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Más vino, por favor!

Winenuts go nuts in Argentina


View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

Imagine a big valley up in the mountains. In the middle of the valley is a cosy little town which is surrounded by numerous vineyards that stretch into the distance, many of which are reachable by a few minutes’ walk. Imagine the vineyards giving free wine tastings to any visitor that stops by. Visualize small winding roads which upon you can cycle among the vineyards and some amazingly formed mountains in different colours. Picture a place where it only rains one month a year and the rest of the days are practically sunny. That’s pretty much Cafayate for you. This is where we have spent the last 10 days.

On the bus coming in to Cafayate we saw lots of enormous cactuses similar to the ones you see in western movies. The landscape was literary covered with them until one approached closer to Cafayate, when they started to give way for grape fields that covered an area as far one could see. Wow, this looked much more as one had imagined a wine area to look like than what we had seen in Mendoza where the wineries were cramped into suburban Mendoza with heavy traffic surrounding them. We started to get excited and we knew that we would soon be treated with some excellent wines and would get the chance to taste the famous white grape, Torrentes, for which the region is famous for.

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On our way to Cafayate

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Getting close to Cafayate

When we were getting off the bus we were immediately surrounded by agents from different hostels giving out flyers wanting us to stay with them. We took some flyers and said that we didn’t want to rush it, that we’d rather have a walk and a beer and check out the town before we decide. Well one representative from the hostel El Balcon was rather persistent and managed to convince us to go and have a look. It was a bit too backpacker like, but they had a spare room, well more like a single room house located on the roof of the hostel which was kind of cool. So we decided to stay there at least for one night.

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Our cute little box on the roof

Cafayate is a small town with a large square in the middle. It is ideal to just stroll around, have a coffee here and a pizza there, or wonder about in some small shops selling wine and handicrafts. Quite a few wineries are just a couple of minutes’ stroll away from the plaza, one of which is our favourite; Nanny,that makes organic wine. There is also a supermarket, a few fruit & veggie shops and some bars to hang out in during the evening. A building worth mentioning is the funny looking bank next to the plaza; it had been built to withstand the extreme weather conditions of Patagonia! The architect had confused El Calafate in Patagonia with sunny Cafayate here in the north!

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In the center of the town at the plaza

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Anna remembered that one of the flyers we had gotten when we arrived was from a rasta girl that had disappeared quite quickly from the bus terminal, so we decided to go and have a look at her place because although we liked El Balcon it had a bit too impersonal feel to it. It seemed that it was kind of a “tourist drive through”; tourists got in and the hostel put them on different tours to get more money from them, after the tours the tourists left and new tourists were shipped in.

We found Casa del Huesped and fell straight in love with it. The rasta girl’s name was Carolina and she had a small house together with her mother, Sara. There was a backyard with a small vineyard, hammocks, dream catchers, an eating area, a friendly dog and reggae blasting from the speakers. In other words there was a cosy and warm atmosphere that we liked. The dog, Toto, was running around in the garden and I decided to give it the last dog bone that I had bought in Cordoba. As there are loads of stray- or unhappy dogs running around in South America I have decided to give some of them a dog bone as a surprise. Toto got all fired up and chew up the bone in an hour. It warms the heart to see a happy dog. Well the physical warmth lasted only until the sun went down. Winter nights are bloody cold in Cafayate.

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In the backyard

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Toto

All settled in, we decided to rent bicycles for 3 days and explore the surroundings. The first day we went to a neighbouring village about 15km away. We stopped at a few wineries along the way, did some tasting and bought a few bottles to suck down during the evening.

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The next day we visited some wineries, did some tasting and bought a few bottles more, equipped with which we headed 6km uphill, left the bikes and hiked along a gorge for a few hours looking for a waterfall. There was no real path to follow and the terrain was quite hard with mostly rocks, heavy vegetation and cactuses. We felt like adventurers where no man had been before. In the end we had to head back before we found ‘the’ waterfall (saw a couple of smaller ones), but before that we rewarded ourselves with some nice Torrentés wine that we enjoyed on top of a high hill overlooking some marvellous views.

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In the gorge

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In the gorge

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Aah, torrentés

On the third day we put the bikes on a bus and took the bus down the road 50km towards Salta. There we got off the bus and started riding back to Cafayate along what was supposed to be one of the nicest bike rides in the country. And to tell you the truth it really was amazing, but in the end the ass was a bit sore.

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The final day in Cafayate, after returning the bikes the previous day, we had some more wine and visited a local bar Ñanta (really nice), which is owned by friends of Carolina. The rest of the day we decided to spend walking around the neighbourhood easing the ass/leg pain before the bus ride to Salta the next day. In the evening we hang around the house. So there was Toto, the dog, sitting in Carolina’s lap in the hammock. “How are you doing, you little bugger? Liked your bone did you? Yeah, aren’t you a cutey!!” And WACK, just as I was petting its head the little fucker bit me in my hand! It got stuck in my hand and Carolina had to hit it in its head and kick it before it let go. Well everything was over in 2 seconds. Blood was pouring from the wound in my hand and after the initial shock when I eased a bit, I saw that it had just missed the mayor artery in the wrist and it looked like it was only a flesh wound. We jumped in a cab and headed towards the local hospital. Once there, I was given an anti-tetanus shot in the arm and the wound was cleaned. No further treatment was needed as Carolina stated that the dog had gotten all the necessary vaccines that a dog needs. So we then headed back to our place. Carolina and her mother were obviously devastated about what had happened as something similar had never happened before. We assured them everything was fine and that the pain was bearable.

That evening in bed small thoughts of unease started creeping in about R A B I E S, what if...hmmm better send an SMS to my dear doctor cousin and see what his opinion would be. We then read a bit on the net about rabies; 100% mortality rate and one of the worst ways to die; you literally become insane. My cousin’s response was that I better get some rabies shots just in case. The fact that Toto had been in a really big fight with 10 other dogs a week before our arrival and that one could still see several bite marks on his back, convinced us that I’d better go back to the hospital immediately the next morning. One has a 24 hours’ time span before the first shot has to be taken. So off we went the following morning. The doctor confirmed our fear. As the bite was in the hand with veins close to the surface the risk of infection was greater. He ordered a 5 days’ rabies cure for me, which basically meant that I had to visit the hospital every morning for the next 5 days and get a rabies shot in the ass :)

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So all of a sudden we had another 5 days to spend in Cafayate with accommodation free of charge. Guess how that time was spent? Well we sat in the grape garden of our place sampling the remaining wines of Cafayate that we hadn’t yet tasted. We also got to know Carolina, Sara, Carolina’s brother, Sebastian (who turned up from Salta), his friend BOMBE, and Carolina’s boyfriend a lot better. With our newly found friends we had a great time and they even invited us to a birthday party of one of their friends that we didn’t know from before. The party was a blast.

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Hanging out by the river with Carolina, her boyfriend and Seba

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At the birthday party

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At the birthday party

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At the Ñanta restaurant

After the extra 5 days had passed it was sad to finally say goodbye to such lovely people and a nice place, but we really had to continue our journey after spending 10 days in wonderful Cafayate.

Posted by AnnaMickus 12:31 Archived in Argentina

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