To avoid the incessant noise of the carnival – practising all day, playing all night until 4am – we left the tent behind in the small town of Cachi and blew the budget (relatively speaking) on a room in a wonderfully peaceful estancia in the mountains. We had no idea whether there would be any space for us, as it was peak tourist season, and we couldn’t call them because a storm cut off their telephone signal a few months before and it hadn’t been repaired yet. So we had to take the plunge and drive up the valley for about 40 minutes up a very rough muddy road, through numerous streams, around the cattle, sheep, dogs and all the while avoiding carnival-goers from the night before who were making their way back to their farms at 10 am in the morning. Fortunately, when we arrived, the place was nearly empty (a side-effect of the damage to the roads across the whole of the NW of the country) and we were given a beautiful room overlooking a valley with only the noise of the birds and llamas to hear. I took a very unprofessional video of the view here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFPyXGl9Xfw
There can’t be very many places where you get a very large room with a private bathroom, swimming pool, llamas and your own personal waitress who would bring you anything you needed (and even make something to eat if you requested it) all for about £38 per night.
The map showed several small villages in the area, each with a name, as you would expect, but we were surprised to see that most of them were just groups of two or three houses or farms. This church served some of these villages and didn’t even have a name, but it did have a good-sized congregation and, after the excesses of the carnival, several parishioners in need of some redirection.
Luckily for me I took this photograph when I did – just an hour later we returned to see that a flock of very valuable merino sheep were chomping through the flowers. The locals don’t mind – they make very nice blankets from the durable and warm merino wool and sell them to tourists for over £700! They actually keep the nicest ones for themselves and, given that the winters here are bitterly cold, they use them all the time. It is normal, because of the durability of the wool, for a person to wear the same blanket all of their lives. Makes a nice change from the ‘H&M’ culture we have here.