Tag Archives: wine

Cafayate and Cachi

While we were in Salta, we spent a couple of days doing day trips to explore the surrounding landscapes and towns. We had heard that both Cafayate and Cachi were nice, but didn't really know what we would find. Both trips exceeded our expectations!


Cafayate

Driving out of Salta through the Quebrada de Cafayate towards the town of Cafayate, we were struck by the amazing red desert, canyons and rock formations, which looked like they were straight from the set of an American country and western film.

We stopped at several places along the way, to take in the amazing views and look down over the canyon. The Garganta del Diablo (Devils's throat) was a large crack between the rocks that stretched back several kilometres.

El Anfiteatro (Ampitheater) was probably the most impressive, as it was literally a path that lead to a naturally hollowed out circle in the rock, which used to be a waterfall.

The rocks provided amazing acoustics, and apparently many musicians have recorded albums here. We were lucky to see a local band performing although we didn't stay long as it was freezing!

There were other rock formations along the way such as El Sapo (the toad) and El Fraile (the friar), however they were not as impressive and only looked very loosely like what the tourist guide claimed them to be.

The Devil's Throat

Quebrada de Cafayate


The Ampitheatre

We arrived in Cafayate in time for lunch and were surprised to find a quaint little town with a cute colonial plaza. We ate in the sun, tried some local craft beers and ice cream before heading off to a nearby vineyard for a tour and some wine tasting. Having spent so long in Mendoza, we were not particularly excited by yet another wine tour, however, the local specialty is a white torrontes and that was worth the trip! It was so good that we bought several bottles of torrontes over the next few days to make sure we did it justice. The Argentinean malbec is the pick of the bunch for red wines and the torrontes is definitely the best white wine. Highly recommend it!
 
Cachi
Driving to Cachi we saw completely different scenery from the drive to Cafayate, but it was equally as impressive. We drove through a valley and then steadily climbed up winding roads until we were literally above the clouds.
The area is well known for its geological formations and the colours that can be found in the rocks as a result of different layers of sediment. The scenery was stunning, and along with mountains and rocks, we also saw huge cactus trees, some of which are hundreds of years old!
We arrived in Cachi for lunch,and like Cafayate, it had a beautiful colonial plaza surrounded by a church and white washed buildings. Mark was very excited to find an asado restauarant that was cooking up fresh llama, which he tried for the first time. We wandered around town, bought some more local wine and enjoyed the sunshine. The drive back to Salta was just as beautiful, and wellworth the effort!

 

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Farm Life in San Rafael

We really enjoyed our experience living on a farm for a month, and would recommend WOOFing (Working On Organic Farms) to any travellers interested in doing something a little different! It was a fantastic opportunity to relax and recover some energy after a few months of solid travel, practice Spanish and make new friends. All the people we met and worked with were lovely, and were genuinely interested in learning about us and where we come from.
We had heard that WOOFing is a bit of a gamble, but if the people hosting volunteers are reasonable with the amount of time you are expected to work, and the food that they provide, then it can be a win-win situation. We worked a few hours a day, doing mostly farm maintenance work, picking olives and feeding animals, which was actually really enjoyable. We got to help out with work that they otherwise would not have had time to do, and it was a nice change from working in an office staring at a computer all day! Living on the farm really gave us a taste of what it would be like to own property and animals, and while it all seems very romantic, it is a lot of hard work!

Farm house in San Rafael

San Rafael is beautiful and we probably would have stayed longer if it wasn’t getting so cold. The farmhouse where we were staying was quaint, but lacked modern appliances. For example we had to light a fire outside underneath a hotwater tank in order to heat water for a shower, which was a novel experience. We did however enjoy drinking local wines and sitting by the fire to keep warm!
We also had plenty of animals to keep us company on the farm. There were lots of dogs, chooks, rabbits (who kept having babies) and a swarm of bees who apparently produced a lot of honey for export to Germany! It was nice to be surrounded by animals and nature, and forget about real life for awhile.

Bees

I do love olives, so I was quite interested in seeing the process of production. Turns out it is really easy, it just takes a long time! We picked several buckets of green olives which were then put into salt water that was changed regularly. This process can take several months before the olives are edible. They used a different technique for the black olives, which simply involved putting them into an air tight bag full of rock salt, with no water, and then just leaving them there for about a year. Seems like a lot of effort for something that is so cheap to buy, but they taste amazing!

Picking olives

We got to know the town of San Rafael quite well, and spent many afternoons in a local café called Nina’s using their free internet and trying everything on the menu. It is actually quite a nice town, which seems to be the next big thing after Mendoza. It offers a similar experience, without being too touristy or crowded. There is a feel of stepping back in time as the pace slows down, and the cars all look they are stuck in the 70s (some for the good, while others are literally taped together and should not be on the road!). The vineyards are equally old and beautiful, the wine is amazing, the local organic produce is delicious, the streets are lined with old trees that look particulalry stunning in Autumn, and the town is slowly being renovated to become more modern and tourist-friendly.

Bianchi Champagne, Autumn trees in the streets of San Rafael, Folk Dancers

Classic cars

While we were in town, we also had the opportunity to check out the surrounding area. We spent one day at Villa 25 de Mayo, which held a festival on Revolution Day (25th of May). It was a cute town with people dressed up for folk dancing, lots of Agentine music, asados and local foods to try. We also went to Valle Grande and El Nihuil to see the magnificent Atuel Canyon.
Overall, working on a farm in San Rafael was a great experience! We love Argentina and feel very lucky to have been able to spend as much time as we have here!

Not a bad alcohol collection for a couple of backpackers!


Celebrating Four Months in South America

Hola from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, where we have just celebrated four months on the road.

The view coming in.

 

The lake edge near the city centre of Bariloche.

 

We spent last night in our hostel drinking fine wines over a 'home cooked' meal of fish and chips. There was a good group of people in the common room and soon the guitars came out and we rocked the night away. Great fun, doesn't get any better!

 

Local trout with homemade chips.

 

Harry and Mark keeping the crowds happy.

Thanks for following our adventures!

 


Mark’s Mighty Asado

Today is Sunday and our last day in San Rafael with our extended WOOFing family. To celebrate, we hosted a fiesta yesterday, which featured over ten litres of wine, one chicken, one goat and a lot of sunshine.

After learning about the Patagonian style of cooking lamb I (Mark) set myself the goal of learning how to cook one while we were living in San Rafael. The farewell fiesta was the perfect excuse! As we have mentioned, chivo (goat) is the popular meat in Mendoza. So, since I couldn't buy lamb, this was the best choice.

We went on a bit of search in the city to find a butcher (carniceria) that could sell us a whole goat. As it turns out this was harder than we thought. The goats are bred in Malargüe, which is two hours drive away, so not everyone stocks it. But we did find two cheerful geezers who were only too happy to sell me 9.7 kgs of frozen chivo.

The process for cooking a goat in the Patagonian style takes about 7 hours, depending on the climate, the size of the carcass and the amount of wood you have. I started at 8 am in the morning. Managed to get the fire going before preparing the framework that would hold up the carcass.

The crucifixion in action.

Once that was ready it was carried outside and planted in a hole 40 cm deep and around 1 metre from the fire.

Carcass Cam.

The idea is that you drag hot coals close to the meat to slow cook it. If the day is cold or there's wind etc you can control the heat by adding more coals or shifting the fire closer.

Every couple of hours the whole carcass is basted with saltwater, about a litre in total. It is also important to rotate it on its axis to prevent the meat from getting too hot (remember that the idea is to slow cook it!) and ensure the meat is cooked evenly.

After five hours we added a chicken to the parilla. We bought a whole chicken, which was butterflied and seasoned with paprika, chilli, salt and pepper a day in advance. You can also add vegetables and/or sausages, but we cooked our vegies seperately.

Racking in more coals. Chicken on the right. The grill is raised on bricks with hot embers underneath.

At 2:30 the meat was good to go! Took great joy in carving the meat straight off the frame. Good fun.

The meal was a huge success, everyone was happy, plenty of food and wine to go round and some beautiful sunshine to keep us warm.

¡Salud!

 


Mendoza

Mendoza is a nice city in the heart of Argentina's wine region, surrounded by snow capped mountains and plenty of vineyards.

While we were in town, we thought it would be fun to go on a horseriding adventure, to experience the sunset over the desert and mountains. The tour also came with an Argentine asado (massive slabs of bbq meat) and all the wine you can drink. We made friends with a couple of Kiwis and some Canadians, and all made the most of it!
The wine of choice is Malbec, a delicious red which only grows in this region. We tasted plenty of wine, both in the city and at the vineyard's cellar door. We spent one afternoon on bikes riding around the tree lined streets of Maipu, although this required a little more effort than we wanted at the time, as we were feeling somewhat sorry for ourselves after all the wine from the previous night!

Di Tomassi vineyard.


Di Tomassi and Bianchi vineyards.

Despite that, we managed a tour of one of the oldest cellars, and found a gourmet liqueur and chocolate place as well. Apparently they make their own absynth there, so Mark tried a shot, then bought a bottle!
We had a great time and we are planning to go back for a few nights in June! Bring on the vino.

 


Autumn in San Rafael

When we first arrived in Argentina we decided to apply to work on an organic farm through the WOOF website, which is a network to connect volunteers with organic farms throughout the world. After contacting over twenty different farms, we got one response from a farming collective in San Rafael in the province of Mendoza. After travelling for the last three months, we are happy to sit still for a few weeks, practice our Spanish, and get to know the locals. Travelling can be exhausting, so it will be a welcome change from constantly moving from one place to another. The idea is that we do a few hours of work on the farm each day, in exchange for accommodation and food. Seems like a good deal!

Farm house in San Rafael

Mendoza is the Argentinean wine region, which hosts many world class vineyards, as well as orchards full of olives, apricots, peaches and plums, to name a few. San Rafael produces mostly white wines, and has the perfect climate for fruit trees. We are not sure exactly what we will be doing yet but we will be working on a few different farms helping out where needed before winter. The whole region is beautiful and the colours of autumn add a touch of charm to make it particularly stunning right now!

Vineyards

Olives

Poplar trees in Autumn

Apricot trees