Wednesday, 10 December 2014

0169 Purmamarca to Cafayate

 9th Dec

Well, today was a VERY different day to yesterday – Certainly no moon walking today, but surprisingly, by the end of the day, we unexpectedly found a pretty acceptable alternative !  Started off slowly, packing up in our little hosteria Bebe Vilte in sleepy Purmamaca, and then went for a wander into town to again try to find a source for come money, and also some Argentine stickers for the car which we had spied yesterday.  The little 17th century church was open, and was very simple inside, but lovely.  Outside in the yard there is an old pepper tree that is supposedly over 700 years old – If only that tree could talk and tell us some of the things it has seen over the years !  Couldn’t find any money in the village (a lot of the ATM’s over here are not linked to Visa etc) and we didn’t feel that the man who had changed some dollars yesterday had given us a very good rate so we decided instead to press on into the bigger city of Salta and try there.  Purmamarca is a slow and sleepy little town, and one would soon have explored it all – But I guess that is one of the advantages of being in our own car – If you don't like a place, you can move on – You are not forced to wait until the next day for the coach to leave. And if you do like somewhere, you can stay as long as you want !

They carve a lot of things out of the big saguaro type cactus plant wood – I am surprised it is as hard as it is because often cactus’ don’t really have a hard core.  This wood is rather attractive though as it has holes all through it – I even saw it used in one place as a cover over a set of speakers – Still enough holes to let the sound come through !

Driving down the valley towards San Salvador was rather boring – the scenery wasn’t really any different than one might find in Australia or Europe – Which after the past few weeks of amazing scenery seemed all a bit ho hum, IYKWIM !    But then, south of San Salvador, we turned onto what we thought was the most direct and straight road to Salta – But
which rapidly turned out to be a really narrow, very twisty, and extremely slow road for the next 50 kms, and took us about 2 hours !  It wasn’t boring by any means, but wasn’t quite what we wanted when we were trying to get on down the road !  Anyway, stopped for some lunch half way along, and by about 1.30 pm we were back on the main road and in Salta.  But this turned out to be just another big city – We tried a big shopping centre for banks or money changers, and found nothing except one unfriendly ATM.  We then drove through the city and it was the same – Although we did manage to fill up at a gas station that took visa, so we at least had fuel. But due to inflation, while the official bank rate is about 8 pesos to the dollar, on the streets you can get up to 12 pesos or more to the dollar, so it pays to look around.  It was just that we weren’t able to find any one on the streets to change our money !

From Salta it was back out into the country side again, and once more, fairly “ordinary” for about an hour.  Then at about 4.30, we started to get closer to some mountains – One of which appeared to be a smoking volcano !!  As we got closer, we saw it was just a big bush fire, but the winds were obviously pretty strong because it was getting bigger by the moment. Then we went through a small pass and came out into
the most amazing gorge / valley you can imagine  - The Quebrada de Cafayete, a 45 km long valley  is a maze of stunning sandstone formations with names like “Garganta del Diablo” (Devil’s throat), “El Sapo” (The Toad), and “Los Castillos”,  (The Castles).  I am not going to try to say anything about this section as I think the photos paint the picture better, but the sights are so amazing that there is all sorts of evidence of cars running off the road – A case of people looking at the scenery rather than the road ?  One small Renault was very “fresh”, and had obviously rolled within the last day or two !!

We stopped at a couple of the viewing areas, but with the afternoon high wind blowing it was difficult to enjoy being out in the sand !  Eventually we came out into the big wide green Valles Calchaquies, where grape vines became more and more frequent as we approached the little town of Cafayate – Our planned stop for the night.  Once again, it seemed a delightful little town as we drove through to our camp site, and when we arrived we found an almost normal “camp ground” with electrical hook ups, water, picnic tables, and best of all, hot showers !  When we arrived we were hailed by an Aussie accent that saw our number plates – backpackers Caitlin from Brisbane and Jamie from New Zealand.  We also met Walter from the US (but living in Brazil for many years) who was in a nearby camper,  and the evening turned into a big chat for us all around the picnic tables, with a bunch of instant noodles and veggies shared for supper, and some vino and beer to help it all down.  A very pleasant evening relaxing. 

The next morning we all started chatting again, and before long we realised that it was not worth heading further south today, so after Caitlin and Jamie left, Walter joined us and we walked the 10 minutes into town, dropped off our laundry at the local Lavaderia, did some grocery shopping in the small local shops, and then chose a little outdoors restaurant right in the main square and had the most delicious lunch (some had
cabrita (goat), while I had some local steak and salad that was excellent, all washed down with copious amounts of local vino.  Must have taken 3 hours or so before we moved on to the local helado (ice cream) shop for ice cream and coffee !  Then we staggered back to the camp site having thoroughly enjoyed much of what the little town of Cafayate had to offer. And it was lovely to have a relaxing day off, not packing up and heading out on the road again.

We will head out tomorrow, refreshed and with all our laundry clean again !

Pics are here :-

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