– Go straight on, at the roundabout take the exit to Tanti and continue on that road. You’ll drive past Lo de Daniel, a popular steakhouse. Keep climbing until after the tarmac ends. There’s only one way up, you can’t miss it.
With these directions, we set out to Los Gigantes range in Córdoba (Argentina) in our rental car. This mountain range is located in an area called Pampa de Achala, 28 kilometres from the sleepy town of Tanti and 90 from Córdoba City, down state route 28. It was the November bank holiday. The day before had been hot, with temperatures in the high thirties Celsius. The weather changed overnight and it was a cold, rainy morning. Córdoba has rather unpredictably weather.
We drove past Lo de Daniel, famous for its grilled kid goat, a local specialty. I would have liked to stop in Tanti and have a look around the place where my father spent many a childhood summer visiting relatives. But Los Gigantes beckoned.
We were now driving uphill. Slowly, urban areas began to thin out until they disappeared. Tarmac gave way to gravel; picket fences became pircas, as dry-stone walls are known locally. Rocks and boulders outnumbered trees and plants the higher up we went. The ghostly figures of grazing cows and horses stood out against the low-lying clouds and drizzle.
The hills suddenly became a big, verdant plateau. In the distance, a lonely bus disappeared behind a curtain of fog, adding a new layer of contrast.
The gravel road was now peppered with big flat stones and our car was definitely not an off-road vehicle. We continued for a few kilometres. We drove past Lo de Daniel II, an isolated restaurant that promised desayunos camperos (country-style breakfast) and grilled kid. We figured it belonged to the same Daniel as the steakhouse back in Tanti.
A sign posted at a fork in the road indicated Los Gigantes to the left. The going was rougher. We were the only vehicle in sight and had little or no cellphone signal. Discretion being the better part of valour, it was time to turn round and go down.
We stopped at Lo de Daniel II for a hot drink. We had a big bowl of café con leche and the most delicious homemade bread we’d had in a long time. Bread tastes different in Córdoba, it’s special. It tastes like the bread my Córdoba-born grandmother used to make.
After a while, a gentleman asked us whether we were German. No, we said. I’m Argentinean and my husband is British. We invited him to sit with us. He asked questions about England and Europe and he told us his life’s story. He turned out to be Daniel, the owner of both establishments that bear his name. Three generations work in this family business. He told us that he owns a few hectares of this lunar landscape where he raises his own goats. We chatted until he had to go and wait on new customers who also braved the rain and the cold.
The weather and the road conditions prevented us from reaching Los Gigantes. Instead, they led us to an interesting and colourful local man. And delicious bread.