Mora Hostel’s pastries were scrumdiddlyumptious. Under the bow of Ian’s raised eyebrow, I demolished five in quick succession, fuelling up for a day of relaxation at the Cacheuta natural spring spa. Then realised I’d peaked too early, when they brought out the duche de leche crepes, oops.
Our exuberant and rather toothless bus driver gave what we assumed was an entertaining speech in theatrical Spanish; we chuckled along with the other passengers, wondering if we were missing any vital information about our trip? We’d find out soon enough…
From Mendoza, our bus climbed 2000 meters above sea level, passing through valleys of vineyards cocooned in barren chestnut coloured mountains. We reached a dusty “village” (though I’m not sure that’s what this was) it was a dust bowl with a couple of tired wooden shacks selling the usual trinkets, cold drinks, and fly-covered pastries. Then everyone got off the bus. Were we here? This wasn’t exactly what we’d imagined when we’d heard about the famous Cacheuta springs?
In it’s heyday, Cacheuta was home to one of Argentina’s most luxurious spa resorts. The Transandine Railway used to stop in Cacheuta, and a special lift would transport the guests and their furs & gold, directly from the platform to the hotel. Today all that is left of the resort is this very lift shaft, after it was devastated by a glacial flood in 1934. Since the train line stopped coming here, the town sadly never returned to it’s former glory. However more recently a new spa has been built on the same site, and adjacent a natural spring water park was also constructed.
Unable to extract a word of direction from Mr Funny Driver, we followed a trail of people and found we were indeed at the springs. And they were fabulous! Waterfalls cascaded into about forty different pool sections, staggered at various levels down the face of the mountain. The water blue and crystal clear, the sun blazing; today was a day for topping up our tans and not much else!
Choosing a pool was like russian roulette, some were scorching hot, others luke warm and some were freezing cold! So after making a circuit of the whirlpool and Ian convincing me to go down the waterside (which was much scarier than it looked) we sprawled out in a cool shallow pool for the afternoon. It was a busy day at the springs, and as midday crept up strings of people arrived and set up camp in the sounding barbeque picnic areas. We were envious of the racks of ribs and scent of barbecued chicken floating by our noses, as we’d come equipt with an unimpressive selection of apples and bananas. But then I discovered the alfajores ice cream sandwich, and all at once, equilibrium was restored.
We got back to the hostel later than expected, but just on time to take part in the empanada making course with two Australian girls. Over a glass of Malbec, the fantastic hostel cook and her translator guided us through the surprisingly simple steps of making her delicious Carne (meat) empanadas. Try it at home, here’s the recipe:
Carne Empanada Recipe
Ingredients (in order of appearance):
Olive oil, drizzles
2 onions, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
Green olives (approx 15) roughly chopped
Pack of mince meat, 250g
Chilli powder, 1 teaspoon
Cumin powder, 1 teaspoon
Salt & pepper
Empanada pastry - either make your own, recipe here or ready made puff or filo pastry cut in the right shape should do ok too!
How to make them:
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celius.
1. Hard boil 2 eggs (for about 9 minutes). Once cool enough, peel and chop them up roughly into lots of small pieces, put to one side.
2. Drizzle some olive oil into another pan, when hot add the chopped onion and red pepper and cook slowly until browned through, add a few big pinches of salt and pepper.
3. Add the mince meat, cumin and chilli powder to the mixture and cook until browned through and smelling delish.
4. Take off the heat and mix in the chopped eggs and olives
5. Make the empanada pastry or lay out and cut the ready made stuff
6. Grease up or line a flat baking tray
7. Put a large table spoon or two of the meat mixture into one side of the pastry round. Then fold over the send half of the pastry, wet the edges with your fingers and pinch to ‘crimp’ the two edges together and seal in the mixture in a pretty crescent moon shape.
8. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (or however long it says on the pastry packet)
9. ¡Buen apetito! They should look something like this!?