Our last stop in Argentina before moving to to Bolivia, was a quick, but memorable, one-nighter in the mountain town of Tilcara.

We stepped off our bus and into a movie. The town looked like the set of a dusty western flick and I half expected to discover that the buildings were nothing more than facades, setup for an invisible camera. We didn’t have beds booked so we wandered the streets looking for vacancies, loaded down like donkeys with our packs. A nice fellow at a restaurant offered to drive us to his hotel. He drove us almost right out of town to a deserted hotel near the old train tracks. We accepted, just happy to have found a place to sleep.

We went searching for food, and found traditional Andean fare at Lola Mora–peanut soup and a cold salad of quinoa, white corn, lima beans and goat cheese. It was a bizarre combination of flavours and textures. We didn’t all exclaim with “mmm” but left going, “well, that was interesting.”

Interesting: the adjective we use to avoid placing a “good” or “bad” judgement on an event or experience, out of respect for its cultural significance

I had my heart set on experiencing the live music in a traditional peña. The first one we stopped at turned us away as it was too crowded, also, the Peruvian pan flute music was turning Dan’s stomach. I love pan flute music, it reminds me of Saturday mornings at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto; Dan hates it–go figure!

The next peña at Rincon del Colla felt much more authentic. Two men on classical guitars and another on percussion sang folk songs from Argentina as we sat lulled into a daze by the music and ambiance.

Then, the lights went out. A blackout had befallen the town but the musicians continued to play. They played and played. A generator turned on and one light lit up the restaurant. Finally, we woke from our reverie realizing that we had to walk to the edge of Tilcara in complete darkness. Guided by a very bright moon, we crossed a bridge, wandered past the old train tracks and, finally, got to our beds satisfied with our teaser taste of this enchanted place.

In the morning, we spent a few hours exploring the town, basking in the picturesque scenery now afforded us by daylight.