If Cafayate isn’t enough to please you with its lush green vineyards, artisan wineries, stunning museums, gorgeous shops and colorful markets …take a wander up famous Route 68! I mean … TRULY! It is beyond words! Our 5 hour van tour departed in mid-afternoon from Cafayate with our first stop being at the canyon called Los Colorados in the Reserva Natural Quebrada de los Conchas !
At the beginning of the long circular trail a sign says “Do not cover the beauty with garbage”! Glad to see that!
We entered further into the canyon wash and we could begin to see how large this area was!
We walked through beautiful red rock canyons with herds of wild goats roaming in the distance!
One must be careful not to brush the bushes too closely as you pass by!
As we walked further up the wash, the red rock formations became more bizarre!
Precious baby cacti dotted the landscape – these little ones are TINY!
The contrasts in sand and rock colors were stunning!
How these formations are strong enough to withstand the erosion powers of wind and rain is astounding!
And then the trail led us to this sensual cave …
… where the face of the rock was trying to kiss the butt of a tourist! …
… and these rocks offered yet even more sensuality! At least … somehow my eyes were seeing it that way …
I was relieved to exit through the thighs of the cave! What a strange little visit THAT was!
Growing all across the face of this red rock cliff face are native bromeliads!
People coming out of the cave … in a daze!!
Upon completion of our beautiful walk through these grand red rock solidified sand formations, our next stop was at a roadside wine tasting booth! What a great idea this vineyard had created! It’s sign says : “Buy your wine here at the price of the winery”. Cool! The wine tasting was delicious, so of course I bought a bottle! And the price was definitely good!
Our third stop was at El Obelisco, which means the obelisk.
An incredibly red geological wonder in the distance beyond the obelisk!
Amazingly, the birds can live and raise babies among the thorns and it doesn’t bother them!
In the distance you can see a river running through this colorful valley.
The formations that have been carved by erosion are mind-boggling!
Back on the road, we passed beauty in all directions …
Our fourth stop was to be our longest walk – a three mile round trip!
Our first rest stop in the cool of the shade!
See the trail on the hill top behind me? It’s a ridge line that offers fantastic views and is our hike’s destination!
Check out this incredibly twisted strata!
We’ve climbed the ridge line and are looking down on a tour group that is hiking the loop trail below us … can you see them?
These sedimentary layers indicate some incredible ancient geological history in this region!
I’m on one end of the ridge looking back on my fellow van members standing on the other side of the ridge!
The reds are astounding in this canyon!
Check the green layers!
The last ridge line shot before descending to the valley floor for our return loop!
The trail headed down a tight draw!
Now we stood directly opposite these amazing sedimentary layers of every major color!
Our long beautiful late afternoon walk back to the van had begun! See the other tourists up on the ridge line where we had been?
We finally arrived at our van! There were numerous tours happening throughout the day, so several other vans were also here!
Next was a food and potty stop! Again, many other tour vehicles were here!
The cacti skeletons are so strong they can be used like any other type of construction wood!
And we were off once more, this time to Tres Cruces, the three crosses! They were in the shade and the picture turned out poorly, but the views from their hilltop was utterly stunning!
We still had two stops to go! This one is called ‘the Amphitheater’ in its English translation. It’s size was immense!
A lone musician was playing his Native flute for tips – the sound carried well throughout the entire amphitheater!
The sun was close to setting so we hurried back to the van to reach our last stop before it went down!
This place was called Garganta del Diablo, which translates to Hell’s Gate, or the Devil’s Throat, or the Entrance to Hades, or anything else of that nature.
It was a curious climb up through a narrow, high-walled canyon.
And then we reboarded the van for the last time to head back to Cafayate. On our way we passed the tall columnar red walls in the distance called Cathedral Rocks!
What an incredible day this had been! I could have taken a week in this Natural Reserve just exploring!
But, more places beckoned, and tomorrow I would be off for the northern city of Salta! And what a beautiful area that northern section of Argentina would reveal!