To describe the drive from Salta to the beautiful colonial village of Cachi, a journey which takes you through the Parque Nacional Los Cardones, as anything less than stunning would be to do it a serious disservice. It has to count as one of the most dramatic landscapes I’ve travelled through. The reward for making the journey was a couple of nights staying at a hacienda that produces its own wine set amidst beautiful high altitude landscapes.
After driving for a couple of hours on a gravel road over a mountain range in heavy early morning mist, we finally arrived at the boundary of the Parque Nacional Los Cardones and, a little further on, a small chapel which had clearly seen a lot use from people driving over the mountains.
We were beginning to wonder whether we’d actually get to see any of the landscape, but finally we started to drop down the other side of the mountain range and into an entirely different climate with brilliant sunshine and blue skies.
We also entered the most dramatic part of the Parque Nacional, with literally hundreds of cardone cacti scattered across the landscape and a stretch of road – the Recta Tin Tin – which is dead straight for about 10km and which, thanks to an optical illusion, looks like you are going down hill when you are going up.
These beautiful cacti are now protected, a necessary precaution in an area where trees are few and far between and the wood of the cardones was used for most buildings and furniture. After all, cardones grow at little more than 2mm per year, chop one down and you have to wait a long, long time for it to be replaced. In some colonial-era churches you can still see the pews made from cardone wood – the tell-tale sign is the small holes in the wood where the cacti spikes were once attached.
Arriving in Cachi as the sun began to set we sped on in the hope of reaching the Bodega El Molino de Cachi, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed and where we’d be relaxing for the next couple of days, before darkness fell. Family run, the hacienda is set is a fantastic landscape, the food is delicious and you can wash it down with wine made in the bodega.
After a very peaceful night’s sleep, an early morning walk through the grounds and vineyards was rewarded by sublime views over the surrounding mountain ranges. All topped off with a delicious breakfast.