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Villa Union. 4.9.15

September 8, 2015

Villa Union, El Rioja Province. 4.9.15

Before leaving Australia I read on the ABC On Line a list of the ten happiest and unhappiest countries in the world. The ten most unhappiest are of course the usual suspects: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and the likes But the interesting thing about the list of the ten most happiest is that they all came from Latin America. Paraguay tops the list as they did last year and I forget the order of the others but it begs the question, why?

We are not scholars on the subject but after almost a year in South America and travelling around a fair bit there are things we have seen and experienced that may go towards explaining in a small way why this is the case.

The family is integral to society here. Late at night when we at home would be ensconced in our houses with the tele on, you see over here family groups including grand parents promenading through the streets and parks or sitting at one of the many cafes having a drink. They love their children but don’t molley coddle them. Rarely have we seen what we woud call a precocious kid.

Then its what seems to be the resignation of the people. Many tmes we have been in queues 10-20 long waiting for a checkout chick to stop passing the time of the day with the person she’s serving and get on with the next person. One small order seems to take a good two to three minutes to process. There is a 2nd checkout but that remains empty. No one complains, they just wait. It would never happen in AU

Then today, we joined a tour to visit the Talampaya national park. It’s a world heritage listed park famous for its towering cliffs, petroglyphs and rock formations. There was 20 on the 4×4 bus. Although all were strangers, before long everyone was talking and laughing with each other only to become more  sociable when at the third stop, on coming back to the bus, we were presented with a table full of chips, nuts and olives to be washed down with wine, juice or water. There was so much camaraderie with many of them trying out their limited English on us.

I don’t know what the experts put it down to but it is something quite amazing.

A mixed day today. The tour was very good made more so by meeting Rachel and Oscar. Rachel spoke fairly good English and was able to help us with some of the interpretations at the different places. Oscar is an architect, they live in Buenos Aires.

After the tour we headed in the direction of Chilecito, a town some 120kms further north. We got to with 45kms of our destination only to be told by the foreman of the road working gang that the road was closed until October. The alternative is a 300km detour We weren’t the only ones to be unaware as we passed a tourist bus heading up to where we turned around. It’s most annoying but you expect some set backs travelling

6th Sept. Up a Canyon North of Cafayate.

Father’s Day has been a good day. Last night we spent camped in a dry river bed some 300kms south of where we are at the moment. The late dawn brought a peaceful picture of silence apart from the odd bird’s morning call. We hit the road about 9 heading north, Salta was still some 500kms away and there were  couple of places that needed visiting on the way. The most important was the pre-Incan ruins at Quilmes.  Set on the lower eastern slopes of the Cerro Alto del Ray and built about 1000AD they were an indigenous tribe who fell under the Incan influence in the 15th century. What I liked about it was there was no information boards giving you all the guff on what the different places were for, not even in Spanish. It was just a case of wandering the slopes admiring their skills and appreciating the advantage the site had from any enemies approaching from the plain below. The local indigenous tribe run the place. There was no rubbish, the toilets were clean and the artifacts were of a very high standard. The population of indigenous people are the highest in the northern part of Argentina

Then it was on to Cafayate where, after looking for different places recommeded by other overlanders, we finally came upon this place. 500 metres up a canyon, completely surrounded by 100 metre high ochre coloured sand stone cliffs and only the gusts of the wind they call the Zonda to disrupt out outdoor cooking.Cafayate is a wine growing area and they produce some of the most exquisite whites either of us have tasted. Torontes is a popular grape variety up here, we are becoming quite a fan.

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