Part 13: Tafi del Valle to Cafayate, Argentina


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The Trip

We stayed one night at Tafi del Valle.  Our hotel was OK, BUT there was a feria in town that caused some ruckus.  We discovered, at around 0300, that the bands would be playing ALL NIGHT.  Indeed, they did not stop playing until daylight.  The venue was line-of-sight from our window in the hotel room, so the sound transmission was unabated.  We only got a few hours of sleep and that was chemically induced.  Dazed and confused, I decided to take a hot shower the next morning only to discover that there was no hot water.  Or, everyone else in the hotel used all the hot water.  But, whatever the cause, there was no hot water in our room.  We packed our stuff, had breakfast, and headed out toward the ruins at Quilmes and then to Cafayate.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

It rained during the concert, but the rain did not diminish the noise of the performers.  Or the duration.  Daybreak came and the rain stopped.  The air was cool and clear.  From the parking lot of the hotel, we could see the homes across the valley.  The cloud layer persisted up past the pass in the mountains.

While considering the view across the valley, I noticed movement in the bushes in front of me and spotted chickens.  Skinny chickens.  They hunted bugs in the bushes for a few moments and then were gone.

We started up the grade to the pass to the east of the village and got a great view of Tafi del Valle and its lake.

The village is actually quite big and extended well into the valleys to the west of the lake.  These are mostly vacation residences for the upper class in nearby cities and provinces.

Further up the grade, we pulled off the road to admire the view and spotted these thistles in bloom.  Note the thorns on the pods in the rear.

There were also more "conventional" flowers in bloom.

While I was photographing the flowers, this dragonfly lit on the rock in front of me.  Note the structure in its wings.

We continued up the grade toward the 10,000 foot pass and spotted this hawk taking five on a rock near the road.  He flew away moments after we got this photo.

The cloud bank that was hiding the upper peaks of the mountain range abruptly stopped near the pass revealing the treeless terrain.

While above tree-line, the area supported a wealth of other plants.

I was surprised at how many flowers were in bloom.

When I shot this flower,  I could not see the bug through the viewfinder;  I only saw it once I uploaded the photo to my laptop.

At the crest of the 10,000 foot pass, we looked up on the higher ridges and saw cardones happily existing well above tree-line.

We descended down the pass to the east and pulled over to take more photos.  Beside the road were many cardones.  These heavily-thorned plants exist at high altitudes and seemingly tolerate ice and snow.

At the pull-out, we spotted yet-another kind of flower in bloom.

Even at nearly 10,000 feet elevation, there were plenty of plants in bloom.

To the west, we could see the valley of the Santa Maria river.  In the distance, in the clouds, was another high range of mountains.

We passed a sign for "observatory".  Kathleen investigated staying at the observatory, but the circumstances (and lack of food there) prompted us to choose Tafi del Valle.  There was a large telescope on site, but the casitas were small and lacking amenities (like indoor plumbing).  But, when we passed the site on the road we decided to check it out.

On the down-slope from the pass we encountered a small pueblo that had a museum with nice rock walls.

We wanted to check out the ruins at Quilmes.  We followed the down-grade to the Santa Maria river and then headed north to the turn-off for Quilmes.  The road was dirt, but in acceptable shape.  We came to a water crossing and had to slow sufficiently to be able to hear the outside world over the rattling of the car and spotted a large flock of birds in a nearby tree.  The birds were making a terrible racket and flitting about.  A closer look revealed that this was a flock of parrots, likely migrating.  There many, many hundreds of them in the brush near the trail.

The ruins at Quilmes were interesting.  There was a reasonable museum there with amenities and an audio-visual show.  Outside, there were artifacts from the indian culture that was destroyed by the invading Spaniards.   Above are "morteros" or grinding holes used for grinding local seeds into flour.

The walls and terraces were part of the ruins and likely comprised the living quarters for the tribe.

There was a nice cardon skeleton outside the museum.

The walls in the ruins were made of stacked river cobbles and dirt.

Despite the lack of mortar, the walls have withstood the test of time.

Above is a set of ceremonial morteros used during religious ceremonies.  Recent rains have filled the morteros and also washed a ton of debris onto the highway.

From the village, we had a nice view of the alluvial fan (AKA bajada) and the nearby forest of cardones.

We continued north on the highway and found a parrilla at a winery for lunch.  Afterwards, we rolled into Cafayate for the night.  Once we dumped our stuff in the hotel room, we hit the bricks to see what was in the city.  Above is an odd building only one block from our hotel.

Across from the local community college, we passed street art (that had not been tagged).

As it turns out Arnoldo Etchart was the founder/creator of the local vineyards.  There were many references to him in various paintings, but it seems that without his foresight, Cafayate would not exist as it is today.  Plus, there is a large vineyard that bears his name south of town.

This panel was quite colorful, if not a bit abstract.

We came to the local cathedral across from the town square.

We stuck our heads inside and spotted the padre in full garb (on a Monday afternoon).  The altar was complete with the required idols.

We went across the square to get some wine and I spotted a funeral procession en-route to the cathedral.  I asked our waitress "who died" and she responded without hesitation that it was a buddy of hers that died at age 26 from cancer.  Many folks turned out for the procession.

We finished our bottle of wine at the cafe and continued around the town square.  We decided that we would eat here after nightfall.  As a side-note, we tried Salta beer earlier in the day and it was great.  Worth a try should you encounter it.

Tafi del Valle was a nice place, but it would have been nicer if the band at the feria had not played until dawn.  The good news was that the band was accomplished so it was not as annoying as it could have been.  Cafayate seems like a nice place, but we need to explore more to be sure.

Tomorrow, we continue north toward our strategic goal of Salta.  Given the distance, I doubt that we will make it there.

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