Those nice people at Land Rover tell white, puffy lies. They gave their exotic Argentina trip the jaunty and adventurous "Road to the Clouds" moniker, but from the moment we step out of the plane, there are few clouds to speak of-plenty wide open, impossibly blue skies, horizon-bending vistas, and the promise of an unforgettable 4x4 expedition to the highest driveable pass in North and South America, sure, but few feathery cirrus or pillowy cumulus clouds.
Truth be told, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of roads, either.
The trip starts with a 33-pound luggage restriction, given the cigar-tube turbo prop we must take out of Buenos Aires. No bathroom on the plane means a fluid-intake restriction, too. When we hit the tarmac just outside of Cafayate, roughly 800 miles north in the province of Salta, we're greeted by a convoy of Land Rover LR3s and a bevy of handlers and guides.
With 12,000 inhabitants, Cafayate is one of the larger cities in the region, but it feels much smaller. Its quaint and quiet city square is bordered by shops, cafes, a church and museum-and is seemingly the lifeblood of the city, after the local vineyards.
Our journey begins in earnest following a restful night at the Patios de Cafayate, an expansive resort on the grounds of the Michel Torino vineyards. The excellent wine and cheese at dinner make it a bit slower start-we're already over 5300 feet above sea level and going to ascend at least twice that elevation in the next few days, so we're reminded to watch our fluid intake: more of the clear stuff, less of the red and white.
We team up in twos and threes, one Land Rover guide riding shotgun, and head into the wild. We're taking Ruta Nacional 40 (Route 40) toward Salta and passing the highest driveable pass in all of the Americas, Abra del Acay.