Met a guy from Paraguay called Edgar at the hostel and ended up getting the local bus to Cachi together, via the very scenic Cuesta del Obispo route. The views of the mountains and the valley were stunning. The bus climbed higher and higher along a very windy, gravelled road. The bus was full when we left Salta but it still stopped along the way for more and more people to get on. At one point there was no space at all. Then as we climbed up the mountain, people would get off the bus, literally in the middle of nowhere and we wondered were they where going. There were house far below in the valley but even so I really don´t know how the people got down there. Many people got off at their houses which were tiny mud shacks that housed a whole family and about 2 dogs!
Later on in the journey we drove past Parque Nacional Los Cardones which is a park full of cacti (cardones). The cacti are protected now because there are not many left as their wood is used to make furniture, lights, frames and locals were chopping them down. Now the cacti is only allowed to be chopped down if the cacti has dried out and died so now locals tie wire around the bottom of a healthy cacti to kill it so they can chop it down!
We also drove along the straightest road I have ever seen. Apparently it was built, in the dark, by the Indians who were trying to escape the Spanish invaders.
Just before arriving in Cachi we drove through the village of Payogasta which is a picture of red in the summer when all the peppers are left out to dry in the sun. We also past signs for the famous winery, Colome, but it´s in a small town called Molinos which is unfortunately not on our route.
After 4hrs we got to Cachi, found a cheap, nice hostel (Hostel Inkañan), and had lunch in the sun. The town is tiny and it didn´t take long to wander around it but it has a lovely church and a very pretty square. As with most small towns in Argentina, everything closed after lunch until 5 or 6ish so the three of us chilled, had a few Salta beers and then went for a nice, cheap steak later on.
Today we got a taxi back to Salta (same price as bus and quicker) which was a funny experience. There was four of us in the car, not including the driver - Jem in the front and then I sat in the middle, at the back, with two Argentinian women either side of me who wouldn´t stop chatting the whole 3hr journey. We drove along the same windy, gravel road, through quite deep puddles, past big piles of rock fallen down from the mountain, past gauchos on horseback who tipped up their hats to say hola and lots of cows in the middle of the road. Every time we past a church or graveyard the driver and the two women crossed themselves. I´ve also noticed people doing it when ever they past churches in the cities aswell. As no flowers grow in the area, locals make flowers and add colour to the graves with paper flowers which is a pretty sight.
It was great to see the scenery from a car instead of a crowded bus but our attention was on the driver who chewed coca leaves the whole way - brilliant, I made sure I had my seat belt on for that journey!
Back in Salta one of the women got dropped off first and we saw that she only paid 18 pesos and we "the tourists" paid 28! But wegot dropped off at our hostel (el duende de la posta) and Jem was able to give the room back that he´d accidently taken to Cachi!
For lunch we had some lamb and bread from a BBQ on the side of the road which didn´t turn out to be very nice and like most things we buy we got charged well over the odds but you just have to smile and go along with it - we´ve learnt that now!
Jem´s got man flu and he´s in bed at the moment so I´d better be a good wife and go and make him a nice cup of tea! Off to Cafayate tomorrow so will be in touch soon xxxxxx