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Cacheuta

Little more than a few rental cabins, small family-run restaurants, and artisan market stalls make up the pint-sized mountain town of Cacheuta, yet the town thrives because of its abundance of both hot and cold water.

In summer, as temperatures soar above 35°C (95°F), locals rush out of the city to escape the heat. Many end up in Cacheuta, where the Mendoza River valley finally widens after a harrowing descent from the mountains. The altitude, at 1245 m (4,100 ft), offers cooler air, while the river itself offers the ultimate refreshing swim. Famous Argentine asados will, more often than not, highlight the picnic menu.

The town’s main attraction is its thermal pools. Termas de Cacheuta (Entrance: $7.50, Ruta 82 km 38, Tel: 2624-49-0152) features multiple thermal hot springs, which remain open all year, while cold-water filled waterslides, a wave pool and a lazy river attract crowds throughout the summer. A kids-only pool, complete with mini slides, shooting fountains, and shallow water, gives parents a place to tucker out the younger ones. The facility also features a parrilla restaurant. Those interested in trying their hand at the cooking will find a number of outside grills available for use, surrounded by a sea of picnic tables that are claimed on a first come, first serve basis. During peak season (December-February), Termas de Cacheuta is crowded, so it’s best to go early to claim a prime poolside table.

If escaping the crowds is more important than saving a few pennies, Aguas del Pizarro (Ruta 82, Tel.:02624-49-0140) offers a single pool throughout the summer months. Reservations are recommended, as entry is often limited and sun tanning chairs, as well as picnic tables, run short. Although it seems odd at the time, the quick medical check ensures a clean location by weeding out potential guests who might bring either lice or warts into the pool area. A poolside bar sells basic food, like sandwiches and hamburgers, in addition to cocktails.

Aside from the pools, the town offers few activities. Tras Andino Turismo (www.trasandinoturismo.com, Tel: 0261-423-7993) offers intermediate rafting, rock climbing, and a short zip-line tour in the area, while local climbers make use of an old stone train bridge to hone their technique.

Accommodation is available in cabins at either Cabañas La Rinconada or Complejo Los Cactus. Camping El Montañes welcomes tenters throughout the summer (November-March). Restaurant Lemon Pie offers up cheap milanesas and pizzas, while Al Sol serves grilled beef and chicken.

Finally, three small gift shop style artisan stores offer a unique assortment of handicrafts and local products. Leather gaucho hats, hand-carved mate gourds, and knit sweaters highlight the wares. Prices are fixed, yet negotiating a lower price may be easier here than at more frequented markets in closer to the cities.

This rural town isn’t flashy, but it offers more than enough entertainment to include it as a side trip during a visit to Mendoza. After all the wine, a refreshing day in the mountains amid thermal waters might be just what the mind, body, and liver ordered.

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Other places nearby Cacheuta: Potrerillos, Las Cuevas, Puente Del Inca, Uspallata and Los Penitentes.







24 Jun 2010

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