Heaven on Earth in Tafi Del Valle!

Even the best-laid plans! You know how it goes – you plan one thing, but something else ends up happening!

I had thought I was going to a town called La Rioja. I had researched it in my guidebooks, made hostel reservations and had purchased my bus ticket which left at 3:30 a.m. (!) from San Agustin de Valle Fertil. Because the bus was to depart in the middle-of-the-wee-hours I got no sleep that night, but did get a great seat on the bus! We arrived in La Rioja at 7 a.m. and I was NOT impressed with the town!

So, while sitting at the bus terminal reading through my guidebooks and contemplating what to do, I decided upon a major city called Tucuman. It’s a very well known tourist destination. I bought another bus ticket and off we went, past beautiful scenery of lush green plantations of fruit orchards, corn, sugar cane and other crops! But upon arriving in Tucuman, once again I was not impressed!

So, I checked the guide books one MORE time and caught a bus an hour later that climbed high up into the mountains through a ravine-like area filled with lush green jungle, gigantic brilliant-colored flowers and trees with vines – I thought I was passing through the incredible jungle set of the movie ‘Avatar’! Stunning, stunning and MORE stunning!

When the bus arrived at the top of the ravine, the view opened to a basin valley surrounded by mountains with a clean blue lake in the center!  It was drop-dead gorgeous! I had died and gone to Heaven!

The bus continued along to north of the lake to Tafi Del Valle where I was let off at the coolest bus terminal I’d ever seen! It had a great looking coffee shop, but it was too late for me to have coffee thsi evening! I needed to get to my hostel, Nuestro Destino Bar & Hostel!

They even had a pet Llama!

On my next afternoon’s walk to visit the coffee shop at the bus terminal, I passed some beautiful newer style homes …

… and some attractive traditional homes!

I was once again impressed with the beauty of this bus terminal!

I wasn’t too keen on the white bread but it’s all they had for their sandwiches. The coffee was delicious!

While sitting by the upper window writing in my journal and sipping my cuppa Joe, a number of buses came and went – it’s a VERY busy terminal!

On my return route to the hostel I went through the small town and saw this bread baker! Or maybe it’s a sandwich baker! Either way, it looked unique!

There were many small crafty shopping centers along the streets!

And to my astonishment, the horses roamed and grazed freely! How wonderful!

I was thoroughly relaxed in this environment! The town reminded me of Carmel, California, back in the late 60s and early 70s. I wanted to get some views of the entire basin from a little higher elevation, so I decided to hike to Cerro de la Cruz, a small hilltop with the a Cross on top! Along the route I passed colorful plants …

… and many beautiful retirement homes!

It was encouraging to see a sign that let me know I was on the right path!

Ahead was the hilltop with the cross, and behind it was another peak I ended up hiking to in order to get the best picture of the lake and basin area!

About half-way up to the Cross I took a photo of Tafi Del Valle laid out below! What a vista!

The last hundred feet to the Cross became steep and rocky!

Once I reached the Cross I felt like I was just getting warmed up, so immediately headed onward to the next hilltop when I suddenly spied a small herd of free range horses in the distance!

Views! Fresh air! Light breeze! Ahhhhh….!

The lake was visible in the distance but I wanted to reach the highest elevation possible for an even better photo!

This Dung beetle attracted my attention for awhile!

I finally reached the next peak for my last shot of the stunning lake! On its far left shore is where the bus had popped into this stunning basin after ascending up through the narrow jungle ravine!

On the trail back down to the Cross, I saw a curious flying creature!

This little guy was about 3 1/2 inches long! He may be some kind of locust! Watching him fly was astounding! He was HUGE! His wingspan must have been at least six inches if not more!

Back down to the Cross again, I captured a few last breathtaking views!

Colorful little flowers brightened the grays and greens!

There are even free-range cattle all over these hillsides!

Back down to the main street I was surprised to watch the horses crossing the busy road!

But traffic is very accommodating to them!

Once again in the downtown area, I decided to pop my head into this little crafts store called La Picada. I had heard it was an excellent little shop! Yes, it was!

And just outside their doors are lovely wooden benches for lounging with colorful pottery nearby to add to the atmosphere!

The benches and pottery extend down the entire row of shops along this street!

And finally, after several days in this heavenly sanctuary town of Tafi Del Valle, I went back to the bus terminal to head to my next destination – Amaicha del Valle – where an incredible Museum awaits!

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