Argentina Holiday



I've written everything up in a table as it's easier for me to remember and also list the times, dates and distances in case anyone would like to attempt the trek! The photos were taken on two cameras and annoyingly I haven't been able to sort them apart from daily into a logical order. But if you read the description then look at the photos in the Gallery you might be able to piece it together! Argentina photos in the Gallery

Argentina was a brilliant country and we had a wonderful time there. The people are very friendly and helpful. The countryside is stunning and dramatic. The food is good and varied. And it was very cheap to travel and visit. The room costs were between £14 and £26, a typical meal was £10.

Date Place Details Activity Photos
02/12/18 Flights   8pm flight from Heathrow to Sao Paulo, then Buenos Aires then Salta  
03/12/18 Salta   Arrived at 2pm and got to the Darwin Hostel. Walked round the city 03/12/18
04/12/18 Salta   Tasks for the day were to find gas for oas. The beauty of Salta was that it's quite small and everything was within walking distance as the hostel was central. An hours walk found us at the bus station and amazingly it was all very efficient. It only took about 15 minutes to find the right kiosk and buy the tickets for the next day!

One horrid thing that happened was that I got a text from Barclaycard saying my card had been used maybe fraudulently. When I rang the number on my card the chap in India knew nothing and said the card was fine. I queried this and made him check the balances. He then said he would have to transfer me - and I ran out of credit as O2 charge me £2/minute to make any calls. I put £30 more credit on and again by the time I'd got through security and spoke to anyone that knew anything (yes the card had been used for £1780) I ran out of credit and was cut off.
05/12/18 Salta to Cachi   The bus was at 7am and while on it I was still stressed about my card and remembered that you can Skype a normal telephone. The bus journey took 4 hours and went over an impressive pass and then through desert covered in cactus. When we arrived in Cachi we found the hostel - CasaPueblo and it was lovely. Francis who was looking after it was very helpful and spoke good English. I managed to get credit on my Skype account and called Barclaycard using that. After going through my transactions there were three that weren't mine and the lady said the card had been stopped. This was a huge relief as I didn't want to set off for a seven day hike not knowing what was happening with my card.

Now we could prepare for the trek (see description). !!

 Nevados de Cachi Trek description
06/12/18 Cachi   We spent the day wandering round - making a list of what we needed which wasn't much as we'd brought a lot of  freeze-dried-meals mainly Expedition Food meals which would provide a lot of what we needed. We added porridge oats and milk powders for breakfast then stuff like biscuits, peanuts and sweets as snacks. The weather was hot 28C but we were climbing to 5900m and camping at 4300m so we'd got thermals for overnight plus three sleeping bags (one to go over us). Cachi was very small and easy going.

Both Francis and the Police (to whom we had to report our trek to) were very concerned at our plans. Francis had been trekking and said he couldn't get up the "Amphitheatre" as it was so steep and loose. Having used this trekking book before we were confident that we could do the trek as described though.
07/12/18 Day 1
Cachi to Camp 1
Start 2800m
Camp 3720m
Ascent +920
Descent -57
Distance 6km
Time 7 hours
We had been told there was a local bus at 6.30am to Las Pailas so we were waiting at 6am and nothing happened or appeared until 6.27am when suddenly a bus and people emerged from nowhere. We all got on and did the 16km journey on dirt roads picking up and dropping off excited school children along the way. Apparently it was the last day of term! Arriving in Las Pailas we set off alone the obvious track up the valley only to realise we should have crossed the river in Las Pailas. We found a good foot bridge though and then crossed some fields and went through a farm with 5 dogs roaming around which were all luckily friendly! The largest one, a sort of Alsation followed us out onto the road and up the valley for 2 miles before we went through another farm (with more dogs) and he turned round and went home which we we glad about! It was hot walking and our packs felt heavy at about 15/18kg. We hadn't really got everything sorted so kept needing to stop and get stuff out. We passed through lots of cactus, lots of rocky ground and a couple of herds of cattle and sheep that kept their distance. The path was tiny and the cairns very random. In the end we made our own way rather than zigzag looking for a path that didn't really exist.

We camped at about 5pm on a plateau next to a stream. It was windy in the night and then clear and cold. So cold that there was ice on the tent when we woke. We had just about been warm enough which was slightly worrying as this was the lowest camp!
Day 2
Camp 1 to Camp 2
Start 3720m
Camp 4409m
Ascent +766
Descent -27
Distance 6km
Time 7 hours
We set the alarm at 6.30am and it was very cold so it was a job to get going but we managed to leave camp at 8am. There was no wind and the sun was coming up so we knew it was going to get hot. We were able to follow cairns and found bits of paths. It was quite obvious which valley we were going up. The plan for food was porridge for breakfast, then soup and biscuits for lunch. Then one meal when we stopped to camp, with another meal about 8pm before bed! So we had a stop for lunch and the stove was being good in the sunshine. The views were wonderful down the valley and we were able to stop and take photos as we weren't feeling too bad with the altitude. We arrived at a nice plateau with a good river and sandy place to camp at 4pm and as the next bit looked very rocky we decided to camp early.

There were rabbit like things hopping about that were very tame (try and spot them in the photos of all the rocks). I went and washed my hair in the river and it was all very pleasant. That night was actually warmer than the night before as it was overcast and a little windy.
09/12/18 Day 3
Camp 2 to Camp 3
Start 4409m
Camp 5049m
Ascent +746m
Descent -169m
Distance 8km
Time 10hours
The altitude was getting to us a little but we discovered that if you got a head ache just to breath deeply and start a conversation helped. We also remembered what our Austrian friends in Chile said to us "You move too fast, move slowly". We got into the habit of doing everything slowly but some things - like stuffing a sleeping bag into it's bag - were impossible to do without effort and needed deep breathing afterwards. Hiking was actually the easiest activity to do.

It had got very windy in the night and the wind was bitterly cold. I set off hiking in full waterproofs with mittens on and never took them off. We hiked up the first rocky bit thinking it was the Moraines that the chap mentions. But no - we hadn't got to them yet. We climbed up this steep gully (where there were very helpful cairns leading us up) and then we saw the moraines. We had to drop slightly and then just find our way through and over these horrid huge boulders. There were cairns dotted all over the place. Some people had opted for the valley floor while others had gone for a contouring line. All routes were awful - at altitude and with big packs on. Had we been in Scotland we would have skipped across them. It took us ages to reach the plateau bit and then we saw that the valley just curved round just as steeply. We were knackered though. My legs had gone to jelly and Steve was just as tired so we started looking for camp spots. There was nothing sheltered out of the wind, which didn't look like abating, so we found a little spot and built a wall.

We then headed over to where it looked like the stream was coming over the col into our valley to get water. When we got there there was only a tiny trickle and so both of had to stand and get frozen holding a bottle under the dribble. It wasn't the best end to an already hard day.

That night the wind swung round and so it was coming against the side of the tent and Steve got very cold while the noise of the wind kept me awake.
10/12/18 Day 4
Camp 3 to Camp 4
Start 5049m
Camp 5392m
Ascent +487m
Descent -120m
Distance 4km
Time 6 hours
It took us ages to get going in the morning but while Steve was making breakfast I went for a wander to the other side of the valley out of sight where there was also a patch of green. I wondered if there was water there. I rounded the rocks and saw a fast flowing stream coming from ice melt. I filled our bottles and headed back to camp. Now at least we could have loads of tea and take a flask of water with us.

The head aches were quite bad this morning but setting off they abated. In the night we had looked at the maps and descriptions and decided to have a short day and camp at the bottom of the amphitheater - which although would be at 5300m would hopefully give us some much needed rest. We knew the next day was going to be hard. The hotel owner was adamant that we couldn't get up the amphitheater but we were determined that we would find a way because turning round and going back through the Morraines of Hell would be such a horrid, disappointing defeat.

We travelled slowly but the wind had gone which was lovely and so we took it easy and rested on rocks a lot. Water started flowing passed us at about 2pm and we realised that the ice only melted in the afternoon and then froze overnight. It was nice to have plenty of easy water as the day before we hadn't come across much at all.

Eating was becoming harder and our system of sharing a meal - having 3 spoons each before passing it over - worked well but the meals seemed to be getting bigger! The Expedition meals were all 800/1000kcal and we were now having one for lunch and one for tea as we weren't finishing until 6pm. Today however we got to the amphitheater at 3pm. There was hardly anywhere to camp - we wandered all over the basin and settled on clearing a space in some sand for the tent. At least it was out of the wind. Water was also plentiful and not far away.

After fetching water. We both lay down and I fell straight asleep (see photo!). It was so lovely to have a rest. We ate slowly and were in bed by 7pm. We had studied the walls of the amphiteatre and decided that it was not possible to climb where the book said to climb. We decided to head up the stream side and then maybe contour across higher up. It was hard to see a route all the way up but now at least we had all day tomorrow to get up to 5900m and then across the plateau and maybe climb Nevado de Cachi at 6300m before descending to 4800m to camp.

We both slept quite well and woke with determination to get up the first 300m onto the ridge and then up another 300m to the plateau.
11/12/18 Camp 4 over the col at 5900m and down to Camp 5 Start 5392
Camp 4650m
Ascent +637m
Descent -1348m
Distance 8km
Time 10 hours
Again we waited until the sun had warmed the tent before we could get up at 7am. We had breakfast and packed up quite quickly, then set off up. It's hard to see from the photos but it was straight up. We zigagged about and found the odd deer track to follow. Steve led and did 30 steps then we had a rest. It went very well and we were pleased with our progress. We had soon climbed 100m. Onwards we went and then the boulders got bigger and more unstable so we contoured to what looked like a ridge. But it wasn't when we got there. Never mind we were getting closer surely! Lots more 30 steps and lots more rests and then suddenly we popped over the edge and were on a flat basin. We both dumped our rucksacks and collapsed!

The stream that we had been following was coming from a big patch of snow so we headed to that to get some water. The climb had taken us 3 hours. Because we hadn't eaten much and still had another ridge to ascend of 300m we decided to have an Expedition meal. It was quite hard getting it all down but you could feel it doing you good.

Because it was now 2pm we decided that it was not possible for us to go right and climb Nevado de Cachi. The plateau and the valley we were to descend were on our left and even then another 300m up.

The next climb didn't look too hard but how wrong looks can be. I think it was a combination of altitude and constant climbing. Steve's steps were reduced to 22 and then a rest. It just went on forever. I was glad of my Garmin Dakota GPS to guide us and tell us how much more we had to do. When we reached the plateau we could see all around for miles and miles. It really was sureal and we wished we could spend the night up there but it was too high for us at 5900m.

We took loads of photos and then strolled across. It was so lovely to be slightly descending. Our legs, only used to ascending, bounced along and it seemed so easy. The terrain was flat too and not rocky so we didn't even have to pick our feet up!

We could see right down the valley where we were heading and it looked green and lush compared to all the rock on the valley behind us. We were happy that we had made it and now could complete the circuit! Trotting down the velley we soon realised that it was going to take us quite a while to get down over 1000m to the camp. We tried to speed up a bit and find good deer trods to follow. Eventually we found somewhere to camp at 8pm next to a stream. The sun was going down so we hurried into the tent after eating. It was fantastic to be able to breathe air with oxygen in it and get our appetites back!

We slept really well and woke ready to descend the valley.
12/12/18 Camp 5 to Camp 6 Start 4650
Camp 3500m
Ascent +335m
Descent 1503m
Distance 19km
Time 11hours
I was now quite suspicious of the timescales given in the book. We actually wondered whether the author had actually done the trek as there were no photos and the times were way out. I put Cachi into the GPS and it said it was 26km in a straight line and so I was keen to get going as we had two days to get back. It was a lovely valley with small paths alongside a stream in lots of greenery. We could see Llamas further down the valley and when we got nearer I could see one was looking warily at us. I then saw something wriggling near her and it was her newborn calf trying to stand for the first time. I tried to take telephoto shots of it and you can just about see it in a couple of photos. We took a wide  diversion round her and she wasn't happy about us being there. Further down we heard dogs and a shepherd was sitting on high ground just watching over his flocks of Llamas and sheep. He waved and we continued on.

We could see another Llama on her own further down the valley and again a little calf at her feet. She was stood right over it and alternated between looking at us and looking down the valley at something. We saw what was concerning her - it was a Condor circling high above. We watched it and her for ages. She wouldn't move off her calf. Eventually we carried on and the Condor also decided to fly away. Straight away the mother moved to one side and the calf stood up.

Carrying on down the valley we dropped through a cleft and into another terrain. This time we were back on rocks - quite loose but with a path of some sorts meandering through the rocks alongside the stream. It was made by cows generally. Progress was slow and lunch beckoned. On we went passing a small settlement with more barking, wagging dogs but no-one to be seen. Cows and sheep came up the valley heading home for the evening. There were a couple of abandoned houses and garden plots with irrigation ditches to them. I had been watching the GPS and had seen that the path seemed to leave the river and head inland and uphill. When we reached the spot I said to Steve "We're going to have to have a think and decide what we're going to do". I could see where the GPS meant - climbing about 300m up the side of the hillside and then over a col. The only reason I could think of was maybe the river went into a gorge or something.

It was 5pm and we could either camp or climb. We decided to climb. It wasn't too bad really as we did find the old Inca path and although it was very eroded it followed the natural line and zigzagged, making the climb quite steady. Reaching the col we saw the other path coming in from our left. Now the path was really big -or really big compared to anything we had seen for days! It was an old Inca road and we could see where it had been carved through rocks and the walls built up to make it a wide cart track once. Now it was eroded and overgrown but still a lovely change to be striding out along a proper path at last.

This day the book had said would take us 4 hours to reach the village. We were still 6km from any civilisation at 7pm and so looked for somewhere to camp. The only place was on the path as it was steep and rocky below and above us. We found a wide space and pitched the tent. The tent zip had eventually packed up and the inner wouldn't close but surprisingly it was so warm that we didn't need it closed. That was the warmest night we had ever spent in the tent. That night we could hear thunder and see flashes of lightening on the hills around us - but no rain! We were glad we weren't on the mountains!!
13/12/18 Camp 6 to Cachi Start 3500m
Cachi 2800m
Ascent +77m
Descent -957
Distance 11km
Time 6 hours
We woke early and got up quickly. When I was packing up and lifted the tent I found two scorpions underneath it! One was dead but one was asleep but very much alive. We got off straight away as we had run out of water and I knew it was still 16km to Cachi. It was pleasant walking and gently descending however by 10am it was getting very hot. The GPS showed me a little path leading down into the river bottom and we descended to get water. Then we had breakfast under a tree as it was so hot - 26C the camera said. Soon we reached a road and then about 2 miles further on came across this lovely picnic and BBQ area - with toilets that worked and were very clean!!

We just had to have lunch here! A couple of pickups came up the road and we hoped they would soon be coming back down it. We had discussed the option of getting a lift and unanimously agreed to try! Cachi was 6km and it was hot and dusty.

We walked off down the road and soon enough at midday a truck came along. He stopped and offered us a lift in the back. We threw out rucksacks in and leapt aboard. It was a great way to travel and seemed a lot longer than 6km to town. He dropped us in the centre and we walked back to the hostel. The hotel owner was so pleased to see us - and we him and our lovely room again!

We spent the rest of the day chilling out and went for a meal of Rancho Steak and beer.
14/12/18 Cachi   The next day I realised that I hadn't booked two nights in the PuebloCasa and so looked around for another hotel. We found a big hostel called Hostal Don Arturo. Although it was big and rambling the owner remembered her English and was very pleased to check us in. The room was big and lovely with a nice en-suite and a great fan. The temperature had gone upto 30C and we were finding it very hot. We spent a nice day buying a few presents and relaxing. It seemed odd not to have to walk and be organised - but I suppose that's what holidays are supposed to be like!

We bought tickets for the bus to Salta the next day at 8.30am
15/12/18 Salta   The bus once again surprised us by only turning up at 8.15am when everyone filed on and it left on time. This time it hardly stopped and so we arrived in Salta at midday. We went passed our favorite empanada stall on route to the Darwin Hotel and just had to stop and have some!  Her chairs were a bit rickety but her empanada's were the best!
So the rest of the day was spent packing - and of course everything had expanded, eating and just doing very little.
16/12/18 Flight home   Uneventful - even managed to check our luggage all the way through and have both bags arrive at Gatwick.  
17/12/18 Home   Journey up the M1 - even uneventful. Just tedious! The farm was ok and Jim had looked after everything very well.