Argentina: Cachi *Village in the Andes*

Cachi is a small mountain village in Salta Province in northwestern Argentina. Located four hours away from where we were staying in Salta, Harry and I joined a tour (yes, we joined a tour) to experience this special place. We ended up having a truly fabulous day and here are two of the reasons why:

1. Our tour guide Eduardo was an incredibly kind and patient man. In addition to speaking both Spanish and English, he was happy to share his wealth of information with us and never tired of all our questions. He seemed truly happy to be our guide and passionate about the area we were exploring.

2. There were only 14 of us on the tour, which is a small enough number to fit into a van rather than a huge tour bus, making our group feel more intimate. The other people were from Buenos Aires so of course we liked them immediately. They were doing a 10-day tour of the area and were on full-blown vacation mode. Several of the couples took an immediate interest in both of us and made sure we were having a good time in all that we did. While they only spoke a little English, we were able to chat enough in Spanish to keep them amused. We laughed a lot in the van, especially when they blurted out random English words like “Miami Beach”, “thank you” and “one, two, three”. They took us under their wings and made sure we didn’t miss anything authentically Argentinian when we stopped along the way.

Calchaqui Valley

The jaw-dropping scenery never ended. We started out by driving through two gorges with thick rainforest vegetation and spectacularly colored mountains.


We drove up the windy, ribbon-like road until we reached a major view point just short of the summit. We took a welcome break to walk around and soak it all in. Harry bought llama jerky at a stand from a local man selling his wares while I befriended his pet llama.


After 80 kilometers we crossed the mountain pass and the greenery gave way to an arid environment. Cactus dotted the landscape and the colorful mountains became even more vivid.



Cachi is a picturesque village that’s tucked away in the lap of the Nevado de Cachi range in the Andes. The cobblestones streets, 18th century church, adobe houses and tranquil plaza were all very charming and make Cachi a special place. On the way into town we passed fields of red peppers drying in the sun, soon to be turned into paprika.


All-You-Can-Eat Goat Fest

Our lively new friends invited us to lunch and made room at their table before we could even think about saying no. The grill was hot, the goat was sizzling and the chef was overzealous with his cleaver. Staff came round and round with trays of freshly grilled chunks of goat until it was clear that everyone had their fill. Our friends kept Harry’s plate full, saying that he was too skinny to stop eating. I was going to try a bite, I seriously was, but then I saw a few goat hairs on the plate so I munched on my salad instead.



Los Cardones National Park 

On the way home we passed through Los Cardones (cactus) National Park and had a short walk through the ancient fields of these oddly shaped desert plants. The cactus went on as far as the eye could see. I found them fascinating.


Mountain High

Here we are at 11,341 feet, feeling elated from such a wonderful day! When the van pulled into town and our friends from Buenos Aires got off the bus, they gave us a round of applause and big hugs for sharing the adventure with them. What a treat! I guess tours aren’t so bad, after all.



Argentina: Our 18-Hour Bus Ride

We have spent the past three months traveling all over Argentina and parts of Chile, taking numerous bus rides of varying lengths to get from one place to the next. One of our first bus trips, and the longest to date, was an arduous and challenging 24-hour journey in Patagonia from El Calafate to Puerto Madryn. We’ve been filled with some amount of trepidation on every ride since then, but luckily we only hit rock bottom that one time.

Two Choices

Our plan was to travel north from Mendoza to Salta, a distance of over 750 miles. Our choice was to either make the journey in one trip, a mere 18-hour bus ride, or break up the trip by staying in another town at the halfway point. We literally changed our minds several times a day because both options had plenty of pros and cons.

The Decision 

In the end we decided that we’d just suck up the long bus ride and do it all in one trip. The notion of going halfway and having to stay overnight in a place that had little interest to us felt less than ideal. Plus we were excited to reach Salta and didn’t want to delay our arrival.

First Class, Please

We had a stroke of good luck at the ticket office because we were able to book our first class cama seats (roomy seats that recline) on the upper level in the very front of the bus. We were promised movies, food service and an attendant to see to our every need. Well, we’d heard those promises when we used Andesmar for our 24-hour trip across Patagonia, so we certainly didn’t get our hopes up.

All Aboard: 8:00 PM 

We were skeptical when we saw our bus arrive even though it looked shiny and new. We held our breath as we climbed up to our seats and then, only then, did we do a happy dance. Our bus was the bomb!


It was clean and spacious and we had a ton of leg room. We even had a place, within reach, for our ever-important food bag. We cautiously tested our seats and were pleased as punch when they reclined way back.


The icing on our bus cake was the dashing man who took care of our every need. He practically whistled while he worked and had a smile for everyone. His kindness and sense of professionalism put our lingering worries at ease. It was going to be alright.

Dinner Time

We were pleasantly surprised when we were actually served a two-course dinner. We were even offered an option of orange Fresca or wine. Yes, wine! I guess Mendoza’s law about providing wine with food was still in effect, and we were impressed. However, it was a strategic move on our part when we said, “thanks, but no thanks”. The more you drink the more you need to visit the powder room, which is something we try to avoid on buses.


We couldn’t believe what a difference this bus journey was for us. The temperature was mild, we watched several movies and the bathroom was passable. I had a good night’s sleep and even Harry slept a few hours. We were both fairly comfortable and had enough room to shift around in our big seats. My biggest complaint was that, once again, we weren’t allowed off the bus when it stopped to pick up/drop off passengers. It’s an unsettling feeling to be trapped for such a long time, even if our attendant was super cute. I would gladly add an hour onto the total travel time if it meant being able to get off the bus a few times to run around.

Good Morning 

I slept through breakfast of coffee and a pastry, which Harry enjoyed while listening to the bus radio play American love songs from the ’70’s and 80’s. I woke up to Roberta Flack singing, “Killing me softly” with many more classic hits to follow. Elton John, Whitesnake, Richard Marx and Journey were some of  the featured artists everyone on the bus were forced to listen to beginning promptly at 7:00 am. What a great way to start the day after being on the bus for 12 hours, with only six more hours to go.


Overnight we drove out of the desert and into the greenest landscape we’d seen since being in South America. It was visually so refreshing to see cows grazing in lush pastures and crops growing at the base of the mountains.



We arrived in Salta at 2:00 PM, right on time, 18 hours after we left Mendoza. We were ecstatic to finally get off the bus! Even though we made it relatively unscathed, Harry declared this to be his last bus journey over 10 hours. We’ll see about that….


Argentina: Crossing the Andes

We left Santiago on Monday, April 13th and headed east to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. Over the past three months we’ve been on many bus trips, and we’ve had a variety of experiences to say the least, but this one definitely comes out on top because of the amazing views we had along the way. The journey took six hours even though we were only going 200 miles because we had to cross the Andes in addition to going through immigration in both Chile and Argentina.

Reaching more than 10,000 feet in elevation, the road cut through long tunnels and zigzagged through mountain terrain. On our ascent we went up an impressive series of switchbacks, each turn steeper and scarier than the last. The bus company was called “El Rapido”, and had we been thinking when we bought the tickets we might have used a different company. Guess who’s driver thought he was on a race track?


We were traveling on a beautiful, clear day with 360 degree views all around us. Fortunately we were able to get a glimpse of the snow capped Mt Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas at nearly 23,000 feet.

IMG_6905For hours we stared out the bus windows in awe. There were two couples sitting in front of us from Quebec, and they were just as excited as we were to have such spectacular views. It was fun having others appreciate the scenery as much as we did.


Guess who’s excited to be back in Argentina?