Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In the land of wine, steaks, and siestas...

Leaving Bolivia was bittersweet...but crossing the border into Argentina felt absolutely amazing!  Everything around us was green, all of the flowers were in bloom, the weather was beautiful, the road turned from washboarded gravel to perfect pavement; it was exactly what we needed.  Bolivia really was one of the highlights of the trip with its otherworldly scenery, but it can be tough being somewhere where finding anything familiar can be nearly impossible.  Not to mention we were both not feeling our best and everything we owned was completely caked in dust.  It would be nice to finally enjoy some delicous food (some of the best steaks in the world!) have a glass of local vino and regroup.  You can even drink the tap water in Argentina, which was a first on this trip.

One of our first meals in Argentina...I'm pretty excited about the giant bottle of Heineken as you can tell!

Homemade noodles and sauce with a giant piece of Argentinian beef to top it all off...Ty wishes I could cook like this!
Our first night we stopped in Humahuaca, a pretty little town near the border.  We checked in to a sweet little hospedaje where the senora made us our first ever empanadas (which are so addictive, I should add) and slept for what felt like FOREVER! 

I forgot to take a picture of empanadas, but this is exactly what they look like...sooo good!
I ventured out to get some fresh juice in the morning (to go with the delicious breakfast that came with the room…literally every hostel in Argentina includes a great breakfast…such a nice change!) and quickly noticed that the town had a very European feel to it, which was different from anywhere else we had been.  I also quickly noticed that NO ONE will part with small change in Argentina.  They would rather give you something for cheaper than give you a coin or small bill (this can take several minutes sometimes to come to this conclusion, however) and it becomes almost like a battle of wits between you and the cashier.  We later found out that there is a pretty serious shortage of small change in the country and we always try to keep a collection of coins, just in case we lose the battle. 

We headed out for Cafayate, a beautiful town in wine country recommended to us by our buddies Andy and Cass, on what would be one of the most amazing rides of the trip.  South of Humahuaca there is a road called the Quebrada de Humahuaca, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site for good reason.  It is a curvy road that runs through multi-colored mountains, deep gorges, and giant cliffs; it was like it was made for a motorcycle.  A lot of other motorcyclists must have thought the same thing as we ran into several other people on bikes and, for the first time in a long time, we saw multiple people on V-Stroms! 
Some of the very unique rock formations that make this road a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The winding road with this backdrop was spectacular!  Not to mention the perfect temperature...
We arrived to Cafayate after a great ride and as we pulled up to a stop sign we were approached by a man on a bicycle.  He was very friendly and told us that he ran a small hostel near the center of town and quoted us a great price.  The hostel had a lovely courtyard with internet, laundry nearby and was next to everything; it was exactly what we wanted.  The next couple of days were spent mostly regrouping, doing some much needed laundry, eating lots of empanadas and steaks in the lively town square, sampling some of the fantastic local wines (torrontes is the most well-known wine from Cafayate…it is a sweet, citrusy white wine and is VERY cheap!)  
Driving by one of the Cafayate Vineyards whose wine we would drink plenty of over the next few days.
One day while having lunch in the square, we heard a very familiar sound coming around the corner.  Ty quickly recognized the sound as several V-Stroms headed right for us.  Turns out it was the Argentina V-Strom club stopping for lunch on one of their yearly trips!  We hadn’t even gotten our food yet, but we both knew Ty had to run and get the bike from the hostel.  We spent a good hour or so talking to the guys (and girls!) in the club.  Ty was in heaven being able to talk about the bikes with the guys and I quickly made friends with Mariu, who was on a V-Strom with her boyfriend. 
My fellow female V-Stromer and I hanging out by the bikes :)
Ty standing in the sea of V-Stroms
Everyone was so friendly and each person wrote down their contact information, telling us to call them when we reached their respective cities.  One of the guys even gave Ty his Argentina V-Strom Club t-shirt.  It was so much fun meeting other people with the same hobbies as us in a foreign country and we were sad to see them drive away.

Sporting his newly aquired Argentina V-Strom Club t-shirt!  Thanks guys!
Another thing that made it very easy to relax in Cafayate is that it is siesta country; almost everyone shuts down their businesses from about 1PM to 5PM so that they can go home to have a hearty lunch and take a nap.  We found it to be a pretty good excuse to do the same!  The couple running the hostel had two adorable kids and a very funny dog named Coco who all provided tons of entertainment while hanging out in the courtyard.  All in all, it was very relaxing couple of days.
Our next destination was Mendoza, a much bigger city, but still in wine country.  Ty’s brother Jack and his wife Sarah had recently been there and really enjoyed it, so they recommended that we make a stop there.  It turned out to be another awesome recommendation.  We started out the day driving down another beautiful road called the Quebrada de las Conchas, where we ran into several other bikers and saw even more beautiful scenery. 
More lovely scenery and great roads...
One of many tunnels we drove through...
A roadside grave we passed on the drive
It took us a few days to get there, but we finally arrived in beautiful Mendoza, the nicest big city we had visited on the trip so far.  We saw a McDonald’s and, having not had in several months, decided we had to stop.  Little did we know that McDonald’s was a hot commodity in Mendoza and priced accordingly, and we ended up spending about $25 on lunch, quite a feat I might say.  We quickly realized eating locally was better on the budget and on the stomach and, as an added plus, you can have wine and beer at a real restaurant!  To be honest, we really didn’t accomplish too much in Mendoza either.  We were still pretty worn out (I know it sounds silly, but try spending a couple weeks in Bolivia and see how you feel!) and still had a lot of blog writing and skyping to catch up on.
I made a visit to the corner market a block away and made a fantastic discovery; Argentina has REAL cheese, it is incredible, and costs about $2 for a giant cut.  I was in heaven!  We bought salami, cheese, fresh baked French bread, fruit and local wine and had a mini feast at the hostel.  It reminded me so much of some fun nights we had back at home and it was a wonderful night.
Our awesome DIY dinner...so nice to be able to have a night in for once!
Next up….the much anticipated Valparaiso, Chile!!


  1. I'm glad you guys enjoyed Mendoza, and Argentina overall! It remains one of our favorite places that we've visited, in no small part because of the food and wine you describe. Looking forward to reading about the ride over the Andes.

  2. Ditto what Jack said. And, great photos, you guys! My bus trip over the Andes was accompaniied by a sinus infection. The wine washed all that away, though! See you soon. Sarah

  3. We're all waiting to hear how the trip ends!

  4. I hope everything is okay. I haven't seen any updates in a month, now.

  5. I won't ruin the surprises to come (only some of which I know and I'm his brother), but do know that they are both ok.

  6. Good to know. Thanks for the update.