants waiting to serve llama meat, locro stew and empanadas to the tourists.  We chose the restaurant we did because the owner invited Patrick to meet her pet tortoise in the courtyard out the back.  I was particularly impressed with the interior of the restaurant, much moreso than the food or the service anyway.  The ceiling was cactus wood, there were Andean textiles for tablecloths, lots of personal touches like photos of the owner hiking in the desert, and I was quite taken with a sideboard beside our table made entirely out of cactus wood .... I even took a photo of it.  Love cactus wood, but a bit impractical as a souvenir, not going to lug it around the continent for five months ....
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