Ruta 40

After some sustenance in Cafayate and a tour of this small, attractive town, sitting at the foot of the Andes I decided to venture out a little further. On the road into Cafayate I had crossed a junction with the famous Ruta 40, ranked alongside the iconic Route 66 in the USA and a few others.

imageRuta 40 run over 5000kms from the southern border with Chile in Patagonia to the northern border with Chile. It runs parallel with the spine of South America, the Andes, and passes the Andes 27 times, at one point rising to over 5000 metres above sea level.

As I drive north along this road I am amongst the vineyards which produce such wonderful wine. I stop near the 4350kms  marker to take in the view and start to consider Ruta 40 as a future travel project!

I head back to the Ruta 68 junction and notice a sign to the Piatelli vineyard, open to the public. I turn off and drive for a dusty kilometre before reaching the entrance where a security guard takes my details and lets me drive on. Before me lies a modern estate complex more Napa than Loire Valley.

imageVenturing in, notice an inviting restaurant and luckily its lunchtime. It was a wonderful lunch of breaded langostinos and fresh fruit and sorbet, washed down with a remarkabke glass if gran reserve malbec from their vineyard.

Sated and not wanting to leave it too late for the return journey I left aand turned back into Ruta 68 where I picked up three Argentine student backpackers. It was their lucky day as they wanted to get to Salta. It was good company interpersed with their sucking of the mate drink.

 

Salta to Cafayate

I picked up my rental car on Friday evening in order to make an early  start for the three hour drive. I figured that there would be less traffic, less tourists visiting the rock formations (Quebrada de kas Conchas) on the way, and with a low rising sun behind me I would see the landscape at its best.

I set up Google satnav to get me out of town and onto Ruta 68 was on the road in the dark at 6.15. My cell phone started giving me instructions through the town. I passed laden backpackers already waiting for their collectivo and others making their way to work and finally small groups of scantily clad ladies already at work, on the street!!

Once on Ruta 68 it was a breeze…little traffic and beautiful scenery. First along the valley floor and then the climb as the country changed from forest to shrubs and finally to the moonscape above the tree line.

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On the way I saw a gaucho clad man as I passed through a village and roaming goats on the road. I was right about the sun behind me as it threw early morning shadows on the mountains which picked out natures etching. Ir is difficult to put into words what an amazing drive it was and for periods of ten to fifteen minutes, I didn’t see another.

After just over a couple of hours I arrived at my first stop, garganta del diablo (the devil’s throat).

imageA few mikes further down the road was my next stop, the anfiteatro.  This huge cavern cut by the rio de las conchas in a time gone by created an amphitheatre effect as  a couple of other visitors who starting singing.

The final part of the drive down through the mountain range into the Cafayate plain, host to its vineyards. And finally into Cafayate itself where I parked on the main sqaure and sought out a breakfast of medialunas (small croissants) and coffee.