Monday, August 17, 2009

Tafí del Valle and the ruins of Quilmes

July 16, 2009

Thursday we arose at 8 a.m. to brave the icy morning and visit the ruins of Quilmes. While we’d been told to show up 10 minutes early, we didn´t board the bus until nearly 9:30, and after a brief (and well-handled) break-down, we arrived at the ruins at 1 p.m.

The on-grounds hotel/restaurant was inexplicably shut down, so we snacked on the offerings of the little stands in front of the ruins—a chicken empanada for Tammy (which turned her off from street food for the rest the trip) and a “tortilla” (large, round disc of bread) with walnuts and giant raisins for me.

The ruins (or “la ciudad sagrada,” as we were informed the locals preferred, the sacred city) were nice, if not particularly impressive. The site offered a free guide service, although the guide wasn’t particularly well-informed (she later offered us books for sale, which seemed to be the source of all her information), but the service was a nice touch and made up for a lack of signage around the site.

We climbed to various look-outs, an especially traumatic experience for Tammy and her fear of heights, but gained great views of the ruins and fields of tall, spindly cacti before beginning the 5 kilometer trek down the flat, dusty road to the highway.

As the bus came at 7 and the land quickly cooled to freezing at sunset, our goal was to time the wait for the bus as best as possible. Still, the bus was late, giving way to our anxiety on the open road. Meanwhile, a salty, English speaking local drove by every 5 minutes, yelling from his truck in ways I imagine were intended to be friendly, but came across as harsh and short.

Finally, the bus came, and our return trip took only 1 ½ hours instead of the 4 ½ hours it took us to arrive, returning us to the prickly cold of Tafí.

We splurged on dinner at El Portal del Valle, which turned out to be quite nice, offering a plate of the locally famous Tafí del Valle cheese with the bread basket. I dined on humita del plato, a corn and goat cheese soup which came with a spicy sauce served on the side. With the added spice, it was fabulous. Our dinner was accompanied by a bottle of wine and followed by deep sleep.

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