LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 56
Page. 60 - 64
By: Rossana Acquasanta
FROM LA CUMBRE TO ISCHILLIN
The village is set remotely on the flanks of the Sierras Chicas surrounded by the unmistakable green of La Cumbre. Green golf courses, what you might call english green. Of those English who settled here at the end of the 19th century building the railways. Obviously, the first to walk the lands of the "Comechingones" were not the English, but the Spanish. It is to the latter that we owe the sobriquet "the Puna", the area of valleys and hills that stretches from Villa Carlos Paz to Capilla del Monte, including Los Terrones - rock formations caused by the eroding reddish sands which create a landscape like the Quebrada de Luna and Ongamira.
The beneficial effects of the mountain air and the rustic scenery of the Punilla Valley attracted a number of families from Argentina's high society at the beginning of the last century. Under this air of distinction and with the help of the phlegmatic English, who wanted to recreate their homeland, the enclave became more famous, summer after summer. The most famous example was writer Manuel Muj ica Lainez, who moved to his mansion there, El Paraíso, in 1964 and died there in 1984, in an aura of illuminated glory. It is well known that the house became a milestone on La Cumbre's tourist circuit.
In 1929 the Reydon Hotel was built by Daphne Pearson's grandfather, now in front of the revitalised lodging house that also once functioned as a school for 21 years. The hotel trade is visibly growing, offering both new and renovated options from cabins to bungalows. The meeting place, where locals used to gather, was the La Recova bar, but has now moved to La Gran Aldea, if only for a quick cup of coffee. There are now more businesses, but it is still a pleasure to shop in Susy Withrington's La Urraca. Wellknown painters like Miguel Ocampo and Remo Bianchedi are no longer alone in the galaxy of local artists. No less than ten exponents of a variety of artistic styles - excluding Ocampo and Bianchedi - have their studios open to the public. The cultural tour, known as the Taller Abierto (Open Studio), ends at the Capilla del Monte. At a different level there are handicrafts on display along the eight kilometres from La Cumbre toVilla Giardino, at the Camino de los Artesanos. A pioneer of this development is Los Jardines de Yaya, which opened in 1982. I particularly like the Guayrapá silverwork in the workshop of Jean Como and the loom-woven clothes of La Esquina.
Another worthwhile visit is to the Domaine de Puberclair, a stunning blue world of lavender created 13 years ago by Hugo Cortés and his wife, Marisa. There are many reasons to visit La Cumbre: the Rolotti art gallery; the Museo Cacique Balata, which contains Netnesio Victor Barrera's private collection of 5,000 pieces of local Indian art and the church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, the patron of the city. There is the El Rosario estancia, with its wonderful sweetmeats and local alfajores; the San Jerónimo Dam and a bathing resort on the Pinto River. It has its own Christ the Redeemer statue and a castle (of the Mandl family) the only German vestige in this British enclave. There is a flying club, paragliding at Cuchi Corral, 4x4 tours, pony-trekking, hiking and, of course, an 18-hole golf course.
We said goodbye to La Cumbre and, passing through Cruz Grande, we visited Gabriel Salazar in his fantastic house, "Soltemira".
In Los Cocos - apart from the famous Recreational and Cultural Park, better known as El Descanso, with its colonial, Andalusian and roman patios, and densely woven privet - the ceramic artist Emma Gargiulo makes divine bowls and cups. Elsie Vivanco, a writer and painter who has only lived in La Cumbre a short time.
From Los Cocos we took Route 38 and headed north. After passing through empty and barren countryside we had to take a diversion to the right to Capilla del Monte but continued on our way without stopping. Low down on our left was the Dolores River, while to our right rose the Uritorco, the highest peak (1,950m) in the Sierras Chicas. Finally we took the road that delivered us to Ongamira. The landscape became stained with large areas of bare red soil. The caves of Ongamira was close by. Huge boulders appeared, smoothed by the wind. We were dazzled for a moment then walked a short distance and entered Dos Lunas (Two Moons), a strange paradise in the middle of this equally strange landscape.
Juan and Teresa Fernández Ocampo welcomed us to this marvellous, extravagantly luxurious and aesthetically delightful house in the solitude of this powerful scenery. The idea here is not to be idle but rather to go out on horseback into the surrounding mountains on incredibly well organised pony-treks. We ate off crisp tablecloths and slept in wonderful tents, each one with its own dainty little basket of necessities. The countryside? What can I say.....spectacular. After Dos Lunas our journey continued on red earth roads, amongst palm trees and to the sound of water rumbling among the rocks. The wilderness softened and a more tranquil landscape appeared with cows, horses, u few mules, a stream and a line of poplars, the scenery captured by the artist, Fernando Fader who recreated it in his oil paintings, watercolours and sketches. In fact we were headed for his house/museum in Loza Corral, which appeared beside the road. It was closed. They say that this house, dating from 1920, was built by Fader (1882-1935) with bricks he made himself. It was a shame that we were not able to see it. Only a stone's throw away is Ischillín Viejo. It seemed to be a mirage, comprising an attractive church (1706), a dozen or so coloured houses and a 400-year-old carob tree. It was here that our journey came to an end. We began the descent in the direction of Cañada de Río Pinto. Always south-hound we passed Santa Catalina and La Pampa and Ascochinga. But that's another story.