July 21, 2009
Our trip to Cachi seemed incredibly over-priced after translating pesos back to dollars—we went with a tour company which would stop at various “kodak moments,” but I hadn’t calculated that this luxury was costing us an extra $20.
However, our package also turned out to be much more than promised! Our group was just us and another couple, we were driven in our guide’s large, comfy Toyota truck, and our guide was a true expert on the route and the area.
He filled the 4 hour drive with information about the local towns and indigenous cultures, Inca history and the characteristics of the local mountains, jungles, and forests we crossed, while answering nearly every question we threw his way.
He definitely earned the tour’s hefty price tag.
We lunched in the tiny town of Payogasta, where nearly all the food was locally produced, including their artisanal beer, wine, and goat cheese. The menu was surprisingly varied for such a small, far-flung place, and the food was excellent and reasonably priced. I had a quinoa-crusted eggplant with mozzarella and a giant salad of finely diced onion, tomato, and bellpepper (a bit like pico de gallo, but without and heat).
After lunch, Tammy and I were lured into the gift shop where I bought a picture frame made from the cardón cactus wood, to commemorate our week of cactus-chasing, then Tammy bought me a beautiful 2010 agenda, full of drawings, stories, and myths from Northern Argentina.
We continued on to Cachi, a cute little town tucked into the mountains, and spent an hour exploring before beginning the 4 hour return.
Our guide continued to entertain for the return ride, showing off his proficiency in languages and accents as well as his wide knowledge of movies. We’d just returned to the hostel, exhausted, when I realized we’d miscalculated the number of nights we were spending in Salta, and would need to check out of our hostel (as opposed to sleeping in) the next morning.Luckily, we quickly found the Residencial Balcarce, which was basic, but the same price for a double as Las Rejas charged for a shared dorm (30 pesos per night). We packed that evening, and headed out to find a restaurant. After being solicited by every peña on Balcarce for dinner with a 10 peso surcharge for the show, we sought refuge in another Italian restaurant, just off the strip, Necochea.
I had a tasty, creative pizza with arugula and brie and Tammy had some mozzarella-stuffed sorrentinos, which she declared to be the best meal of our travels. We then followed our habit of turning in early.