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Colomé to Quilmes

One of the most beautiful drives in Argentina has to be the one from Colome to Cafayate. It is a little like driving in the southwest of the US with canyons and rainbow colored mountains and lots of rocks with unusual shapes.

These curious arched facades are very typical of Calchaqui valley architecture. This traditional house was abandoned, as were many others on the road.

Cafayate is definitely a tourist town and is full of artisans and both junky handicrafts and gorgeous artistic works. All of the tourists had backpacks and hiking boots and the dominant languages heard were French and German and Italian. We stayed at the Hotel Killa which was small, personal, and absolutely perfect.

Outside the village of Molinos is one of the only vicuña farms in the world. Vicuña wool is the finest of all the camelid wools, but vicuñas are extremely difficult to breed in captivity, and selling vicuña wool goods is illegal unless from farm raised animals. That makes vicuña items very rare and expensive

Cafayte is the center of one of the most important wine growing areas of Argentina. We had lunch at Bodega Esteco and visited Bodega San Pedro Yacochuya. The wines of the area are renowned for their strong aroma, which is caused by the cold nights. This keeps the polifenols in the grape.

The Patios de Cafayate hotel is on the grounds of El Esteco vineyard, in restored colonial buildings with beautifully manicured gardens. It is a Relais & Chateaux establishment. We had a lovely lunch there.

One day we went to Quilmes, the ruins of an ancient civilization of 2500 people. Some excavation had been done and scholars are still working to understand the culture and way of life of the inhabitants who had lived there for 6 centuries. These essentially valley people were taken over by the Incas about 1480 and then in the 16th century the Spaniards conquered the area.

The ruins of the ancient site of Quilmes cover a huge area, only a small part of which has been excavated.  The Quilmes were the last indigenous people to succumb to the Spaniards, in the mid-16th century, and because of their ferocity the last members were taken to Buenos Aires in servitude and settled at the location today known as Quilmes, where the beer is made.

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