12 September 2008

Vacation report: Santa Florentina

Monday, September 1, we kept on braving the heat climbing hills under the sun at noon. This time we resumed our exploration of the famous cablerail that climbs from Chilecito to the Famatina.

You take a bus and it takes you, in twenty minutes or so, to a nearby village called Santa Florentina, a few miles closer to the Famatina range and therefore a few meters above downtown Chilecito's level. SF's main touristic asset is supposedly a plaza museo, that is, an outdoors "museum square", the only one of its kind in the country, with mining-related objects on display from the time when there was mining.

Estación 2 del Cablecarril Chilecito - La Mejicana The "museum square" was a complete disappointment, but across the street you can walk up a broad path that leads you along the hillside, first past a deserted camping site and then reaching (after 40 minutes of ascension) to Station No. 2 of the Cablerail, at about 1,600 m amsl.

The station is well-preserved, the buildings and machinery taken care of as if people still lived and worked there every day. When we got there, obviously, we were mostly interested in getting some rest in the shade, but then we took lots of pictures. The view is fabulous: on one side, the slope down the hills, with a line of towers supporting the cablerail, red-ochre, disappearing on a gracious curve towards Chilecito; on the other side, hills crowded with cacti fusing into a gray-blue mass that climbs and climbs until fine snowy threads appear, and finally the eternally white summits of the Nevados del Famatina, no less than 25 or 30 km away and over 4,500 m above sea level. Below, in the valley, a little river flows, with swift, slightly turbid waters, their colour between gold and copper, laden with minerals.

Nevado al fondo

El río de los minerales

After much admiring the landscape, having some mate, and catching our breath, we went down the path and stayed beside the "museum square" waiting for the bus, which was only half and hour late.

The next day was scheduled for the tour we came to La Rioja for: the visit to the Talampaya Canyon and the Valle de la Luna (Ischigualasto). It began at 7 AM and was going to last 13 hours, so we went to bed early...

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