Tag Archives: taking a timeout from backpacking

Things to do in Colonia: Colonia Del Sacramento in the rain…

We have spent the last few days relaxing in Colonia. A short ferry ride from Buenos Aires this town comes highly recommended to any visitor to the area. Although we can certainly say it would only be improved by better weather it is still a great place to hang out for a few days even in the rain. We however wouldn’t recommend visiting if you have high expectations of there being a wealth of activities to occupy you. It’s a small place, somewhere a good friend admitted he would like to retire too, but it certainly has its charms. Here are our recommendations for what to do…

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Eat – food is noticeably more expensive here than in BA but there is plenty of decent restaurants and coffee shops to relax in. We highly recommend spending an evening at Buen Suspiro. Although guidebook recommended, and that doesn’t always guarantee good food or atmosphere, this place reminded us of one of our favourite wine bars in London. A laid-back atmosphere and delicious but uncomplicated food.

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Photograph – It is fair to say we are fairly snap happy with our DSLRs but certainly if you come here when its quiet (and unfortunately a bit wet) you can while away the hours photographing the streets and classic cars, and your pictures will nearly all be tourist free…

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Stroll – Although we were initially shocked at how small the old town is, when it wasn’t raining we enjoyed strolling around taking in a few ruins and admiring the boats and water. Pick up a dog as a companion (our new favourite thing to do) and explore.

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Failing that…read a book and take a few days to chill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drinking wine and walking the dog in Cafayate: Cafayate Bodegas

A two hour drive from Salta through the fantastically scenic landscape filled with cacti and IMG_3918wild animals bought us to Cafayate. With its plethora of bodegas and artisan craft markets, Cafayate is a lovely rustic town. It has decent restaurants and a laid back atmosphere, which makes it the perfect place to hold up for a few days. In all honesty we could have stayed for a few more days than the 3 we had planned but with onward buses booked our journey was short, sweet and wonderfully surreal.

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Having sampled one of the local wines at dinner shortly after disembarking the bus we new like so many others knew we would be touring a few of the local Bodegas during our stay. So on our first full day there we hired two bicycles with more road miles on them than we had travelled so far in South America and set off to cycle 7km to Domingo Molina.

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We had heard Domingo Molina was one of the best bodegas and after the purely uphill cycle (not for the fainthearted) we were not disappointed. The staff were IMG_6830welcoming, knowledgeable, fluent in English, and best of all the scenery was breath-taking. Sensing we and our companion were a little knackered after our cycle, we were offered some refreshments before our tour of the bodega. Tour complete, we were encouraged to spend as long as we liked sitting on the terrace sampling the wines, and were offered local cheeses which made the perfect accompaniment. To top it off the cost of the tasting is deducted from any bottles of wine purchased and with just enough room in our rucksacks for two bottles we had happily obliged.

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Prior to the 7km cycle, on the edge of town we had met our guide, Tannat. Tannat was energetic, inspiring, charming, and most of all loyal. Tannat worked purely for tips; tips of leftovers, a bit of water, some biscuits and a few escapee grapes for good measure. We thoroughly recommend everyone pick up one of these invaluable local guides if off on a cycle, as cycling through the dust and the cacti with a dog running at our heels made the experience truly unforgettable.

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It must have been more than just a simple canine desire to chase tourists on bikes that compelled Tannat to jog the 7km alongside us to the most remote of Bodegas. Some would say we adopted him but truth be told he adopted us. He sat loyally at our side through the wine tasting, charmed the Bodega’s staff (who gave him his name), made quick work of the escapee grapes during the cleaning process and happily bounded off after us as we headed off at speed down the 7km track back to town. When we reached the spot were we’d found him he trotted off without so much as a goodbye, clearly happy with his day’s adventure.

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Another bodega that we recommend visiting is Bodega Nanni. Accessible on foot as its located in the centre of town it would be high on our list of favourite wines, and it’s organic too. Only downside is they don’t ship internationally…yet. We are keeping our fingers crossed that business goes well for them and they can ship to the UK in time for our return…they’ve got a fair bit of time… Likewise we recommend the restaurant, which so far has been one of the best meals of the trip.

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On day two, as we approached Bodega Nanni, who should be sitting on the roadside but none other than trusty Tannat. The adorable pup proceeded to bound over to us like we were long lost friends and once again joined us on our days activities. We should probably note here that Cafayate is small town but not that small. It was wonderfully bizarre that Tannat had found us again and we allowed him to be our companion once again. Loyal and well behaved for a street dog he was as charming as ever. He only let himself down once: we had to pretend not to know him when we were browsing the market stalls and he peed on a stall full of alpaca rugs…

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Finally Cafayate has a local cheese factory and goat farm that is well worth a visit. About 1km from town it is a pleasant walk alongside the vineyards or would make for an easy cycle. Tours seem to be only in Spanish, but our basic knowledge got us through and we came back with a couple of delicious cheeses to show for it.

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Salta Sojourn

Nestled in the north west corner of Argentina, 20 hours from Buenos Aires and closer to the Bolivian border than it’s nearest Argentine city, Salta posses a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Upon entering the Lerma Valley with its Andean backdrop, Salta looked like a relaxed peaceful city. Famed for its excellently preserved colonial architecture and great wines, we had been looking forward to Salta for quite some time. Upon pulling into the bus station Salta earnt its first kudos as unlike most places the terminal was within walking distance of the center. This may not seem like a big deal, but trust me when you’ve just spent a night on a bus the last thing you want to do is jump straight on another. Upon picking up a local map we got our first encounter of an interesting phenomenon, the map was not orientated towards north. As we’ve been working on the “North Principle” for some years now, and it was only after getting lost 3 times, most likely made worse by the lack of sleep on the overnight bus, that we discovered the “Salta Principle”. Rather than north taking precedence for orientation, the westerly mountains did, so in effect, west became north. In a place where enormous mountains are never, ever out of sight i suppose it makes some sense. It would have been helpful if someone had told us though.

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The center of the city, Plaza 9 de Julio is as impressive as it was made out to be. Flanked by colonial buildings, or tastefully done replacements, it is a wonderful place to sit and wile away the hours. The north side of the square is dominated by Salta Cathedral. Painted pink and white the interior is one of the best we’ve come across in Argentina and pleasantly those praying far exceeded tourists with their cameras. If you’re really after some down time then the plaza is the place to go. At lunch time there’s plenty of inexpensive restaurants to grab a snack and some wine, or in the evening a quiet stroll with an ice cream (and some wine.) Whilst there are many excellent museums in Salta we’d highly recommend El Museo Arqueologia de Alta Montana (archaeological museum) The controversial centerpiece of this museum is the three preserved Inca children found buried at the top of mount Llullaillaco. There’s a good amount of english for those without spanish and subtitles on the videos.

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Salta gets even more enjoyable when you head off the main square; small streets, interesting shops and great restaurants abound. Heading east brings you to the impressive church of St. Francis followed by a monastery, one of the oldest buildings in the city. For a truly relaxing afternoon though we’d fully recommend the cable car. Located next to the bus terminal this 5 minute journey takes you over 200 meters to the top of a hill overlooking the city. From here you get a great view over the city up into the mountains beyond. Take a book, grab an ice cream (maybe some wine) and sit on one of the shaded benches in the quiet gardens. However if you’ve found Salta too relaxing you can run up the hill and then have a crack at the outdoor gym, i can’t say we gave it a go though.

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South America is famed for it coffee and in Salta i had my best of the trip so far. I’d been having some serious problems getting a black coffee as i either got an espresso, double espresso, or a rather small, lukewarm, watery drink. Lauren had experienced similar but hers came in the form of warm milk with a hint of coffee or coffee that had been teased by a cow, a latte seemed impossible to obtain. It wasn’t just my spanish, as i’d had waiters with perfect english still bringing me disappointments. Salta finally changed all of that. A large black coffee, steaming hot, fresh ground beans, i’d finally got that coffee hit i’d been craving for the last month. Never have i been so grateful to find a Mc.Donalds…

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Salta is a wonderful relaxing place to spend a few days, and that’s exactly what we used it for. It is however also an excellent base to head out and explore the rest of the north west or even book onwards trips to Bolivia. There are loads of travel agents to book trips to Cafayate, Puna or Cachi, as well as horse riding, rafting and cycling. If you’re heading to the north west then you’re going to end up in Salta at some point, but don’t just rush on through. A couple of days relaxing in the plaza or walking the streets is a great way to unwind before that next long bus journey.