Part 14: Cafayate to Salta (Part 1)


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The Trip

We spent the night at a hotel close to the town square in Cafayete.  The story was the usual: motos (motorcycles, without mufflers) day and night.  And, by the luck of the draw, the narrow road outside the hotel was also the main road when going north.  Those things said, we did have a nice bottle of wine at a cafe next to the plaza and then a great dinner at another place on the plaza.  The room had light blocking shutters, so we grossly overslept.  But, once we got rolling, things were great.  We headed out toward Salta via the Quebrada de las Conchas (loosely translated, "Shell Canyon").

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

It rained overnight and cleared the air.  In the morning sunlight, the nearby mountains looked great from the balcony outside our room.

We headed north toward Salta and entered the Quebrada de las Conchas.  The Quebrada (loosely translated as "breaks" meaning a break in the mountains) had many brightly colored layers of sandstone that we nicely illuminated by the sun.

The lower portion of the sandstone cliffs had wind caves.

Each of the sandstone layers eroded at different rates producing interesting steps.

The rain the previous night (including thunderstorms in the mountains) produced sufficient runoff to get side washes wet.

It was about 1100 hrs and the thunderclouds were building again for the afternoon's rain.

The Quebrada de las Conchas was created the classical way: the river, in this case the Rio de las Conchas, held its course while the mountains uplifted over a period of millions of years.  The Rio de las Conchas is not that large, but when laden with abrasive silt and sand, cuts like a saw and exposes the underlying strata.

While I was taking the above photos, a beetle came running past me.  That, in and of itself, is not remarkable.  But what WAS remarkable was that it was running on its hind legs.

As we got a bit deeper into the quebrada the strata became more tilted.

Looking toward the nearby mountains we could see exposed cliffs of siltstone.  Siltstone produces spectacular "mud curtains" when exposed to hard rains.

In the distance, we spotted power lines running over the mountains.  The weathering had produced nice hoodoos in the sandstone cliffs.  The awesome views were causing us to pull over about every 100 yards.

Some of the local flora was in bloom.

Further up the canyon we spotted the convoluted folding that the Quebrada is known for.

Mud curtains were visible on the far cliffs.

There were some large hoodoos close to the road with mud cliffs visible in the distance.  The clouds threatened rain, but the rain never came (on us).

The looser conglomerates near the mouth of the Quebrada eroded into interesting hoodoos.

The Rio de las Conchas took a big bite out of the soft strata producing steep cliffs.

In the distance the sandstone has eroded into fantastical shapes.  The road at the upper right of the photo above is likely to service the power lines.

This is a multi-shot panorama that I stitched together with PTGui Pro.  This is the lower portion of the Quebrada.

A few kilometers up the canyon we encountered interesting hoodoos.

We came to a "ventana" (window) in the mud hills.

Every new side canyon provided great views.

This hoodoo is famous.  This area reminds us of southern Utah in form, structure and color.

The tilt of the bedding is clearly visible from one of the viewpoints.  The Rio de las Conchas is clearly visible.

We passed interesting native trees growing out of the sandstone.

It seemed that nearly every side canyon had remarkable cliffs.

The tilt of the bedding varied from location to location suggesting a tortured geological history of the Quebrada.

Sandstone, if you will excuse the pun, rocks with regard to its ability to produce interesting formations.  This area had convoluted canyons.

Sandstone strata and strong prevailing winds will produce blow-sand dunes.

The first part of the Quebrada de las Conchas was awesome.  Next: the upper part of the Quebrada.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2018 all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.