Right after our van left the outskirts of Salta for our high mountain destination of the colonial village of Cachi, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road and grabbed his camera! When I saw what he saw, I grabbed my camera, too!
Two owls were perched on the tops of fence posts! At first they acknowledged us – they were wondering who was looking at them!
But then they turned their heads, as if to say “Go away!” We did.
The road headed into the wilds and we could see large mountains ahead. There had been a flood recently and the river running through this mountain valley displayed tons of eroded sediment.
The road was a narrow, precipitous one-way lane for awhile – even dirt for a stretch instead of pavement. Then we arrived at the river crossing – a new bridge is being built but for now the van needed us to unload while it crossed the old decrepit bridge without us. We walked across the same bridge and I was glad that we had been made to deboard the van! It was in great decay! We reboarded the van after we all reached the other side!
The road ahead was still narrow against the mountains, but at least it was paved! There were no shoulders in this section!
The road runs just below all these amazing colors – those cuts in the hillside ahead were made to build the road!
Some natural caves in the hillside had been used to put little worship or homage centers!
Finally the road gained shoulders again while running alongside the colorful mountain walls!
Our van stopped at a little tourist rest stop with banos (bathrooms), coffee, a few food selections …
… and an alpaca!
Here’s his buddy, the donkey!
Our group was mesmerized (me, too!) by the colorful mountains ahead – that’s the area we would be driving through!
Pictures don’t share the size very well … see all those 15′ to 20′ cacti in the distance?
WE SAW CONDORS! Our driver had told us to keep an eye out for them, and we did! Overall, I must have seen at least ten flying high above us in various locations on our journey up through these mountains! But my camera couldn’t capture them!
Upon reaching a higher elevation, our driver stopped for a picture break! It was getting cooler, and I was dressed in summer clothes!
Finally, we reached the summit to learn there was a small chapel built there! Piedra del Molina means grinders of the millstones, referring to the road that was built through this country that was made with the use of stone grinders! Can you tell I’m a little cold? Brrrrrrr!
The small chapel is called Capilla San Rafael! (capilla means chapel)
The entire mountain pass was covered by cloud which added to the solitude of this quiet place!
We were at 3,457 meters, which equals 11,342 feet!
Looking down from the Chapel, I could see the bus and van but not the road!
I was so impressed with our driver! While we were up looking at the Chapel, he walked all over the place – along the roadside, over the embankment – finding and retrieving litter! I’ve NEVER seen any other person who was heading a tour do this! Extremely honorable to Nature and his country!
Once over the pass the entire world changed! We were in a high open valley with more stunning colored mountains in the distance!
We had another stop at an informational walk to educate tourists about the type of high elevation cacti that live up here! Mirador -Sendero means View Path.
The cacti were quite tall with fuzzy tops …
… and really thorny sides!
We had another short stop on our long drive to Cachi. This time it was at an old adobe structure that had been built possibly hundreds of years ago!
I really like this type of construction! One day I’ll build a house with similar materials!
There was a small roadside market just a little further on … I bought some delicious jarred preserves!
And then FINALLY we were nearing Cachi!
We crossed a long bridge over the highly sedimented riverbed and voila!
We had arrived to Cachi!
Our van parked by a little open-air restaurant at the entrance to town and we went out to explore the ever-so-small town center! This is the San Jose of Cachi Church situated on the main plaza!
And this is the Pio Pablo Diaz Archaeological Museum! It was stunning inside, but no pictures allowed! Archaeological artifacts dating back 10,000 years have been found throughout this entire region!
These arches were in the middle of the plaza!
I took these photos to add a little info about the region and its history! And I had not known that Cachi has the worlds highest vineyard at 8,304′ called Bodega Colome!
In one of the little restaurants I poked my head in to, this brilliant picture of the mountains with the town at the base caught my attention! I just LOVE the artwork here!
The town was quiet, unpretentious, simple and well-kept. Notice no litter?
The two restaurants at the entrance to the town were the fanciest businesses that I saw in the entire town!
And then it was time to load up for the long ride back. We passed through all the beautiful scenery once again!
Our last excitement for the day happened after we had crossed the decaying bridge and were on the one-lane gravel road. Traffic was suddenly stopped in front of us and appeared to be backed up for quite a distance! About twenty minutes later we learned that a big haul truck had a flat – we actually drove past them once traffic was moving again – and their vehicle had been blocking the road until it received a bunch of assistance that finally got it off to the side!
And now my trip through Argentina had finished its most northern destinations! Tomorrow I would be heading south to the grand area of Cordoba and all its amazing outlying German towns! There was even a town to the northwest of Cordoba where UFOs had been repeatedly sighted in the nearby mountains! I was hoping I might be able to spot one …! But please don’t beam me up, Scotty! I’m kinda in love with Mother Earth!