Sunday, March 18, 2007

La Rioja and Belén

In truth we only stopped at Rioja en route to Belen, but we found the town agreeable enough. Belen is a lovely little town, and apparently the birthplace of the poncho. After checking in to our budget-butique hotel we took a stroll into town and ended up at the new handicraft marquee which was, needless to say, full of poncho stalls. After chatting with the friendly stall holders we found out that there was to be some kind of cultural show that evening and decided we would return later. After wandering around some more we returned to the hotel to freshen up in preparation for the evenings entertainment. When we got back to the marquee things we in full swing. A fair number of people were sitting in front of the low stage, and there were tables where we ate some local delicacies- some kind of stew and some mini pasties called empanandas. While the food was pretty nice the loud open mic style music drove us away in the end.The next day we were hoping to climb up to the statue of the Virgin with Child that over looks the town, but with a late start and the hot sun wed decided to leave it till the evening. Instead we explored the streets some more and ended up back at the crafts marquee looking for food. It turned out they were having a meal to celebrate 'day of the handicraft', and recognising us from the night before invited us to join them. It was great to sit and chat with these two firey women of indigenous decent about their trade, their hopes and fears, the nearby foreign owned mines, the country, the government and everything else. After lunch we chilled for a bit and then made the acsent up to the statue from where we had fantastic views of the town, the surrounding mountains and the flat lands beyond.
From Belén and Qui...

From Belen we had hoped to make it straight to Cafayate, our next port of call. Unfortunately the rumbling, shuddering bus that wound it's way to Santa Maria was too slow so there was no connection. Furthermore some guy at the back of the bus tried to rob our bags by passing them out the window to his acomplice! Thankfully we caught himin the act and we still have our clothes! Our night in Santa Maria wasmarred by this and our dissapointment at not making it to Cafayate, and we weren't sad to be on our way early the following day.

We took a taxi from SM to Cafayate so that we could stop off at the 1000 year old ruins of Quilmes, which were the stronghold of an indigenous tribe until the Spanish came along and shiped them off to Buenos Aires. Nestled in the hills it consisted of a number of small walls, which we were to asume as rooms, kitchens etc. We followed the paths that led up behind the settlement to what appeared to bewatchtowers, and from there the layout of the town was much more clear to see.
From Belén and Qui...

After a couple of hourse we headed off to Cafayate.

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