Argentina 6: Meteorite Chaco, Tafi de Valle to Cafayate

Before leaving Brasil we decided to fill up as the diesel is cheaper than in Argentina. The border crossing took only about 40 minutes both sides and then we headed south-west along the RN12 with little traffic. Our route took us via Eldorado, Jardin America to San Ignacio where we decided to again stay at Club del Rio campsite with its super large pool and good conveniences. A thunderstorm woke us at 4am – we decided to start early and avoid breaking camp in the rain – and drove in heavy rains via Posadas along the Rio Paraná to Corrientes with a 2km long bridge crossing this river.

Not being a beautiful city, we decided to push on down the Ruta 16 into the Chaco, a very dry area of Argentina – beautiful sunflower fields lined the road. In Resistencia we tried to see whether Toyota had a replacement handbrake cable only to find their siesta time is from 12-15:30 – we were not going to wait and realised, that clocks tick differently in Argentina (most of the time everything shuts down from about 13:00-17:00 – a bit frustrating when on the road).

We aimed to reach the termas at Presidencia Roque Sáenz Peña – these had been converted into an upmarket spa in the centre of town so we looked at the municipal camping –probably the worst we had seen until now, not fit to stay and the terrain completely muddy.

At Avia Teray we turned off southerly on the Ruta RN89, en-route checked out a couple of truckstops for overnighting, but the recent rains had turned them into bogs. By now we realized that it would be a long day driving until we spotted a turnoff to some scientific park just after Gancedo – a 12km gravel road, we surely would find a wild camping spot. To our surprise we reached an incredibly well-designed and clean meteorite scientific park run by the local Mogoit indigenes.

We had a beautiful quiet night among trees and took time to explore the Parque Cientifico Y Educativo with a number of meteorites displayed, a centre with underground museum and video show where scholars were visiting, learning all about space, planets, meteor showers etc.

In this area 18 meteorites have to date been unearthed, among them the Chaco, the second largest in the world ( the largest meteorite known is the Hoba meteor near Grootfontein in Namibia – we were proud to relate where we came from and for the curators it was the first time meeting people from Namibia!). This area, known as Campo de Cielo, is the largest meteor impact field know to-date. This remote stopover has been a total surprise to us and can be recommended to fellow travelers when in the Chaco area.

We continued on the RN89 via Quimilí up to Taboada, then northerly via Santiago del Estero to Terma de Rio Hondo, a stretch where poverty prevails, a harsh and dry land. Finally we ended at camp Inti Punku with 6 thermal pools.

The camping site was close to Embalse Rio Hondo, a large dam.

In this town every house seems to have hot water fed from the vast termas – even the toilets were flushed with hot water! It is a buzzling spa town with 200 hotels, but not pretty or well kept – it seems to have had its best times in the past.

We left via the RP11 and near Lamadrid continued on the RN157 –the area seems poor, lots of small houses, plenty of rubbish and plastic.

At Monteros we got on to the RP307 and proceeded along the lush Camino de Valle, a mountain road with its 1294 bends through the tropic forest of Reserva Natural Rio Los Sosa with Ferns,Laurels and Cedars and its prolific parrots.

The road took us from 230m to 1800m and at Parque Provincial de los Menhires we looked at the 129 geoglyphs in mist and 7deg C. They are more than 2000 years old.

By the time we reached the mountain retreat of Tafi de Valle it was miserable and we took refuge at the well appointed Las Castañas Cabañas. This little village offers many restaurants and artesanial shops.

Next morning we woke up to a misty morning and continued the mountain route to 2900m towards Amaicha de Valle, the landscape changed to semi-desert with large cacti.

Our visit to the Pachamama museum was snookered as they were closed on Sundays. Already the exterior looked very interesting and we hoped that we should have a later opportunity.

We proceeded to the Ruinas Indigenas de Quilmes – a large terrain where the Quilmes peoples resided in times past. It is also a popular spot visited by Argentinians themselves to witness their forefathers cultural remains.

From here we followed the Ruta del Vino Tucuman to the Ruta del Vino Salta and the wine estancias grew in size and beauty until we reached Cafayate, where our first stop was at an ice cream parlour (Heladeria) selling wine ice cream in the flavours Malbec and Torrontes wine – delicious! The night we stayed at Camping Luz y Fuerza at the southern entry to Cafayate, windy, dusty but ok as there was not much choice.


This post covers the period 18th – 23rd October 2017