Sometimes, the best things happen by accident. When we arrived to Cafayate, a part of us was still considering a mad cycle rush to Mendoza for New Years. Arriving in Cafayate on December 18, we knew we couldn’t make it to Mendoza about 1000km further south for Christmas but if we rode hard everyday, there was a possibility we could make it there for New Years.
Cafayate quickly taught us the folly of those plans.
We arrived at the wonderful Huayra Sanipy hostel two blocks south of the main plaza where we met up with Mattias and Alvaro who we last saw in the casa de ciclistas in La Paz, Bolivia. As a fun fact, we first met up with Mattias in southern Ecuador and then ran into him in Northern Peru, and then again in Bolivia. Without any planning, we have met up with Mattias in four out of the six countries we visited in South America! Mattias cooked us up a delicious homemade German “pasta” with four types of goat cheese and sauted onions. He agreed to cook for everyone for the night when there was only 8 people at the hostel and then the numbers just started growing! It turned out 16 of us for dinner, which we all ate together at a big table under a tree in the garden around 10:30pm. Dinner is a late and very social event here.
We are camping under grapevines in the garden where huge purple grapes are ripening in the sun and we have become a constantly changing and growing new family. Argentineans are very social and it seems that we are always hanging out together sharing stories or a hot cup of yerba mate or whatever people had at the moment. If someone has a bottle of wine, she immediately shares it with everyone else around and not just get glasses for everyone but would fill up one cup and then pass it around. This is also how it happens with yerba mate, a highly caffienated herbal drink. In Canada, I don’t think this would happen.
We have dinner everynight together with copious amounts of wine. We put on salsa music and it becomes a dance party. Guitars are pulled out and plastic buckets are made into impromtu drums and we all sing late into the night. Pepo and Christan, the owners of the hostel, cook up an Argentinean barbeque feast called asado with thick slabs of beef slow grilled over glowing coals in the back yard. People come and people go, though a core group of cyclists remain, and it is amazing how we are immediately all best friends it seems. Perhaps, all of the wine helps! Haha.
It is beautiful here with clear blue skies everyday in this quaint little town surrounded by lush green vineyards and we have three supermarkets (one’s our deli and cold cheap box wine source, another’s our source of delicious fresh ravioli, and the last is cheapest for staples) where we’re known at now. We realized that our time in Cafayate is probably one of the most stress free and enchanted times of our lives. We wake up when the sun makes our tent too hot, make a little breakfast and hang out with everyone. We then chill, read a book in the hammock or play on the computer planning for further in our trip. Lunch rolls around and often we would get some freshly sliced salami and cheese some fresh baked bread, some veggies and fruit and olives and have a feast in the garden. Then, it’s more chilling then going to visit a winery in the afternoon, stopping for an ice cream afterwards and then back to the hostel for siesta time. On the hottest days, a strong breeze picks up in the afternoon. Then, at night, we sit around drinking, eating and sharing stories, music and good times until the wee hours of the morning.
Life is too wonderful to rush.
We went from having no plans for Christmas, perhaps even spending it just the two of us wild camped in the bush somewhere, to a whole new family of cyclists, Argentineans and travellers from all over the world. For some who stayed a few nights, it is amazing how close you can get to people in such a short time. Interestingly, we collected a bunch of cyclists here – first it was Mattias and Alvaro from Germany and Spain respectively, then us, then we ran into Edu from Colombia, then there were three cyclists from Rosario in Argentina and an older French couple that we last saw in La Paz. Without any planning, it has become a bit of a ciclista Christmas in a wine filled sunny desert valley.
Christmas eve is celebrated here much more than Christmas day, which is generally conceptualized as a day of recovery after the feast and fiesta the night before. Baby Jesus is placed into navity scenes on Christmas eve during evening mass and then a big celebration ensues. Dinner was grilled and we had skewers of vegges and meat plus stuffed peppers, squashes and tomatoes baked in a wood fire oven. We also had grilled breaded meat that Bryan and I called BBQ meat pizza. The breaded meat was grilled until crispy and topped with tomato sauce and melted slabs of blue cheese. It was delicious. Everyone brought a bottle of wine and there was about 35 of us so there was no shortage of that. We started eating at around 10:30pm and the celebation went through the night. At midnight, there is a flury of fireworks shot into the night star-filled sky. Maybe around 2 or 3 in the morning, we decided to go to a club around the corner. Now, this is the first Christmas ever that I have celebrated by going clubbing but apparently this is popular here. When we first showed up, the club was empty but by the time we left at around 5am, it was full of people. Another very unique Christmas to remember!
As a note, this Christmas marked a special moment for us. For us, this Christmas was the time to start thinking of our homeward journey in the spring. We encountered two challenges – first that we wanted to visit Buenos Aires but if we biked down to Ushuaia, it would be at least 50 hours to bus to Buenos Aires, there was no direct bus, and we heard that busing with our bikes could be a bit of a pain. Secondly, we started looking up plane tickets and I was shocked at how expensive one way tickets from Argentina to Canada were. I started looking up different options and we found an amazing deal for a repositioning cruise from Buenos Aires to LA, California. Repositioning cruises only happen at select times of the year, when a cruise ship is moved from one area of the world where the sailing season is ending to another place where summer is beginning. They are one way journeys, longer distances than normal cruises, may not stop in as many ports as their main purpose is transporting the boat and usually cheaper. Our 31 day cruise around the southern Cape Horn and then back up the western side of South America into North America costs us just a little more than our one way flight home and is much more amazing. Now, we have two months to cycle to Buenos Aires, which we really wanted to visit and with lots of time to really explore the places in between. We had thought about trying to continue to Patagonia in a rushed mixture of biking and busing but decided to save it for another trip and instead really explore the journey we have before us.
Life is too wonderful to rush.
Now, we will cruise from Buenos Aires back to California where we will take a train to Seattle. In Seattle, we’ll be joined by Kirsten who started with us and rode until Oregon where her school started and perhaps my sister, Jenn, and Torii, who we rode with in Baja California.