Our bus pulled into Cafayate at midday on my 33rd birthday. In the few days prior, I’d toppled off a cliff, theoretically speaking, I hadn’t realised I was even standing on. I’d fallen into a big bowl of What The Actual Fuck Am I Doing With My Life? Landing with a resounding splat, I decided it might be nice to stay there, wallowing, facedown in my first world problems for a little while.
The details are too boring and irrelevant for anyone else to recount on this blog post. But l think it’s fair to say, we all have our moments of big doubt. Sometimes this doubt hits us out of nowhere, even when we are happily travelling and eating empanadas. Moments where we want all the answers RIGHT NOW because the crystal ball is out of batteries and we are not entirely sure what the future looks like. We begin to question what we are doing in life, where we’re heading and if it is actually a good idea to eat fifteen empanadas a day.
Anyhoos, back to Cafayate.
Despite being hotter than the surface of the sun, Cafayate lifted my spirits. It was exactly my favourite kind of Argentinian town. Not so big you feel overwhelmed by people and noise, but big enough to find accommodation options offering more than the shower over toilet combo.
It’s certainly touristy but retains an authentic, peaceful charm and it’s lovely strolling around the town in the evening when the sun has dipped below one million degrees. During the day we walked around in search of empanadas (surprised?) and I could barely muster more than a shuffle. At this time of year, Doing Stuff Quickly does not exist in Cafayate between the hours of 9am – 7pm. It’s too hot for anyone to do anything at any speed other than slow and slower. At night though, people are out and about and the main plaza is buzzing with activity.
Visiting a stunning bodega not far out of the town was a fabulous way to spend my birthday afternoon. Paittelli Bodega is set amongst vineyards with the mountains as a backdrop, a beautiful place to explore and treat your tastebuds.
The tasting tour cost 80 pesos, about $8.50 AUD including a twenty minute tour, all in Spanish so I pretty much understood nothing… here I was thinking my Spanish had improved! It also included tasting eight wines, luckily no need to ‘entiendo espanol’ when tasting delicious reds.
Later we found a restaurant away from the main square for my birthday dinner and ate some traditional meat dishes while a band played Argentine music. The perfect way to wrap up a birthday in Argentina.
The following day, we were up early to hike Cascadas del Río Colorado. This is a popular activity for many visiting Cafayate, hiking to a beautiful waterfall and back to complete the circuit. It’s a gorgeous hike but really fucking hot, the waterfall is a welcome sight at the halfway mark and we spent half an hour lazing on the rocks in the shade listening to the cascading falls.
The hike is deceptively tricky in some parts and we were in a small group with a guide. The ease with which he navigated some steep, scrambling rocks, and helped us do the same, lulled me into the feeling it wasn’t too dangerous, when in fact, a slip or wrong foot placement would see you tumbling to the bottom.
The guide told us just the week prior the circuit had been closed because a woman, in his group, had fallen from a high rock and ended up with a hole in her head ‘this big’, he held up his hands to indicate the size of an apple. Thankfully, she didn’t die but the story was enough to keep my eyes glued to my feet as we navigated the steeper parts.
Guides aren’t essential for the trek and it follows a stream so anyone with a sense of direction and confidence climbing without instruction could do it without a guide. I have neither a sense of direction or confidence climbing so I was happy with our instructor, and pleased not to become the second woman in a week with a hole in her head the size of an apple.
There are many beautiful spots to stop along the way for a dip in the sub zero water, so if you aren’t feeling up for it, there’s no need to complete the full circuit. The guides charge depending on how far they take you, the final price for completing the full circuit for us was 220 pesos per person. It seemed quite expensive but the guide was friendly, knowledgeable and certainly helpful in the tricky parts. All up, the hike took about four hours, including half an hour at the waterfall.
Our accommodation in Cafayate was a peaceful hotel with views of the mountains and after a few days I was feeling more balanced, my mind no longer whirring at a hundred miles an hour. I had lifted my face out of the What The Actual Fuck…bowl and realised having all the answers isn’t actually, well, the answer. I simply need to put one foot in front of the other and continue to tread my own path, believing the direction I am heading is right for me. As for eating fifteen empanadas a day? Weeelllll…………let’s not go crazy questioning everything….
Can someone please pass the empanadas?
Cascadas del Río Colorado
The start of the hike is located 6kms from the city. You can walk to the start of the hike, but we took a quick cab ride. It was so hot the day we went I don’t think I could have faced 6kms then the circuit. At the start you will be met by guides, although a guide isn’t compulsory but if you hire one, the cost is approx 40 pesos person for each stop you make along the way. So, if you decide to not go further than the second stop, you simply pay for the distance travelled – 80 pesos. We completed the full circuit and the cost was 220 pesos each. The guide was very quick, and there wasn’t much time to stop and take photos, so if you are looking for a more meandering pace with plenty of photo ops, go it alone.
Cafayate sits at 5600ft (1700m) above sea level, and is arguably the best-known wine region other than Mendoza in Argentina. Paitelli Bodega is stunning and if you are keen to visit, check out the website www.piattellivineyards.com. We didn’t eat at the bodega but the menu looked amazing and the setting to sit an enjoy a meal, just perfect. As I mentioned, the tasting tour was 80 pesos per person at the time of writing (January 2015)