First stop: Salta.
Salta feels like a little Madrid or Rome - lots of Argentina does. So you understand when everyone tells Oscar that one of their grandparents or great grandparents came from any number of regions of Spain and the Basque Country. They smile with twinkly eyes as they tell you who from their family lives there now. I knew there were links, but I hadn’t imagined they were so strong and alive today.
After three months of a pretty unvaried diet of soup, rice and potatoes you can imagine our delight at being in the land of empanadas, pizza, pasta, choripan, milanesa, provoleta, bife ancho, bife de chorizo, and vacio that looks like this:
As if we weren’t having enough fun with food and wine, we moved on to Cafayate. Here we had a ball with wine, wine, wine, more wine, and alfajores. Yum! We hired bikes and cycled to wineries until the tyre went flat, returned the bikes and carried on by foot. We tried Torrentes, a delicious white, the only wine with 100% Argentian grape, as well as Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat in Nanni, Esteco, Etchart, Las Nubes, and other wineries. We hooked up with a couple from Buenos Aires who were having as much fun as we were trying wines, so we went to a bar and bought some really expensive ones to share. That myth about not getting a hangover from expensive alcohol was tried, tested, and failed.
In our 19 hour bus ride to Mendoza, after the pane of glass beside me getting smashed (by thieves who wanted to rob everyone onboard), we had to change buses. I was half asleep and left my bag under the seat. I remembered half an hour later; the driver rang the station, they got my bag and gave it to the driver of the next bus to give to us in Mendoza. It found me safe and sound, with everything inside. That was a lovely moment.
In Mendoza, with faith in the good in humankind, we continued our journey of wine, and asados with the best steak I’ve ever eaten, and facturas, and alfajores, with dulce de leche on top. We were lucky enough to be taken in by Rodolfo, with whom we ate, drank and rested like real Mendocinos. Life in Mendoza is good! Demasiado deli.