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Page. 54 - 88
By: Soledad Gil



We left in the famous Renault R9 car belonging to Julie that has reached the 130 thousand kilometres mark and was without reverse gear. Thus we arrived to Pacheco, where the pumpkin transformed itself into a carriage: Ford lent us a model Escape light truck with three thousand kilometres, fabulous and with four wheel drive, ideal for the winding Sierra Highland roads. You would have paid to see the face of Julie when she had to leave her car for ten days and accommodated herself and all her things in the Ford Escape. The problem was the return to reality. But that was still in the future. The trip had just begun. We inspired.

We began through the back door, by Traslasierra, to arrive before Henri and Nicole Barret left the La Lejanía on their way to their first trip this year. These French people who came to Argentina 15 years ago to work for Renault became so immersed in our country that when in 1981 they had to return, they decided that they wouldn’t, but rather stay here. In five years, Henri had driven 300 thousand kilometres by car -75 thousand of these in the Rally of 1980- and had happened to drive through Nono. When they found out that the La Lejanía was for sale, they did not doubt a minute: that portion of the Nono River was what they were looking for. They refurbished the Hostel; they bought the Conanas, the adjoining Estancía Land Holding and built a bridge across the river. Later arrived the time for the motor bikes and then the four wheel drives, the expeditions to the Catamarca Puna Highlands and the truck that Henri designed from the first down to the last screw. It is prepared to take the motor bike hanging from the back and a trailer with the four wheel bike that he gave to Nicole for her birthday. Thus, she takes the food and he the fuel, without losing the fun at six thousand metres of height.

The Barrets share a passion for exploration and it is no accident that amongst the guests of the La Lejanía there is always a big crowd of “nuts and bolts” adventurers.

It was amusing to see him go by in his motor bike, back and forth, while we ate so called panchas for lunch in the dining room of the main house. The day started with storm clouds and we could relax, observe the stone walls and the intense red of the climbing vines, ignited by the autumn. After lingering a while after lunch we went to the river, where the parents of Santiago - the darling guest during those days in the La Lejanía - tried to learn some fly fishing, taking advantage of their small one’s siesta afternoon nap. The day began to improve painting with gold the white foam of the waves. Time was up. We hurried to arrive with day light to the Nono River and the Mina Clavero Mine. It really hurts a little not to be able to bathe at the precise time that the streams and bathing resorts are at their most tempting. The sun was warming up the so called Paso de las Tropas, a very popular spot in the summers, but we found it absolutely empty.

Another delight is to visit the Rocsen museum without any people in it. To have all the genius of its founder, Santiago Bouchon, for one self and no one else. To get lost amongst the 15500 pieces exposed in great display cabinets and the order that hardly a thousand five hundred square meters can offer. To think about the work of this Frenchman of 72 years who opened the doors of his museum in 1969 to never close them again. A poly facetic museum is was what Bouchon called it, says the subtitle of the Rocsen Museum, and there everything enters: tins, butterflies, funeral urns, arms, dentist armchair, phonograph, Chinese silk, bible and water heater. Bouchon arrived in Argentina in 1950 with 23 containers (8,000 kg) and a job in the Embassy of France. He travelled all over the country and decided to request his residency. Since then many have wanted it to buy it all, in parts, by pieces... but there is no way. There it is and there it will remain.

Another interesting museum is of the Father Jose Gabriel Brochero, who gave his name to the village that is on the other side of the Mina Clavero. In addition to the life of this man, the visit is worth for the so called La Casa de Los Ejercicios Espirituales or the House of Spiritual Exercises, that was founded by the Presbyter Brochero and that lodges the museum: the kitchen, the chapel and the earthly remains of the priest are there, waiting for his beatification; Definitively, after that small sojourn, we agreed that "the possible" dimensions of Nono were agreeable to our expectations, more so than the urbanised towns. In addition to the La Distancia, we just loved Manantial, de Mausi and Alfredo Kock. The Park with its walnuts and other aged trees, its own stream and warm rooms make of this Hostel an ideal stop for couples or families.

A little more to the South, in San Javier, we waited for Cecilia and Enrique Botet de Lacaze, happy with their beautiful Hostel La Posada del Cerro, in the corner of the Main Square. A couple from Buenos Aires that had anchored in Pilar, for them the change of life style was total but the bet could not have come off better. The town conserves the calm essence of Traslasierra, the earthen streets, the church, the river, Sergio Paolucci and his likeable painted tiles, the carved olive tree wood carvings, the restaurant Cuatro Vientos or Four Winds, and the most recent one; del Pueblito. San Javier is protected by the Sierras Comechingones Mountain Ranges from any furious stress attacks, watched over the Champaquí peak, which silhouette makes it summit just there.

All that conquered Cecilia that although she did not have any experience in the hostel and catering to guests, makes as if she has been doing nothing else all her life. The oldest rooms are over 250 years old and were prepared without losing a bit of their grace. Enrique, an architect, took care to repair the ceiling accurately as a would be archaeologist, as if each roofing tile carried the weight of ages... And later she advanced with a keen eye to the details, the colours. The result is it makes you want to stay there for ever.

At the Foot of the Champaqui
How did she arrive here? Ah, that is another history, and to listen to took us more than 8 kilometres further inland, to the Estancia Landholding of her cousin Alicia Christensen de Dorado, proprietor of the La Constancia, at the top of a hill within the Quebrada del Tigre Gorge itself. The road is only an advance experience of what will come both cousins "spent it" going and coming, so much, that in the end Cecilia also remained in the zone.

There are few "outsides" like the one of the yellow façade of the La Constancia and the chapel that Maria de la Plaza – a local founder who started the school in San Javier – had made built in 1935. A small chestnut grove, their own waterfall, a seat strategically placed at the end of the park, by the bank of the river, are some of the reasons that justify the effort to gather friends, because Alicia receives at least six people as a minimum. Apart from this, nothing more fun than to “occupy the house” in that place, to spy at the past from the tens of pictures in black and white, to go horse back riding, to climb neighbouring summits or to get into the mood and visit the Champaquí. And later, to award yourself with the home cooked kitchen of the Dorado, which is becoming famous for kilometres around. Before going on with the trip, we went a little bit more to the South. We could not pass up going through Yacanto - its hotel and its golf course - and see how life passes slowly in the village of La Poblacion, where we discovered the jeweller Rafael Barragán in plain work, concentrated on silver plating and malachites. We made him open the display cabinet to shoot the photo, while he told us how it is to work for several jewellery shops of Buenos Aires from that corner of Traslasierra. When we left it was already night, but the asphalt of High Summits is perfect and they were expecting us at the next stop.

Pure Air in the El Qenti
Thus, already at night, we arrived at the Inn of El Qenti. We did not have time, as usual, to stay for a couple of days to detoxify our body and to repair the soul. To those that always say "hey, how we envy your job, who get to go to all those so pretty places" we answer them that although it is true, we almost never get to lie down and scratch our bellies; and this time it was the same, as usual, we did not get to swim in the pool, or have time for a massage or a sauna or hydro spa treatment, none of those things. Just a light snack and off to bed. On the following day, with the first light of the day, the panorama was already different. White and shining the El Qenti is uncovered on the top of a hill surrounded by green. And luckily, the repairing rest and a short morning l walk demonstrated that although we did not stay for long the spa of the "humming bird" – which is the Quechua translation of “qenti”- always has the desired effect. It is to arrive and then slow down. Just to enter, one feels that there is an army of ready professionals to take care of one exclusively. If you are travelling with children do not miss visiting the farm owned by Luis and Mara Dutruel: so that everything is 100% ecological one they make compost with Californian worms that are fed on organic remains and are the best fertiliser for the fruits and vegetables that they use in the inn. However, if you are planning to lose weight, don’t you even think of coming here! Mara makes irrrrrresistible candies. Do not say you weren’t warned!

The El Potrerillo of Larreta
It is already three years since we last visited the Potrerillo de Larreta. Now we do not even recognise the door. The division into saleable lots is fully underway and the golf course of 9 holes - built under the direction of Marcos Capdepontes is a success in the entire province. The course, impeccable and very hilly, with the fellings and carob trees that the land has had from the times of Larreta, is long, of a very modern design, with five exit tees of exit per hole, 6,800 yards from the black tees, "Score keeper", bah. It could not be otherwise, if Javier and Alex - the children of Ignacio and Cynthia Zuberbuhler-did not lose the opportunity to leave the golf clubs and to travel to California, to Florida, to where there are new things to bring and to use and to improve. To turn their house into a golf course, to sell lots, a hostel and country club is a true familiar project. One can easily feel their excitement.

The Potrerillo championships are popular, some houses have been built, a new swimming pool, more roads, the mega earth movements underway for the other nine holes, and all power and phone lines and tubing buried underground in order for nothing to mar the natural and attractive landscape.

The house has also changed. By the door we were surprised to see the “parking lot” of the electrical carts used by the golf players that are already true believers.... The Potrerillo is up and going with only 9 holes, imagine what it will be like when they are 18. Until they build the new House Club – a replica of the main house from 1918, which, in its turn, is a replica of the Convent of San Bernardo in the city of Salta. -, the dining room is restaurant and sweet shop. The great table disappeared, replaced by many smaller ones but the food is still great, home cooked style and the prices are reasonable.

The rooms and departments maintain the sober classic style, with log fire places and the enormous bath rooms. In a certain sense it has changed a lot but fortunately not to much.


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