The small town of Cafayate was a stark contrast to Salta. For a start the sun was shining!
One of the first things that happened to us here which hadn’t happened to us anywhere in South America so far, was that as we got off the bus, we were surrounded by touts trying to sell their rooms. This happens everywhere you go in Asia but this was a first for us here.
We selected one and walked to it but declined it as it wasn’t too nice. So we had to do the usual thing of walk around a bit and find somewhere both acceptable and cheap. Across the other side of the main square, we had a place in mind to head to but couldn’t find it anywhere.
We spotted this rather nice looking place though and went in really just to be cheeky. Well we were shocked that we could afford it – 300 pesos a night (£15). Deal done and we settled in straight away – then started to worry we had misunderstood and that it was £15 each!
We don’t normally pay up front but we thought it was the best strategy to pay for the first night early just to make sure we had understood it correctly. Yep – the price was right and we couldn’t believe our good fortune. Hot water? Yes. Room heater? Yes. Breakfast included??? Yes! Where was the catch? We just couldn’t see it.
So off we went to look around the town.
The town seems to really exist only because of the vineyards which surround the town as far as your eye can see. They have Bodegas (shops) that sell wine attached to every winery where you can also for a small fee (not like Australia where it’s free) have a tasting too. There is a winery and bodega on almost every street here so it’s very hard to avoid them – honest it is.
Of course it would be impolite to come all this way and not taste the local wine which they are very proud of.
The first one we tried was El Transito (not a very catchy name). To be honest for 50p each for a guided tour and a tasting of 3 wines wasn’t very expensive so we bought in. We took the tour – all in Spanish so we didn’t understand very much of it. We asked her in our best Spanish if she could talk more slowly but she rabbited on just as fast. Another chap on the tour who turned out to be English helpfully translated for us – “she said they make wine” he said. Ha ha very funny! We chatted to this couple for a bit and it turned out he didn’t understand a word of it either!
We really like this town. It has a real air of tranquility and calm. No one’s in a rush to be anywhere else, youngsters take a picnic lunch in the square, the old men and cowboys sit around the square in the afternoons drinking mate.
Mate (say mat-eh) is a traditional South American herb infused drink. In Argentina it is defined by law as the “national infusion”. They drink it from a richly decorated, hollowed out gourd. The calabash or bottle gourd is also known as opo squash or long melon. The mate is served in it with a silver or stainless steel straw. They are really into this and it is serious stuff. They carry their own cups with them everywhere just for drinking mate.
Another thing to see in the square is the dogs. There are lots of very well fed looking strays here and they do seem to crave people company. It’s fatal to show any kindness to them or speak to them in any way as they end up following you all day. But they are so sweet you can’t help but give them a pat or talk to them so you end up with a shadow everywhere you go. If you go into a shop to lose them – they are waiting for you when you come out and pick up where they left off.
What is more funny is to see the dog that was following you yesterday now attached to someone else today. They have no loyalties. But everyone here is very kind to them and they are tolerated in shops and restaurants too when they wander in.
There is one particular little dog who just simply cannot contain herself whenever she sees Bryan, She goes absolutely mental in the street and takes ages to calm down.
We took a couple of trips out whilst we were here but we have written about them separately.
On the Saturday everything was closed. Shops, restaurants, banks – everything. Luckily our hostal provided a really lovely breakfast and we were able to fill up in the morning but that wouldn’t carry us through til the evening. So we set off in search of a local delicacy we had been told about.
Ice cream – wine ice cream to be exact! Of course it is wine flavoured – everything is wine flavoured here.
We found the shop that was recommended to us – Bryan went for the chardonnay and Jody the malbec. Wow it was strong! It was just like a frozen glass of wine.
We had a really lovely and relaxing time here in Cafayate. Although we still took a couple of tours there was no rushing around with them and they were the most relaxing tours we have taken in a long time. We really needed this.
But as always we have to move on.
We had more things to see and more to do elsewhere.