We knew that the road from Cachí to Salta was not only extremely scenic, but also bumpy and a muddy mess during the rainy season, with precipices equalling “Death Road” in Bolivia. But we never anticipated the things to come!
When leaving the small village of Cachí Friday morning, we were a happy bunch in our tiny VW Gol, since we had picked up three young Argentinean hitchhikers. Although cramped with five people, five backpacks and a guitar, we cheerfully started our journey passing through the incredible Parque Nacional Los Cardones. There, you simply marvel at the sight of thousands of tall cactuses looking like sentries.
Soon the trip turned a little more exciting, with heavy rain and fog setting in while driving on this narrow windy mountain road. What we found puzzling was that there were no cars coming the other way.
Next thing we saw was a car stuck in a huge mudslide and a few people trying to help. We did not realize how bad it was until we tried to reach the car to see if we could help. The road was blocked by a huge mash of rocks and mud moving like lava. We found ourselves up to our knees in this mess. At the same time more mud was coming down the mountain and we quickly retreated to what we thought was safe terrain.
A local on our side of the blockage immediately knew what to do. He turned around to request a big caterpillar in the next village to clear the road. We were a bit pessimistic as to when this could possible happen but our three passengers were sure it would be soon. And they were right! The big yellow “machina” arrived pronto, organizing for the trapped car to be freed with the help of a powerful pickup truck and a long rope.
Then the caterpillar started to clear the road. This looked like very experienced maneuvers. In the meantime, it had stopped raining and we felt it was now appropriate to take photos of this whole spectacle. By now, quite a few cars had lined up on the opposite side of the blockade, with passengers equally watching the clearing of the road.
All of a sudden, they started screaming hysterically. Well, they had the better view of what was happening on our side: huge rocks were tumbling down the steep slope! We both were outside the car watching the “machina” when it happened and a few meters from where the stones hit.
When we raced to our little Gol, the first thing we saw was that the rear window was smashed and the rear bumper hanging down. Only when our three passengers scrambled out of the car did we breathe again. We all hugged each other and could not help laughing being so relieved that we were all unharmed.
Nervously, we waited for the road to be cleared because we feared more rocks were coming down the mountain. We soon were able to drive through, but during the next hour we had to pass two more blockages, not talking about numerous flooded parts that had to be crossed.
The weirdest thing was that we were passing through the most scenic landscape imaginable without being able to stop because of the danger of falling rocks. Again and again, we had to avoid big chunks of rocks that blocked part or even half of the road. Even when we reached the paved road the situation did not improve a lot.