Wine Country and back.

Cafayate Travel Blog

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Local band set up at the mouth of Ampitheatro.

Hello All,

Let me tell you I really enjoyed the first consecutive nights in the same place, and I even have one more tonight before having to catch a 5:30AM bus to La Chiaqua on the Bolivian border.

Today was a day for the organized tour.  I booked yesterday through an agency near the Plaza 9 de Julio for $65 pesos (~$21), and had to be ready to roll in front of the hotel.  I was most interested in the wine bodegas of Cafayate 189km south of Salta, and was told that we would visit two of them.  I also was told that there would be an English speaking guide.  So, even though I would have liked to have visited more bodegas, there was much more sightseeing of the area between the two cities, which admittedly was beautiful.

Ok, now... you did say something about some corn, right?

Well, the guide did speak English, but of the 18 people on the tour there were 15 native Spanish speakers.  Soooo, as much as I tried to keep up with what was being said en espanol, I eventually just resigned myself to asking a few select questions whenever the bus stopped and I got to talk to Diego.

The road from Salta to Cafayate follows a river valley between two decent size mountain ridges, and things get very narrow in a few points.  It's obvious from the visible features that the area lies smack dab on a fault line, and huge jagged hills of exposed rock jut from the valley floor at 45 degree angles making for spectacular features, and amazing sights.

Our first stop was at an artesinal goat farm.  They offered tea or coffee, and some very tasty goat cheese in about six different flavors.

Vasija Secreta Bodega. Cafayate, Argentina.
  The picante stuff was particularly tasty, and I munched as many samples as possible while visiting the local goats to say hello.

We moved on after that and started to see many unique formations.  Some were of the 'Look there's a guys face in the rock!' variety, but there were a few that were really cool.  My favorites were two very narrow box canyons early on the trip.  The first was called 'Garganta del Diablo', and it had a narrow entrance with a continuing climb up akimbo rocks that theoretically could get you to the top if you had some climbing skill.  Only myself and an older French gentleman even gave it a shot beyond the first obstacle, and it was certainly worth it in the views afforded.
  The acoustics were unreal, and of course everybody (including myself) had to try them out.

I didn't go for the $3 peso bottle of white on the bottom row.

The next big canyon, named Ampitheatro, was similar but it was shorter, with an absolutely flat floor, and sheer rock walls going up a few hundred feet about 340 degrees around you.  Taking advantage of the good acoustics here was a three piece band that played traditional local for tips.  It really added to the ambiance, and made me want to pull up a rock/seat and close my eyes to take it all in.  Almost worth the price of admission on it's own.  Although my lack of anything smaller then a $10 peso note had me stiffing the band for it's tip.  I know, I suck.

The next hour involved us stopping every 10 minutes or so whilst oooh'ing and aaah'ing over various cool sights.  One of the stops gave us the opportunity to get up close and personal with a llama and take pictures.

The sign, the cactus, the vines, the mountains. That's pretty much Cafayate.
  Of course, I had to do it.  We had been passing tobacco, corn, and GRAPES! for quite a while, so I was really in the mood for a winery.  At about 11am we pulled into the Vasija Secreta bodega just north of Cafayate.  It seemed to be a small winery, but it was very pretty, and the surroundings certainly helped.  The group entered and the tour guide started talking about the history of the winery in spanish.  Oh well, I for the most part, knew what I was looking at anyways, and also managed to find an Egnlish guide and follow him around for about half the tour.  The bodega featured the local Torrontes and Malbec grapes, and international faves Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well.  The tasting wasn't bad, and I decided I had to at least buy a bottle.
The main street of Cafayate.
  The price of $6 pesos (less then $2) for the Torrontes certainly made that an easy choice.  There was a bottle of blended white that went for less then $1 US, but it wasn't on the tasting so I passed.

I'm compiling this as watching the Super Bowl.  And ESPN International just referred the that Indianapolis fumble recovery as a 'Pila Humana'.  :)  And now Indy gave it right back.  Sorry, I'll try to refrain from further comment on the game in this exclusive travel blog.

Next we stopped in town for lunch at a place serving cuisine typical of the area.  Having pledged to not eat a meal in Argentina without it involving steak I ordered 'Bistek Completo con Papas Fritas', steak and fries.  Well when it came I found out that the Completo part involved a sunny-side up fried egg on top of a fine piece of beef.

The cathedral of Cafayate.
  Oh well, go with the flow right?  It was tasty and I couldn't finish it all.  So I took it with me hoping to co-opt the hotel microwave if possible tonight.  Damn my feeble appetite, I want more.  During lunch I sat at a table with two women, and a couple, all from Argentina.  Communication was made a bit easier with the group thanks to a young girl from Buenos Aires whose English was a bit better then my Spanish.

Cafayate is a small bohemian type of town.  Diego used the word 'hippie' in his commentary a few times, and it certainly seemed to fit.  It has a tiny, cute central plaza, and a new-ish little cathedral.  While walking around I had to try a local specialty, 'hellado con vino'.

Look at the colors on that mountain! This was out of the moving van. I was amazed it looked this good.
  This was wine flavored ice cream, and they offered both Torrontes and Merlot flavors.  I got a double cone with Torrontes, and some Mango.  I enjoyed the Mango much more, as something about the wine/ice cream combo didn't work for me.

We never did visit another bodega, much to my disappointment, but I was keen to get back to Salta anyways.  The ride back seemed to take quite awhile, we stopped a few times to break things up.  Once to visit more llamas and another goat, and then once more back at the goat cheese place.  I was dropped off at the Mar Charbel Hotel about 25 minutes before the Super Bowl started, so I did some quick laundry (hope it dries by 5am), and settled in for the game and blogging.  I think I'll head downtown during halftime to hook up to the internet and watch the second half.

If everything goes well I will have 20 hours of bus, walking, taxi and train travel tomorrow before arriving at Uyuni, Bolivia.  I'm thinking internet will be sketchy there, and it certainly will be when I hook up with a salt flats tour for a few days.  I'll try to blog as I go and post them later.

Seeya Everybody,


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Local band set up at the mouth of …
Local band set up at the mouth of…
Ok, now... you did say something a…
Ok, now... you did say something …
Vasija Secreta Bodega.  Cafayate, …
Vasija Secreta Bodega. Cafayate,…
I didnt go for the $3 peso bottle…
I didn't go for the $3 peso bottl…
The sign, the cactus, the vines, t…
The sign, the cactus, the vines, …
The main street of Cafayate.
The main street of Cafayate.
The cathedral of Cafayate.
The cathedral of Cafayate.
Look at the colors on that mountai…
Look at the colors on that mounta…
photo by: dardeb