18 Mar 2019

North to Cachi

We have gone as far south as we are going this trip (Rio Tranquilo) and north as far as we are going (Cachi on the Route 40) and now we are heading east. Currently at Thermas Rio Hondo, just west of Santiago del Estero, we will now head east for around 650 miles and then north-ish up to Iguazu. Once I have sorted a dental issue for which I am currently in communication with my dentist at home for advice!!

We travelled North from Maipu through some pretty amazing scenery and mostly excellent weather. We got caught out one night when the forecast was for 40% chance of rain at 8am. Often that means no rain at all, but this time at 08.03 the first huge spots landed (you know the ones!) then the skies opened and it poured down for hours.The previous night it had been blue skies and calm and we did not bother to put on the fly sheet - mistake! the tent was perfectly dry inside, but taking it down would make everything wet. Eventually, we were paddling around in 2" of water (2.5 cm for those that don't understand our weird measuring system) so we had to bite the bullet, put all of the bedding in plastic bags and cover the mattress as best we could and take the tent down.

The next two nights we stayed in hostels and on the second day the sun shone so we erected the tent outside the hostel and within 2 hours it was all dry again and ready to go.

We continued north to Cafayate (another wine region with a number of wineries to visit) so decide to stay for 2 days. On the third day we intended to head north up R68, across the mountains to Cachi and back down the R40, but the first 30 miles was pretty much like all of the parks in Utah all rolled into one and we spent so much time doing littlewalks and taking photos we aborted the original 170 mile drive to Cachi and headed back to Cafayate. A few miles before the town we took a deviation to a winery and the restaurant looked so good that we booked the 5 course/6 wine lunch for the following day, so that meant another 2 nights in the camp site and a taxi back and forth to the winery the following day for another amazing lunch (though still does not beat Agostinos in Maipu).

Day 5 and having done the section of the R68 we wanted we now headed directly up the R40 (mostly gravel) to Cachi, a very rough road in places, but with amazing scenery all the way up. Cachi is another wine region but the town looks derelict until you get into its wonderful little centre, with a couple of top notch looking hotels and a good choice of restaurants (serving local wine which is also superb). They are obviously working to improve the town in general with cobbled streets replacing dirt roads and teams of painters painting buildings all over the place.

We stayed in Cachi for 2 nights before heading back down the R40 for another night in Cafayate (but this time with the go pro in action) and now,with the gravel roads behind us we are heading back east to Iguazu (one particularly dodgy tooth permitting!)

North of Maipu we visit the same dry lake as last year and manage the balancing of the car on the hand trick (which we tried last year and failed) took a whole year to realise that it is a lot easier if you turn your hand over!
As we leave Maipu its initially flat with the mountains in the distance



until you finally get amongst them




Then we find a cable car at Chilecito

This is station 2 which is a museum (station 1 is in the town next to the now derelict railway, but this is the most interesting one.

Built by the British in 1900 but fell into decline in the first world war, used by the Argentinians until 1933 and the hoppers still wait patiently in line.

The motor that powered it is still in positions

As is the furnace that separated the ore from the rock

And the cables and towers still exist, going over 30k and rising up 3,000m to a height of 4,600m

Frighteningly these converted hoppers took 2 men each, swinging 100's of metres in the air in places and taking around 3.5 hours to reach the top

Map of the cable car

Back on the road. Some people just take too much luggage, there were 2 people on this little bike and there was quite a strong cross wind! 

Who would have thought it was blue skies and 38c yesterday! This was one of our few wild camps and boy it got wild.

In almost 5 years since we began and at the camp site at Cafayate we meet our first British vehicle and its a Land rover! Mind you it has got a Mercedes engine. Marcus is from Australia (but originally from Texas) and Salima is from France, but they lived in London for 3 years, acquired this land rover and decided to drive home in it via the Americas, so they have more or less done the same route as us, last heard they had made it to Chilecito and were waiting for a new clutch to be couriered from Buenos Aires.

We head up R68 and come across the most amazing formations

Further south their are parks where you have to pay a fortune to be led round by a guide to see this sort of thing, but up here it is on the side of the road





Finally find a little shade for lunch

and carry on







After about 30 miles the landscape turns back to normal so we head back to Cafayate and take in a wine tour in the hills a few miles before we hit the town.

A fabulous place in a gorgeous setting

With such a good view from the restaurant we just had to book for lunch the following day.
Unfortunately no pictures from me as I forgot my camera (but I think Chris has posted some pictures of the meal on Face book)

Then up the R40 to Cachi

This time on a very rough gravel road

but equally spectacular scenery


Cachi, a lovely little place surrounded by mountains and as far north as we will go this time.

Then back down R40 to Cafayate



28 Feb 2019

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

Just over half way through and we are back in Maipu at the Posada de Cavieres just in time for harvest there are a few pictures below of our journey back up Argentina, much of it we did last year (with a few variations, including a side track to visit some dinosaurs) but this time in fabulous weather.

The night before we arrived we camped at a wild camp by a dry river bed, that the first person staying there called the Pirate Camp (still no idea why). We stayed there twice last year and arrived just before the sun went down, but there were 2 cars there. Whilst we considered what to do a German couple in a VW Combi that were camped next to us in our last camp site at Malargue rolled up beside us and whilst we were chatting the people from the cars turned up and drove away.

It was a little windy when we arrived, but once dark it was very still and quiet with an amazing display of stars. Then, in the middle of the night this incredible screeching started! We have no idea what it was but it sounded incredibly loud in the absolute silence. I've not heard anything like it since the Howler Monkeys in southern Mexico. That night certainly was dark and full of terrors.


The Neuquen area is famous for the largest dinosaurs in the world being found within 20k of each other. Gigantosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, bigger than T Rex and Argentinasaurus (vegetarian) 40m long an over 100 tons in weight.  But first we visited some dinosaur footprints on the beach.

I think this is a Doyuthinkesoraus (do you think he saw us planting the prints before he came)


This was a model of Giganotisauru atthe entrance of the camp site we stayed at next to the museum.


The museum was only small but very good as everything was in English.

and in many cases had a model of what the dinosaur looked like next to the skeleton.

This is one of the vertebra of Agentinosaurus.

This is what it looked like.

And this is the actual skeleton of Argentinosaurus - this was in a different museum about 30 miles away, unfortunately the museum was closed for renovation, but I managed to snap this through a window at the back of the building (after I had cleaned all the fingermarks off).

A few shots of the scenery on the way up.

This is the remains of a lava flow, all the black lumps are black lava.


On the way we pulled in at a working salt flat, much smaller than Uyuni in Bolivia, but this one was still producing salt and they had a little museum showing the history (that's Chris in the distance).

A couple of the machines that scraped off the salt between 1930 and 1955 (like snow ploughs). I was originally trying to work out how they were pedalled, but they were actuary pulled by horses.
.

Then another detour along a canyon south of San Raphael.





The Pirate Camp with the Combi. 

The arrival of the grape picker.
An amazing machine that ran slowly along the vines and removed pretty much every grape but little else!



Before.

and After!

Then it turned into a transformer and tipped all the grapes into a truck.

About 4 hours and 2 large truck fulls of grapes later its all finished!