“I can’t wait to get back to the mountains” I said, as we trundled down a hill in Cordoba city on the way to a new hostel. Steve agreed. We’d been in the city for a few days and liked it – there were next to no tourists and it had a spritely bustle that had been a novelty after weeks in Patagonia – but the yearning for nature had soon kicked in. As our words registered, we leapt to the same conclusion: “What are we doing then? Let’s go,” and we hailed a taxi to the bus station.
Our chosen destination was Capilla del Monte, a small town about three hours outside of Cordoba, which our couchsurfing host had told us about. It’s famed for UFO sightings and has an abundance of vegetarian food – enough to sate both Steve’s and my curiosity.
After a colourful bus ride through Cordoba’s red sierras, we made a beeline for our hostel’s roof terrace. There was the mountain we’d yearned for that morning, majestic above the town. We intended to watch the sunset, but were drawn out by the sound of drumming.
The trail of sound took us to a small park beneath the mountain where a group of young people had formed a samba circle. We watched, entranced by the music, and imagined what it would feel like to be a part of such a beat. We speculated that they might be from one of the communities that exist around Capilla, but were too shy to go and ask – skilfully hiding our timidity under a “Oh, we shouldn’t interrupt”.
Is Capilla del Monte a new age town?
This was our first encounter with the hippy side of Capilla del Monte – an element to be expected in a town famed for UFOs and mystery. While we’re not sure we ourselves could live in a community, we have a curiosity about alternative ways of life, and specifically those that seek a connection with the natural world. We both balk at the term ‘new age’ but recognise our complicated relationship with it, empathising with many of the ideas encompassed beneath that umbrella, but being repelled by others.
Capilla del Monte could easily be called a new age haven. The cafes are filled with flyers for healers of every kind – from yoga to crystals to reiki. Every restaurant has vegetarian food on the menu, and dreadlocks are a common sight. We even went to a crystal bowl concert. But to call Capilla ‘new age’ feels like a reductive insult. These accoutrements don’t define the town. Instead, it’s the energy that likely attracted them in the first place, which sticks in my mind.
One day, we met with a group of expats who had invited us to their weekly hot chocolate meeting. All of them had been drawn to the town because of what they described as its magic. Not all had seen the lights in the sky or had faith in the idea of Erks (a supposed hidden area beneath the mountain, existing in another dimension), but they all believed in Capilla. They talked of its close-knit community, its openness, and most of all the mountain. They said they’d found peace there.
Another night, we met a man selling chocolate on the streets. It turned out he was from Chicago and lived in an eco-community on the outskirts of town. Like the ex-pats, he said the energy of Capilla and the kindness of its people had sucked him in, and he too felt peaceful there.
But what about the people from Capilla? Later in the week, we couchsurfed with a 50-year-old man, Claudio, and his partner, Nadia. The quiet-spoken and down-to-earth pair had both grown up in the area and couldn’t be described as hippy, but certainly as peaceful. We asked them about the UFOs and the people who had been attracted to the town. On the people, they chuckled and said Capilla had attracted its fair share of crazy people with unusual ideas, but on the whole it brought in good folk, looking for peace, nature and quiet.
Capilla del Monte UFOs
Over his lifetime, Claudio said he’d seen lights over the mountain perhaps 25 times. He couldn’t explain what they were, but said they were unlike anything else he’d ever seen before. He didn’t sensationalise his sightings, or provide a theory of what they might be, but simply put it down to the energy of Capilla.
Another man who was raised in Capilla gave a similar view. We met him as our horseriding guide and were struck by his seeming connection to the natural world. When we asked him about the lights, he said he’d seen them many times but that it didn’t matter. What mattered was Capilla’s beauty and the energy of its lands. He told us to breathe in the stillness and be present with the moment – to feel that energy, free from the pollutions of the modern world.
And they all had a point. We didn’t see any lights or UFOs, but Capilla did feel magical. The town, with its little cafes, tasty food and breathtaking scenery, relaxed us. We took a knitting class, drank incredible hot chocolate, went horseriding and danced around on the roof to our brand of hippy – Edward Shape and the Magnetic Zeros. It became one of our favourite towns in Argentina and our two night stay turned into a week. It had a peaceful energy and a community atmosphere, and made us thankful for our spur of the moment decision to visit. We’re not sure we could live somewhere that small yet, but we’d certainly like to go back – perhaps next time to be part of that samba beat.