2007 Roadtrip Cafayate, Argentina

The next day in Cafayate we went on a grueling bike ride up, up and up to 2000 m. As usual we were biking during the hottest part of the day. The surface of the dirt road was sandy and sometimes technically challenging. The views back down to Cafayate reminded us that we were in an irrigated desert. Areas of green surrounded by sand with a few scrubby trees.

By the time we got to Bodega San Pedro de Yacochuya we were out of water and needed a rest. There was a big sign saying that we were on private property and the rockweilers would get us. At the moment we were reading the sign, a car drove up with two couples who had an appointment to tour the winery. We were permitted to join them. It was fascinating. The winery is owned by El Esteco (where we are staying) but a Frenchman was commissioned to create a high end wine: San Pedro de Yacochuya. The Brazilians who we joined on the tour bought some Malbecs for AP$100/US $32.46 and a local white called Torrentes for AP$35/US $11.36. The wine is exported to France and maybe also to the US. The production is so small, however, it would be hard to find.

Before we left Cafayate we bought a bottle of the San Pedro de Yacochuya Torrentes for AP$24 and it was great. It has complex fruit flavors and a crisp, dry taste.

That night we had a wonderful meal at a new restaurant in Cafayate (Macacha Restaurante, Güenes (n) 28, Cafayate, fono: 03868 422 319. e-mail: Macha_gourmet@hotmail.com and macachagourmet@hotmail.com). Macacha is owned by Matias Rodriquez Wilkinson and his wife Sandra Elizabeth deAguirre. He also owns Baco in Cafayate. We had one appetizer assortment, which was enough for a complete meal. It had a quinoa salad with tomatoes, a small dish of lamb stew and vegetables, a small soup/stew called locros (which is made with pumpkin, beans and corn), humitas (which is a corn and onion mash steamed in a corn husk), tamale (the same thing but smaller and filled with meat), empanadas, lentils, black beans in a marinade and a paté of tongue. The wine, a local, organic Nanni Malbec 2004 for AP$35 cost more than our appetizer assortment at AP$30. We spoke a little with Matias and enjoyed his personality.

The next day we toured the gorge, Quebrada de Cafayate, and it was another spectacular visual experience.

Quebrada de Cafayate
The road is called camino sinuoso as it winds its way through the canyon. The red/ochre sandstone has been carved by wind and rain into fabulous shapes. We started doing a hike without a guide and we decided that we could get hopelessly lost. So we went back. The day was cloudy and the photos we got were a little washed out. Since the Quebrada is along the main route between Cafayate and Salta, we hoped it would be a sunny day when we drove north to Salta two days later. That night we ate at a local restaurant called El Rancho that wasn’t nearly as good as Macacha.
One of the other guests at Patios was a family from Buenos Aires with a gregarious 15 year old daughter. She chatted with us in English for quite a while. When we got to Salta, her family had moved on to tour that area too. It was fun to meet the same people on our tourist circuit. We also met two couples at Patios who were from Bolivia. They said that they had driven from Santa Cruz. We started talking to them and asked about the state of the Bolivian roads and whether the route that they took had been paved. They assured us that it was. They gave us their names, e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers for us to contact them before driving to Bolivia.

One day we had Patios de Cafayate to ourselves. No one at breakfast. No one sitting at the pool.

Dimitri luxuriating at Patios de Cafayate

We felt like the place was our own and we loved it. Many times when we are alone in a restaurant or hotel it feels funny, like the place is going out of business and we are the last customers. At a Starwood resort, it didn’t feel like that at all. It was pure luxury.
We had our laundry done in Cafayate for AP$10/ US $3.26. That has to be the cheapest we’ve experienced since Asia in ’95. We also found DVDs to rent for AP$3.50/US $1.13. We watch them on our portable computer if the hotel doesn’t have a DVD player we can use. Now we’re finding things in Argentina as inexpensive as we had been led to believe that they would be.
As we’re walking around Cafayate, for the first time, I saw plastic sandwich-sized bags of dried leaves. They are sold at fruit and vegetable shops and along the street. At El Rancho Restaurant a seller came into the restaurant with them. They are coca leaves and the bag costs AP$2/US 65¢. Often the sign says "coca and bica". Bica is bicarbonate of soda, which evidently, when chewed with the coca leaves, releases the stimulant effect of the coca leaves. It’s tolerated, I guess.

Our last day in Cafayate it rained in the morning. In the afternoon we started to another quebrada/gorge in the Valles Calchaquíes (the Indian name for all of the tribes in the area) to San Carlos along the continuation of our old favorite north-south route, Ruta 40. We didn’t get far. The road had been recently washed out.
The washout on the way to Valles Calchaquíes

The road crew was already working when we got there. There were lots of people around and it became our afternoon’s entertainment to watch them work. We were worried that the route to Salta would have problems too because we had heard it had been closed after the previous rain.

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