“The desert is a natural extension of the inner silence of the body.” (Jean Baudrillard)
The desert will always have a special place in my heart. I love the colors, the air, the plants and animals, the natural formations. Many think there isn’t anything special to be found in the desert, but I disagree. Sit, listen and look and there is plenty to discover. I knew our planned road trip first to the south of Salta and then to the north would be be special, and it was.
We set out to the south of Salta and spent our first night outside of Chicoana on a small farm. Chickens squawked, roosters crowed, a burring owl screeched when I came eye to eye with it, horses neighed and dogs barked. The next morning we were woken by a concert of birds singing good morning. Not one or two, but most likely 50 or more. We headed out before breakfast with binoculars to see the birds and take in the quiet morning.
Before long we were on our way and our first adventure awaited: crossing a dry riverbed. Would our car make it? We assessed the situation, removed a few rocks, I put the car into gear and we were off. This was the beginning of the many dirt roads we would be driving along the following days. All went well and at one point, I learned it was better to actually drive faster than slower! Luckily it was sunny and dry, and we didn’t get stuck in any flash floods. We stopped often to enjoy the views and the vegetation and to imagine what it would look like during the rainy season. We ate our simple lunch of bread, cheese and olives overlooking the vast Valles Calchaquíes, sitting next to a large saguaro-like cactus, coats zipped up against the wind and hats tied tight.
Before long we arrived in Cachi for a quick stop to stretch our legs and enjoy an ice cream in the plaza. There we filled the car with gas and headed off onto the Ruta 40 which snakes down through Argentina from north to south. The stillness of the desert touched me deeply again and again.
Our first overnight stop on the Ruta 40 was in Molinos where we stayed at the Hacienda de los Molinos which was once the home of the last royalist governor of Salta. Walking into the main courtyard in the center of the hacienda, it felt like a big welcoming embrace. A touch of “old California”, which also has a long Spanish history.
We checked in, jumped in the pool to cool off and then sat in the courtyard off our room before heading to dinner in the aforementioned courtyard.