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Cafayate (commonly confused with Calafate in the south by ignorant tourists such as us) is a peaceful town in the north of Argentina. It is a popular tourist destination for gringos and Argentines alike, largely due to its famous vineyards and stunning scenery, but has retained a charming ambience nonetheless.

We found ourselves seduced by the “terrazas” of a backpacker joint upon our arrival which offered panoramic views of the coloured mountains surrounding the town. Unfortunately this place was party central and the noise continued until 3am most nights. Normally we had tried to stick to small residential hospedajes that double as family homes. There are numerous reasons for this, but one of the principal ones is that we are now old backpackers with less inclination to drink and talk shit with all and sundry until the early hours. Our common bedtime is around 10:30am (even earlier for Jacinta).

The first morning we went on a complimentary wine tour of three vineyards (unlike Mendoza where nearly all vineyards charged for the tastings.. the sheer HORROR).  The highlight was Nanni’s vineyard that had superb reds and whites that were better than anything I had tried in the Hunter and a fraction of the price. Torrentes is a white grape that the region is famous for and is slightly sweet with a dry finish. (sorry, if you want a more flowery description I’ve got nothing). We showed very little budgetary restraint and bought a few bottles (plus some goats cheese as a necessary accompaniment). We bemoaned the fact that they didn’t export to Australia while being thankful that as backpackers we could only carry so much. Each of our three days in Cafayate involved a twilight bottle of wine with goat’s cheese on our little private Terraza, credibly justified by reminding ourselves that once we reached Bolivia the wine would be shite and the goat’s cheese non-existent.

In the afternoon we went on a tour of the surrounding countryside, named the “Quebrada de las Conchas”. This consisted of layered rock formations of all shapes, sizes and colours. It was absolutely spectacular and while this type of barren yet colourful scenery was to be a hallmark of the north, this first taste of it was the highlight.

The next day we hired some bikes (no gears, very low seat on a heavy frame) and set off in search of a waterfall which was allegedly about 5km away. We had optimistically told some fellow travellers that the 5km ride should only take 15 minutes. Unfortunately, it was all uphill on dirt roads and this combined with our dodgy bikes (nothing to do with us) rendered us exhausted when we reached our goal 1 hour later.  The waterfall was an unknown distance away through a beautiful meandering valley via a path that seemed to disappear every few steps. After about an hour of bush bashing and optimistic notions that the waterfall was around every corner we gave up close to dusk.  “Fuck it, we’re going to Iguazu anyway” were the words that sealed it.

Other highlights were some beautiful and cheap meals (mmmmmmm roast goat) out on the town and some homemade locro (corn based soup traditional in the north) in front of someone’s house on the outskirts of town. On one of these occasions some musicians entertained us with a Forclore (Folklore) concert, the traditional music of the north. They were really good (normally not much of a fan of South American music, especially the damn panpipes) and created a great ambience for us to enjoy the bucket loads of quality barbecued meat.

We left full of good food, wine and regret.


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