National pride- wine from Cafayate

Argentinians are proud of a few things: their soccer, their meat and... their wine. The biggest and most famous region is Mendoza. But we decided to visit the second best - Cafayate. Wine here has a long history and was brought here by the Spaniards and precisely speaking by a priest in XVI century. Obviously it was absolutely essential for religious reasons...

The red grapes which are cultivated here nowadays like Malbec or Tannat were brought from France in the XIX century. But the biggest pride is the worldwide known and renowned- torrontes. This white grape came here from Spain in the late XIX century. All of the grapes adapted themselves very well, creating a specific variation typical for the region because of it's weather. Cafayate is situated 1700 m above sea level and it only rains here around 80-180 mm per year and when it doesn't the sky is perfectly clear and the sun can be unbearable. That I'm not going to mention the difference in temperature between day and night...huge. All of that creates a specific climate where grapes ripe fast and are safe from getting sick, which produces a very intense, fruity wine. The whole city and surroundings are busy with cultivating grapes and most of them do it the same way. From the fruit they make grape juice which later on is fermented with grapes leftovers for a long time (red wine) or very shortly (rose) or even without (white wine). Later on this wine can be already sold as a young wine. But for a better quality wine, especially the red one, it can be also aged in wooden barrels from French or American oak, that's how reserva and gran reserva are produced. The difference between them is the time, to call red wine a reserva it needs to be aged in a barrel for a period of 12 months and to call it a gran reserva it's 24 months. For white and rose wine it's 6 and 12 months. The rules here mentioned are only valid for Argentinian wine. After ageing in barrels the wine is aged in a bottle for extra aroma. It's essential that the bottle is positioned horizontally so that the liquid is always in contact with the cork as it allows gas interchange trough the pores. If the cork dries out it lets oxigen in which would produce an acid and bye bye wine! Additionally the quality of wine depends also on the quality of juice so for the best wine first pressed juice is used. Many of the wineries here have generally 2 or 3 brands to separate clearly the finest from the economic option. If gran reserva is still not good enough there is still the option of a blend, so a mix of the best wine of the year so it can be a mix of malbec, merlot and tannat for example. Generally a blend seems not to be produced every year as it's hard to have the highest quality from the 3 every year...
Certainly we didn't come to Cafayate only to hear about wine but also to taste it:) and there are plenty of bidegas in and outside of this beautiful town. Some are nicely situated in fields of grape plants like Finca Quara or Piatelli and some unfortunately are trapped in the centre with their plants far from the sight of a potential client (Bodega Nanni, Bodega Salvador Figueroa). Most of them offer a tasting and tour for which you mostly have to pay a small amount of money. But there was only one which permitted tasting almost everything (total of 12 wines)- bodega Piatelli. Their were obviously our favourites with Finca Quara where we tasted two wines free of charge. Both of them had good wine and both had something even more important love, passion and openness to share their joy and wine:)
If someone would like to go to Cafayate more details about the wineries we visited below:
1. Bodega Piatelli- beautifully situated on a hill in the heart of their fields, they offer two tasting option: one 80 pesos 7 wines from their reserva wines which includes their really good malbec-tannat, second option is their finest for 150 pesos - 5 wines, 3 gran reserva, 1 reserva torrontes and 1 delicious blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Their tour is also very nice and informative
2. Finca Quara- just outside of Cafayate, in field of their "gold". It's a quite big and old company with staff that is really passionate about their produce. Tasting of two wines and tour is free if charge
3. Finca las Nubes or Bodega L. Mounier- it offers nice walk from Cafayate as well as a rewarding view when reached, unfortunately we didn't love their wine. But at least it was cheap 15 pesos tasting and tour (3 wines from which their rose)
4. Bodega Salvador Figueroa- tiny is truely an understatement, their red aged wine is very good but their torrontes is rather avarage. Tasting and tour 10 pesos (two wines)
5. Bodega Nanni- no soul or passion, tour and tasting in a speed of a lightning which obviously is not enjoyable. Tasting and "running" tour 30 pesos (4 wines).
6. El Esteco- beautiful building which we immediately forgot about as soon as we came into contact with their unfriendly staff. Tour and tasting of 2 wines 60 pesos.

Iguazu Falls

After a month in Uruguay, it was high time for us to go back to Argentina and see the north and specificly speaking it's stunning nature wonders.

Almost 3 km wide, 150-300 waterfalls depending on the time of the year, the border between Brazil and Argentina- Iguazu Falls. According to Guarani (indigenous people of the area) it has a romantic origin. Legend says that a deity wanted to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí. Unfortunately she was already in love and engaged with a human with whom she decided to run away in a canoe. When the deity found out he sliced the river in madness creating the waterfalls and turned the girl into a rock and the boy into a palm tree. He wanted them to see each other but never touch. Sometimes they still manage to show their love with a rainbow which starts on the rock on the Argentinian side and ends on a palm tree in the Brazilian.
Both sides are parts of National Parks and on both sides there are small cities from which it is relatively easy to get to the waterfalls (Foz do Iguacu and Puerto Iguazu). Both of the towns are really ugly and there is nothing special about them so we stayed on the Brazilian side to relieve our wallets and to eat pure chocolate which we longed for so much in Argentina:) First we visited the Brazilian side of the Park as it offers the panoramic view of the falls. It was nice but not quite that impressive. It just didn't seem huge as we expected them. That's the problem with tourism these days, you actually see impressive pictures of the places that you're about to visit and you built up expectations and they are usually too high (as many of the pictures are as realistic as those from Hollywood stars). Anyway we were determined to see the Argentinian side of the falls. It started way better as the park over there is way bigger and has quite some walking routes to enjoy, one of which leads to the only island in between the waterfalls (Isla de San Martín) which is available for visiting and it offers nice views and a free shower:) afterwards we took a train to get to the epicentrum - Devil's Throat. We didn't know what to expect as walking around a kilometer on a bridge over the Parana river we saw only birds, trees and a rather calm scenery. We couldn't be more wrong. Almost reaching the end we already heard what sounded like hectoliters of water pouring down. And there it was- a hole in the river bed, quite literally. Undisturbed calm life of the river broken by the most impressive of all the views- allmighty water in motion. And like in the whole Park, rainbows and colourful butterflies completed this spectacle of nature. We definitely didn't regret going to the Argentinian part at all. It had everything, panoramic views, walking routes and practically an inside view of it all.

Open post
Glaciers, El Calafate, Argentina

Ice ice baby

After a short visit in the hippie village El Bolsón, for a rest in the forest surrounding it, we hit the road again.
Now after a 26 hr bus ride through nothing (barely even trees, not to mention humans) and many police controls (searching for illigal vegetables???!!!) we reached El Calafate. A small town to which people come to see one thing: the GLACIERS!!!:) They are all situated in the National Park closeby. Till now it's the most expensive nature wonder we have ever heard about (if they would invest all the money in ice, they could probably build a glacier). So entrance to the park: 26 euros per day, bus to the park 25 euro, boat excursion to see glaciers 135 euros (you can only see one by bus). Experience and emotion when a piece breaks off the glacier and hits the water: priceless!!
Yesterday we visited the most famous one, Perito Moreno, one of the few glaciers that is still growing and not a little bit but 2 m in the front part per day!! And it's massive! Depending on the source the dimensions change. But just for an idea we talk about kilometers wide and long and 50 m high. And actually you can really admire it from many angles as the infrastructure of the viewing points it's also a world wonder of its own (Chinese wall in Argentina). But what suprised us even more was the rich flora and fauna surrounding the glacier!! Birds, trees, grass, even a cow where you would expect nothing! And when a piece breaks off it's like New Years Eve (both emotionally and when it comes to the sound). Thankfully due to low season we were only us, Perito Moreno and... maybe a hundred of others instead of thousands in the season.
Today driven by the beauty of Perito we took a boat trip to two other glaciers: Upsala and Spagazzini. Upsala is right now in retreat due to global warming which gives you a true Titanic view: icebergs everywhere, big ones small ones, light and dark blue.
Spagazzini is the tallest one in the park (130 m). Breathtaking!:) what nature can create:)




Open post
Parque Llao Llao, Argentina


Bariloche is a town situated in the Lake District which is a very popular tourist destination during the summer for climbing, trekking, fishing and during the winter for skiing. Judging by the amount of hotels, hostels, apartments to rent and season houses it is really the argentinian top destination and it's not meant for the poor. All of the houses are gorgeous, with beautiful views and there is no garbage on the street. Now (April& May) it's practically dead, as in autumn there are not many tourists. Although in the next few months it will probably remain quite calm due to recent vulcano eruption in Chile which covered Bariloche with ashes.
But we still love it here:) The whole area is covered with forest so the rainbow of colours is absolutely spectacular (even with ash on it). The town itself is only a start point because all of the breathtaking views are just outside of it, all reachable by public transport. So we enjoyed mountain views (like from Cerro Campanario or Cerrito Llao Llao), lakes (really many), forests (Parque Llao Llao especially arrayanes trees which have really intense cinnamon colour, unfortunately they lose it when they dry out so no chance for some nice furniture).
Tempted by all of the excursions offered in the neighborhood we decided to take one to Isla Victoria and a bigger forest de Arrayanes (both in National Parque Nahuel Huapi) as there was no ferry to the island. During the trip we discovered the biggest passion of South American tourists. And I don't mean enjoying picturesque nature. Nope. Feeding seagulls is their biggest entertainment. The whole way on the boat all of them were trying to feed them with crackers, bread etc stretching themself like crazy to take the best picture. And not just one. Millions. The whole time in the boat (1.5 hr to the island and 1.5 hr back). Now we know why all the homeless dogs are so fat. And off course after all of this feast the birds needed to poo and who is a better target than a gringo tourist:)



Open post
Miramar, Argentina


WWOOF is a worldwide organization that permits people like us the experience of living on a farm with locals. And thanks to it we have stayed an amazing month on a farm close to Mar del Plata in Argentina. It's been different from our expectations as the farm is just beginning but we had the time of our life. We felt at home with the family that hosted us. We enjoyed our time over there cleaning, digging, renovating, planting. We truly hope that at some point we will be able to come back there and see the place flourishing! But what we enjoyed the most were people!!! We felt like we were a part of a big family. The hosts are truly inspiring people with lots of ideas and they were always open to talk about everything which allowed us to understand Argentina a bit more. And than the friends of the family. Especially our Euge who showed us really a lot around Mar del Plata and made us laugh on every kilometer of the way. And of course people with whom we volunteered!!! Kathi our German friend who was like a Chinese tourist taking pictures of everything (just like me:))) and a Canadian couple who were full of initiative to do things and with whom we created a nice group:)
On the farm I also became a huge fan of dogs. One in particular: Dingo. We found him on the side of a road when we were going to the city and we saw him again in the same place on the way back. Later he followed us to the farm. He was kind of crazy, scared and skinny but after few weeks at the farm he seemed to resemble a normal dog a bit more but still very enthusiastic. Deep down inside I hoped I could take him home with us. But our trip has just began and it's time for us to hit the road again. This time to Bariloche:)

Open post
Mar de las Pampas, Argentina

Made in Argentina

In Europe everything is "Made in China". Well here not, it's "Industria Argentina". Coca Cola, cigarettes, tools, machines, cheese, you name it. Due to import restrictions it's actually difficult to get any foreign products and if you find them they are really expensive. Like for example nuts of all kind which come from Brasil, their prices are truely nuts, way more expensive than in Holland (and noone would call Holland a cheap country). The same goes for chocolate of any kind which hurts us the most:( and pure chocolate we still haven't found!!! But it goes further than that: Argentinian government wants to encourage the people here to spend vacation in their country and to do so they established a 35% tax on tickets abroad and everything you spend abroad. So for example going on vacation you buy a ticket to USA for 1000 dollars and in fact you have to pay 1350 dollars and than 35% on everything that you pay by card. If you would like to take some dollars with you, you need to request dollars explaining why you want them and if you don't earn enough, you won't get them. Also if you would like to buy something online from abroad, it's tax free only under 20 dollars, above that you have to pay ridiculous taxes.
For rich people it gets complicated too. Say you're Argentinian and you want to buy yourself a Ferrari while you're on vacation in Italy. Well first you will pay a lot to actually enter the country with it and than you will have to pray that it doesn't break because if yes it will be impossible to get the parts to fix it. Tough life:)

Posts navigation

1 2 3 4