(September 27 – written by Dave)
Today was all about relaxing. And lucky for us, we chose a great hostel from where we could do this. The owner of the Kallpa Hostel, Francisco, is a wonderful host, spending a good deal of time chatting with us over a leisurely breakfast. He probably speaks less English we speak Spanish but he is willing to patiently work with us and gently correct our many errors. His 15 year old son is planning a year in Australia next year at one of Sydney’s Northern Beaches rugby academies, so there was much for us to talk about and share.
After a rest in our room, Francisco also got us pointed in the right direction for the day’s main event – that is lunch at one of Cafayate’s famous vineyards. A good deal of the local wineries have cellar doors and/or restaurants in the town of Cafayate itself. This makes it easy for the tourists to imbibe and still get home safely. We like the idea of walking but also wanted to sit on a nice terrace with a view, to make it proper “slow food” meal. Francisco told us about Piattelli, a vineyard 3k from town with commanding district views.
Piattelli ended up being a great choice. We had to take a taxi on some dusty bumpy roads to reach the winery, but once there, it was an oasis of green, blue and sun. And the views out across Cafayete were fantastic. We used the knowledge we gained through our wine tasting in Salta – but only to a small extent. When they bring you a bottle of wine to try before you accept the wine for drinking, they really don’t expect you to look at the colour, check the legs, smell and taste it. For crying out loud, just sip it and tell them it’s perfect – so that’s what I did.
The winery has a 5 course degustation menu that comes with matching wines but we agreed that 6 different wines, no matter how small the serving, would be too much for us. So we just ordered off the menu but we were still not disappointed. We both had starters, followed by mains and a glass each of reserve Argentinean Malbec (plus two bottles of fancy spring water) – all for the princely sum of $30 USD. That’s way more than we normally pay for lunch but you can’t imagine what such a treat would cost in the Napa or Hunter Valleys. We got to the winery pretty early but didn’t leave much before 3PM. It was all very leisurely and relaxing, just the way a rest day should be.
Once back in town, we had an artisanal ice cream from one of Cafayate’s many artisanal ice cream shops. It seems that it is hard to sell ice cream here if you don’t call it artisanal. The ice cream was good, but honestly, it was just ice cream. Perhaps we should have tried one of the wine varietal ice creams flavours that they had on offer – maybe that’s where the artisanal part comes in.
Back at the hostal, we ran into Francisco again. He was having an English lesion – his teacher is a Dutch woman from Holland. While chatting, the instructor suggested that we go to a peña that is happening tonight in town but we are sort of thinking we won’t go. A peña is a traditional Argentinean spit BBQ meal where lots of meat and wine is served. It’s a long night that starts late (for us) and goes on into well into the morning. Local musicians often attend peñas, playing for free, and making it giant party. Apparently many famous Argentina musicians got their start in a local peña. The trouble for us is that 10PM start, we’ll be gassed well before the party really gets going.
The plan now is to have dinner a nearby empanada restaurant and make it an early night. There is even a small challenge with this as the restaurant doesn’t open for dinner until 8PM, the same time that the bakery opens (so we can buy bread for tomorrow). Time in Argentina is about 4 hours (maybe more) shifted off our normal body clocks. Dinner is the hardest meal for us to get used to. Oh well, I guess that’s the price to pay for good food, nice wines and nice places to stay. If time is our only inconvenience here, we’ll just have to adjust.
Tomorrow we head south once again. The other day in Salta, I forgot to mention that Salta was most likely the eastern most point that we’ll hit on this trip. We’ve been going south and east almost since we left Alaska. Fairbanks is at -147 degrees, Salta is at -66 degrees. From here on, we head back west and/or south for the remainder of the trip. As evidenced by me forgetting to mention it, the most eastern point of the trip did not feature highly in our pre-trip thoughts – all the same, mentally, it’s nice to know that it is truly all down from here. No more sideways!