LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 37
Page. 60 - 73
By: Julia Caprara
Pictures: Federico Quintana
TRAS LAS SIERRAS
Monasteries of any religion have always had the virtue of settling in the best part of a mountainous landscape, often in the heights, as close as possible to the divine empire, always away from the world.
Those who set up La Posada del Qenti learnt this lesson well, situating it in a strategic spot of the Córdoba Province landscape, where the climate has historically been appreciated by the beneficial powers
it exerts on mortals. The inn is located at 900 metres above sea level only a few kilometres from the city of Córdoba, and very near Carlos Paz, but away from any city bustle. Streams, quartz mines, mineral water
springs and the Sierras Chicas as a backdrop protect it. At the Qenty the rule of thumb is to sleep in the sumptuous beds with crisp sheets, to take a healthy breakfast and recover the necessary energy to take
a walk through the hills for a couple of hours. Then to enjoy a light meal, have a short but profound siesta, swim in the climatised pool and bathe in the Jacuzzi. Enjoy a good massage and bathe again in
the enriched waters bubbling with vitality on ones skin with the gift of the view through the enormous windows can only offer you spiritual renewal. Sensational.
Here it is very easy to lose weight; the menus consist of 500 to 600 calories and the cuisine in this aspect is strictly managed. Immediately on arrival a check-up is mandatory so that the medical team can accurately
assess what treatment should be applied in each case.
They see to the needs of their clients with a team of professionals including doctors, masseurs, physiotherapists, cosmetologists, dieticians and other experts. 20-25% of their clients are from Cordoba, the restare mundane personalities from the worlds of politics, sport and show business, who experience Qenty as if it were veritable oasis. Those who are doubtful of the benefits of this kind of holistic treatment
centre should think again. Golf, tennis, horseriding, exploring La Pampa de Achala, the Valle de Punilla or Traslasierra, diving in the nearby Laguna Azul and even flying in a helicopter are possibilities
that combine perfectly repairing therapies of the inn.
Towards the Condors
The second stage of our trip began with the nocturnal cold of the mountains, forcing us to rescue our sweaters from our bags. Our journey towards Traslasierra continued upwards; the brightly-lit houses below marked the distance that we had travelled between the sky and the valley. The night became foggy. In the midst of La Pampa de Achala, La Posta awaited on an extension of 1080 hectares. After a long but trouble-free journey we arrived feeling tired. We left our baggage and once in the lounge we sank into soft cushions and admired the crackling fire in the large fireplace, totally relaxed we awaited our dinner. Pumpkin soup, chicken with green onions and a delicious Malbec wine. Eduardo Pinto told us the story behind La Posta. It started in 1826 when the salt was brought from La Rioja. In 1915 Governor Ramón J. Cárcano built a "posta" (relay station) on the site which is the j unction of the routes from Cuyo and Chile with the centre of the country. It was a hotel until 1949, then a family residence until it was later abandoned. Finally our story-teller rescued it from oblivion and bought it in September 1993, turning it into a mountain hotel.
Pinto has managed to generate a warm inviting atmosphere. It is decorated in warm pastel, the interior is a combination of wood and stone with an eclectic mix of antique and rattan furniture. This welcoming and serene house has big windows that enlarge the space onto an arid exterior resulting in a moving contrast between both worlds.
The hotel has its own electricity and gas supplies, 9 rooms with private bath and a separate hostel with 24 bunk beds. Before heading on towards our destination I explored the surrounding area and, whilst climbing
down some rocks, I discovered a pool of natural spring water only 50 metres from the house. Later I learnt that guests regularly swam in the pool when the weather allows. Federico and I, together with our guide, Ramon, left at about 11am. We were only 21 kilometres from the National Park Quebrada del Condorito. The programme included a 6-hour walking tour. To reach the "balcón", the exclusive lookout
point in the reserve, we had to negotiate an 8-kilometre path. Ramon knew the shortcuts and the three of us, in total silence, continued our walk through the immensity of the Pampa de Achala.
The sparrowhawks soared over the harsh landscape, which was sparsely vegetated with the occasional shrub. The San Roque Lake reflected the rocky desolation. I spotted a huge black silhouette in the distance. To me it looked like an eagle, eating among the rocks, so I slowed down, held my breath, so as not to disturb the king-sized winged beast. It was neither an eagle nor a condor. It was a turkey buzzard. Not
one, but two. I laughed at my own ignorance.
It was almost 2 o'clock when we heard the sound of the River Condorito. We were there. The river tumbled over an abrupt drop of 800 metres, the force of the water falling from the sierras, and before us were
the condors - from afar they looked tiny, bathing under the small rivulets of water. It was a shame that we had no binoculars but, with the photographer's camera's zoom lens, we were able to have a closer look at the condor. We sat on the edge of the precipice hoping to
get a closer look. The guide told us that it wasn't the right moment as the thermal air currents necessary for the birds' flight are at their best in the mornings and in the late afternoon.
Finally the gentle flight of a condor lifted our spirits as one approached on a reconnaissance flight. As it flew overhead we had a clear view of its 2-metre wingspan. Its shadow covered the blue sky and I felt
terrified for an instant, but the shadow only lasted a couple of seconds and disappeared behind the rocks. We were dumbfounded and waited in vain for a repeat performance. Our prayers remained unanswered. The moral of the story is: If you want to see them in action you will have to take the trouble to get up at dawn and reach their domain
early. Or else wait until the evening, which we could not afford to do. Perhaps next time.
San Javier and Yacanto
Down in the valley you can see the autumnal reflections of the silver poplars. It was late in the afternoon when we took Route 14, which leads to the border of the Province. San Javier and Yacanto lie in
the valley below the 2.800 m Champaquí mountain, the highest in Córdoba.
We took a detour to see the La Viña Dam that supplies electricity to the whole of this region. The blue lake and cement wall form a reservoir with the waters of the Los Sauces river and its tributaries.
The dam is the highest in Latin America, 102 m above the valley floor. Many tourists who enjoy water sports and fishing visit the dam.
When we continued on our way we had covered less than a kilometre when Federico asked us to stop. The sight of an eagle in a high cage had caught his eye. We all got out to see. Before us was what seemed
to be a modest roadside eatery but when we entered we found that it was also a regional zoo. Otters, hares, snakes, a vizcacha, a ñandu, a wild boar and even a red fox were all caged there. A year old puma
growled at Federico's camera.
The owner of this collection is Don Eduardo who has, since he was a child, adopted and studied all types of animals. After 20 years of living in this "his own piece of heaven" as he calls it, he has created his own wildlife sanctuary. We shared a drink with Eduardo
and his wife while he listed all the different items on the menu, including his homemade wine.
With the last rays of sunlight we spotted a sign which read "Villa de Las Rosas - Non-Nuclear Zone". This pleasant group of houses surrounded by luxuriant vegetation used to be the tobacco centre for the Province and is presently a hideaway for those who dream of a peaceful and uncontaminated world, a common factor of the residents of the Traslasierra
We arrived at the Yacanto Hotel at night, both tired and hungry. After a hearty meal we climbed the carved wooden stairway which leads to the bedrooms. The enormous rooms are furnished with brass beds and enamelled Victorian baths. Through the windows came the intense fragrance of lavender.
The Hotel dates back to the 1920s when the English were building the railway, which then reached Villa Dolores. The Hotel was originally built for the company's senior staff. In 1932 a golf course was opened right beside the hotel, which, after changing hands several times, was taken over in 1966, by the Madero family.
The original style of the Hotel remains intact and receives its guests in a nostalgic atmosphere where everything is well maintained and looked after. There is a spring water pool, flowerbeds and terraces
overlooked by beautiful trees and birds. There is also a tennis court and of course the 9hole golf course. Every summer, in February, the Yacanto Cup is played. This is a classic 54-hole medal-play tournament that lasts three days.
We set out to explore San Javier, a quiet town proud of its old customs. The countrymen meet at the barn with their horses tied to the hitching rail, the original style of the house remains intact as do the dirt
roads and the church in the main square. This town has been chosen by different artists who settled here a few years ago. José Cozzani is one of the most reputed goldsmiths in the area as well as Elio
Marocchi, who makes beautiful objects out of silver and alpaca.
In La Casa de Juana, a colourful shop on the way to Champaquí, Elsi Torres makes and sells regional cakes and sweets. A few steps down from this shop lies the Olivos shopping centre with its unique yellow warehouse with walls festooned with creepers, where they sell all types of handicrafts made in this region.
On our last day we decided to go on a horseride to the Sierras Grandes. Every now and then we encountered a "paisano" riding a mule. Some of their wives make "empanadas" and "locros" and deliver them to the
bungalows in the vicinity. We crossed streams lined with varieties of indigenous trees. It only took us a couple of hours to reach the top from where we could admire the valley and the town below. Beyond the thick pine forest of the Quebrada del Tigre stood a prominent white church. Our aim was to continue to where the shepherds were working, to share with them some bread and cheese. However night had
fallen and we had no alternative but to return.