Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cafayate: Biking the Quebrada

Cafayate, in northern Argentina, on the road to Salta, has been one of my favorite places in Argentina so far.. outside the touristic center, the town keeps an authentic charm, with smiling -and drunk!- people and a nice atmosphere..

Attracted by the music and affluence of people, i stepped in a small bar on the outskirts of town, where people covered with flour were dancing.. they welcomed me with open arms and before i could say anything i found myself sipping cheap wine with coca cola and dancing with a 80 years old lady (who must have been on exctasy cause she wouldn't stop!)..

my new girlfriend..

On top of that, it is surrounded by beautiful "bodegas" (wineries) and close to one of the most fascinating landscapes i've seen in a while: the "quebrada" (canyon)..

Instead of going for one of these "hop-in-the-bus-stop-here-take-a-photo-of-this-hop-back-in-the-bus" type of excursions, we decided, my german travel mate and i, that it would be more fun to rent a bike and do it on or own.. all we need to do is take the bus to Salta that leaves at 5 in the morning and ask the driver to drop us off at the "garganta del diablo" (where ever that is)..

At 4 in the morning when the alarm clock rings, after a mere 2 hours of sleep, we start to wonder if it was the right choice.. yet we make it to the bus station, but as i arrive at the counter to get the bus ticket i realise i can't remember where we're supposed to stop!
- "you know, the place where we can go biking.." i try to explain!
By chance, she knows. We load our bikes, and fall right back asleep in the bus.

At 6 the driver stops on the side of the road and calls us.. half asleep, we get down, he unloads our bikes, and leaves.. it is dead dark and here we are, alone in the middle of the desert and of the night, wondering what exactly we signed up for!
So after a good laugh, we just sit next to our bikes, waiting for the morning!

A half hour later the sky starts to get clearer and we realise that we are indeed next to the garganta del diablo, one of the amazing rocks formations of the canyon.. After checking it out, we start biking back towards town as the fatigue disapears under our dazzler; the rising sun slowly paints the whole valley in bright reds and greyish greens of all shades.
The temperature is still fresh and we're enjoying the ride. The marker on the road indicates 49km.

At 10 it starts to get really hot.

At 11 we've already fixed two flat tires and have only one spare tube left.

At 12 we have a half litter of water left for two, and we start thinking we're just going to die in this valley!

The last 5km are really painful but eventually we reach the town around 3:30pm, exhausted and thirsty, but we made it.. and it was really worth it!

6:30 am.. where are we??

la garganta del diablo

sunrise on the quebrada

el amphitheatro

la ventana

a bodega, as we finally get closer to town..

Cafayate by night!

After a day rest we also went visiting the ruins of old Quilmes.. not quite the Machu Pichu but nice!

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