Monday, May 19, 2008

Tulum, Too Late

So much for finishing all our Argentina posts before leaving Argentina. With all our difficulties making the flight to Mexico happen, we just couldn't get it together to make a post.

Here's the story: When we bought our tickets over 8 months ago, Aerolineas Argentinas offered a direct flight from Buenos Aires to Cancun. Since then they've canceled the route. In fact, they no longer fly to Mexico at all, as far as I could tell. So at some point, they made reservations on our behalf with Aero Mexico.

Unfortunately there were a few problems. First, instead of flying direct to Cancun during the daytime, our new itinerary had us flying overnight to Mexico City, waiting 10 hours, then catching a connection to Cancun. Secondly, and more importantly, they somehow managed to cancel our itinerary after making it for us.

I won't get into what a hassle it was calling Aerolineas and Aero Mexico over and over and being hung up on and transfered and not helped in any way, so just imagine pretty much the worst customer service ever and you'll get the idea. The final slap in the face came when Aerolineas told us to get to the airport at least 4 hours early (6pm) so we'd have time for Aero Mexico to issue us new tickets. Figuring we'd play it safe, we arrived 5 hours early, at 5pm, only to find that nobody from Aero Mexico would even be arriving at the airport until 8:30pm. Son of a [censored].

But we made it through our flights and around 36 hours later we found ourselves sitting on a beach eating tacos and drinking beer with lime, so we got over it.

Right now we're in Tulum. Mexico has been great so far and, as usual, we've been too busy to get caught up with Viva Robusto. But I promise to blitz through the rest of Argentina right now so we can start talking Mexico. And I'll post at least one photo from the last few days at the end of this update as a bit of a sneak preview.

Back to Argentina:

After the stunning drive to Cafayate, we headed north to Cachi. The scenery was radically different and nearly as amazing.

The brilliant blue sky didn't hurt.

It was another demanding drive, with lots of cliffs and hairpin turns and long stretches of gravel. But then we'd turn a corner and run into something beautiful.

And finally we made it to Cachi. Along with Purmamarca it was our favorite of the 7 or 8 towns we visited on this mini road trip. Just a dusty little town up in the mountains with good outdoor cafes and a handful of nice restaurants.

And a basketball court! I didn't get to play, but it was shocking to even find a court.

We had a lovely dinner, but no pics unfortunately. It was a little dark anyway, and we had forgotten the camera. I had Cabrito (a local goat dish), and Liz tried Locro (a corn dish), another specialty of the region. We made it an early night and hit the road the next morning for San Antonio de Los Cobres.

To get there, we first had to drive waaaaaaaaay up into the mountains and down the other side, almost all the way back to Salta, before turning sharply northwest on yet another beastly stretch of gravel road.

First, heading up.

I'm not sure what our exact altitude was, but we had a hard time catching our breath in Cachi, and this was significantly higher. At one point we drove right into a cloud that we wouldn't escape for almost two hours.

Also, we found this guy wandering around by himself near the peak of the pass.

He was friendly.

Perhaps overly so.

When we finally drove away, he chased us! Too bad we didn't have an apple or anything to feed him. I think he was hungry.

Finally we reached a rest stop on the other side of the mountain with a few llamas loitering outside.

The previous day we had stopped for a quick bite and it wound up taking well over an hour to get 4 simple empanadas. So it was with some reluctance that we ordered another 4 from the 80-some year old owners of this place. Luckily they were more efficient and had food on our table within half an hour. And these were really worth the wait.

The next stretch of the drive was mostly paved, but really windy. And because it had been raining some, we had to drive through a lot of pools leading to waterfalls on the edge of cliffs. Like this.

After shifting between first, second and third gear for approximately 6 hours, we finally made it to San Antonio de los Cobres. But before arriving in the town, we stopped at one of the highest points in the passes to take this shot. 4,080 meters is, of course, 13,385 feet. As a point of reference, Mount Hood is 11,249 feet tall. It was insane up here... too windy to even get out of the car. Hence the muddy-looking shot through the window.

All that effort, and San Antonio de los Cobres turned out to not be a very nice place. It was just a cold, dusty, windy town at over 3,700 meters that we needed to pass through on our grand loop through the Salta region.

It felt like what I imagine Afghanistan is like. All empty streets and piles of rubble.

I wolfed down a steak and papas in a dingy, smoky restaurant, then we picked up a few snacks and a small bottle of booze and hunkered down for the night in our tiny room.

That's all for right now. I need to upload the rest of the pics before I can continue. But to insure this update doesn't end on a depressing note, here's a more recent photo:

That was taken today, actually. More soon!

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