To Cafayate and Salta
-- Story by Erin --
Sunday, May 12th: Leaving Vinchina early in the morning, we
had a pleasant day's ride through some stunning scenery. We had to track back 75
kilometers down the same road we came in on to the turn-off to another main road heading
north again. After 30 or so kilometers on paved road the pavement abruptly ended and
we were back on jarring earthen track with patches of deep sand. The scenery however
was enough to distract my thoughts of what the rough road was doing to my bike!
This stretch is known as the Cuesta de Miranda and is
stunningly beautiful. It seems to have its own micro-climate with lush green bushes
and cacti clinging to the sides of the deep red cliffs of the canyon. We passed
several little villages, which looked like life hadn't changed for them in several hundred
years. The road wound deep through the canyon and up over a high pass. At the
top of the pass we pulled over to admire the view, and to also inspect my shock as I was
complaining that the ride was very hard on both me and the bike. Chris tried to
adjust my pre-load with the knob and found that it turned freely with no tension.
That's not normal and it was obviously broken in some way.
Needless to say we took the rest of the ride very slowly and
gently. Luckily the ripio road didn't last long and we had pavement until the end of
the day in Belen, where we ended up. We are always pleasantly surprised with
Argentina's small towns. They invariably have charming, clean plazas and the
residents always seem so happy and friendly. Such was the case with Belen.
Monday, May 13th: We had no choice but to take another
ripio road north to get to our next destination, Cafayate. Besides the slow,
uncomfortable ride the scenery was somewhat bland to look at and there was much dirt
blowing around in the air. When the ripio ended we found ourselves in the town of
Santa Maria around lunchtime. The plaza is always a reliable place to find little
restaurants open that time of day, so that's where we went. We decided on one that
had an interesting daily menu and parked ourselves at a table outside. A woman who
had been sitting at a table by herself at the adjoining restaurant came over and
introduced herself. Turns out she is from Florida and here in Argentina with a
group from the Rotary Club International. They are travelling around learning about
the culture of Argentina as part of a cultural exchange program. Not soon after, we
were joined in conversation by her travel companions and we chatted for some time.
It's not usual that we bump into fellow American travellers, especially not in small towns
off the beaten track!
We later joined a few of them a little further north at the
Ruins of Guilmes, a site of an indian village on the side of a mountain. Very
interesting with it's fortified lookouts and giant candelabra cacti everywhere.
Later, they went on to Salta and we headed for Cafayate, the last big wine area heading
Our friend Andrés Kemeny who works for a company that owns
several bodegas (wineries), happens to have one in Cafayate, Peñalva Frias.
He suggested we stop in there and get a tour of the place. Of course we jumped at
the chance, and the manager, Sebastian, was kind enough to invite us to stay in the main
house. After a sunset tour of the finca with all its different kind of grapes and
the beautiful lake, which feeds the entire property, we were shown the house and our
room. It's still in the middle of being constructed but the place resembles a big
Spanish villa. The place is really beautiful and we basically could go anywhere we
wanted. The house staff prepared all our meals and of course we consumed the wine of
the bodega. It's so nice to be spoiled from time to time, and this was a very
pleasant surprise for us. Thanks Andrés!
Time was progressing and we had a date to meet friends in
Salta, further north. Wednesday we headed out of town, well rested, and got to Salta
around mid-day. Now we are here with Annet, our German friend on a new BMW F650GS,
running errands and buying last minute things before heading into Bolivia next week.
We've sent my shock back to Cordoba to get fixed (again!!!) so we need to wait for
its return. This weekend there is big Fiesta del Gaucho----- a celebration of the
gaucho (cowboy) culture with demonstrations of the horsemanship as well as dancing, music
and arts. Should be a feast for the camera!
Can you believe next week (May 20th)
will be THREE YEARS?!?!
Entrance to Penalva Frias Bodega
View from the garden back to the villa
The hallway outside our room