Friday, March 25, 2011

A Bicycle built for two; Cafayate, Argentina

In Santa Marta I was changing my mind about where to go and what to do every 5 minutes. I had planned to fly to Argentina then I decided to stay and work in Colombia then I was certain I would go to the Amazon and take a boat to Brazil. In the end after finding a decent flight to Buenos Aires I was teetering on that and the boat idea I was having problems making a decision and knowing what to do. I wrote earlier, “the obstacle is the path,” thinking Colombia was my obstacle but as I was staring at my computer screen with the Gol flight in front of me tempting me I looked up and saw in the hostel restaurant a group of people eating pasta and sharing a bottle of red wine, right then and there I knew what I had to do. I was going to Argentina for the red.

Like most people a wine tour of the famous Mendoza region was on my itinerary but I did not expect to be enchanted by the small village of Cafayate.

I had kept in contact with a young musician who stayed in my hostel in Colombia last year, we planned to meet up and travel together, so I left Cordoba spent one night in Tucuman and headed off on a bus to Cafayate in the state of Salta with my Tucu man.

We talked endlessly on the bus in Spanish about his music, my writing, Argentina, Canada and life in general. He can speak English but doesn’t and I was glad for it. He is one of the few people I can have a deep in depth conversation with in Spanish.

We arrived late to the village, while I showered and got ready for dinner he took out his guitar which he was dying to hold. He had been all day in the bus without being with his “Niña.” Depriving him of his guitar, an extension of his body is like taking away one of his senses. I had always had this fantasy of traveling through Latin America with my guitar on my back, playing it on beaches and passing it around in hostels. I wanted to be like those Argentineans I saw last year in Montanita, Ecuador lying on the beach strumming their guitars in sync, while the sun set and other Argies made macramé bracelets. Unfortunately my music skills are non-existent and my garage sale bought guitar has been sitting idle in my basement room in Canada for years. The next best thing to my gypsy, flowers in my hair, guitar on my back fantasies is to be traveling with a musician. I am awe inspired by his passion towards his art. I was even more taken aback when I overheard him singing Tango in the shower, there is something about a musician that drives women crazy. He came out shaking his wet curly hair saying he only sings Tango in the shower.

Later that evening, after quite a bit of wine we couldn’t stop giggling over the idea of renting a tandem bike and going on a wine tour of the vineyards. I had spent the summer working on a senior’s cruise where along with playing bocce ball I had to participate in sing-a-longs featuring songs from the war time era including the classic “A Bicycle built for two.” I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to actually ride one and my Tucuman friend made me promise I would sing the ridiculous song which he had never heard before. He was not impressed with the lyrics though, which do not agree with his bohemian ways about Daisy who wouldn’t marry her poor Michael because he only had enough money for a bicycle built for two.

I told my penniless guitar player I was quite happy with a bicycle built for two and we set off the next day in search of our wheels. He took the front and quickly learned how to steer while I tried to keep in sync peddling behind. Maybe I should have trusted Daisy’s opinion tandem bikes are a lot harder than they look especially when you can’t stop laughing and after several glasses of wine.

We circled the town raising the heads of locals and tourists as we zipped past laughing like children and headed off on the Ruta de las Vinedos. The backdrop was picture perfect with the Andes Mountains looming in the distance, green lush vineyards and dusty country roads. We parked our bike outside a few different vineyards with the plan to tell them I am a journalist from Canada writing about the grape varieties in Cafayate in hopes of scoring free wine but unlike the overly commercialized Bodegas of Mendoza Cafayate was willingly filling up our ready and waiting wine glasses and offered free guided tours. Argentina and Mendoza more specifically is famous for its Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon wines but here in Cafayate they pride themselves on their excellent Torrontés. The dry region with its scorching hot days and cool nights are prime white growing conditions.

We checked out Nanni and Vasija Secreta then turned the now wobbling bike back into town to cool ourselves down from the hot Argentine summer sun.

What do you do when you’re in Argentina and it’s too hot to drink wine? Have some wine ice cream!

Helados Miranda is run by a very friendly elderly couple; the husband is a talented artist. You can see his master pieces in the back of the shop but his true works of art are the ice creams that are making him famous. The store front windows are plastered with blown up photos copies of what the most popular guide books around the world are saying about them. They are quite a humble couple, the husband was eager to talk our ears off while the Mrs. was taking care of my friend washing him up as he had grease stained hands from fixing our bike several times. She was a proper Argentine mama. They have many other flavours of ice cream but we came for the wine, you could choose between white Torronte and red Cabernet Sauvignon. I wasn’t disappointed the ice cream was dripping in alcoholic goodness.

Back in the hostel my Tucu man returned to his precious guitar and was immediately surrounded by other travellers who in turned played and swapped music with each other. I was happy and at ease in this little artsy town with a Bohemian Argentine musician. I am always in search of the small hidden travel gems and I found my first in Argentina; Cafayate.

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