Friday, May 20, 2016

The valleys of Tucuman Province: Tafí del Valle and El Mollar

Tafí del Valle

Tafí del Valle and El Mollar are two small towns in Tucuman province, North of the capital, San Miguel.

They are easily accessible by bus which winds up the many curves into the mountains before eventually heading down into the valleys which are still over 2000m above sea level.

A statue of an indigenous messenger on the road up the mountain

Tafí del Valle is the larger of the two towns set in amongst the hills surrounding the valley.

The town is quite rural with horses and other livestock often grazing on the side of the dirt roads in the town.

Llamas grazing

The town is surrounded by many hills from which you can get a panoramic view of Tafí and the surrounding valley.

The trail to the hills starts just out of town across the Rio Banda.

Rio Banda

Soon after the river the trail becomes very steep as you begin the ascent into the hills.

The trail up the hill

From the trail you can see all of Tafí de Valle all the way to El Mollar.

Looking down the valley to El Mollar

At the top of the hill is a cross (of course) and from here you can see all of the valley.

The cross and some four-legged companions I picked up along the way

Tafí del Valle

Looking towards El Mollar

The trail continues into the hills but sadly the weather was turning bad so I had to head back to Tafí to enjoy some local delicacies.

Clouds over the trail

Locro - a local stew of pumpkin, beans and meat

Delicious local wine

Cayote with nuts - the fruit is slow roasted with sugar and eaten with nuts.

After a night's feasting, the next day I was ready to explore the nearby town of El Mollar.

The main square in El Mollar 

El Mollar is a tiny town on the edge of a large dam around 15km from Tafí del Valle. It's accessible by local collectivo via very bumpy dirt roads from Tafí. 

La Angostura dam

The town boasts a collection of important archaeological artifacts - Los Menhires.

Los Menhires

These stones were originally stood in front of the houses of the local indigenous people and could be found all around the valleys. Unfortunately many of the stones were vandalised, stolen and even used to construct bridges and roads so they were all moved to a secure park in El Mollar. The curators of the park have tried their best to recreate the position and orientation of the stones.

Designs carved into the stones - often faces or representations of animals

Unfortunately the reconstruction is mainly guesswork as many of the structures had already been dusturbed.

A reconstructed stone circle

The other reason why many of the stones were moved was to make way for a dam in El Mollar. The dam now provides a recreational area for the locals and a habitat for local birdlife but sadly has destroyed some of the valley's indigenous heritage.

La Angostura dam

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