The Wheel Salta City (and environs)

Salta Province has sub-tropical weather. That means pouring rain or hot sun and humidity in the lowlands, or hot sun with more hot sun everywhere else. And I mean hot. Salta’s mostly desert. The thermal amplitude makes for amazing wines. Quite a challenge when you’re mad enough to be cycling Argentina’s wine trails.. like me.

with the Andes in teh background, this breeze block home has a woman sitting in the shade under an outdoor porch. She is talking to a man standing with his back to us, holding his bike. They are separated by barbed wire and a wooden picket fence
This man may be quite happy cycling over rough gravel, but I never got used to it. (c) Carole Edrich 2006

Downhill towards the city. Wet and humid. On a normal trip, humidity would be relaxing and welcome. It is useful when so many people smoke, because it makes the smoke – and all smells –  stick to the people who cause them. Not this trip. Cycling in humidity in Salta is like swimming through treacle.  Possible, but exhausting, sweaty and no sane person would do it.

I find my hotel in Salta – the only one in the entire 5 month adventure that local PRs have organised – and immediately go for a shower. The pipes grumble. I wait. They grumble some more. The water comes out a bright vivid green. I decide to go without. No energy for grumbling. Tonight, I decide that sweaty is betty-er.

There are few excitements to compare with one’s first night in a strange new place. Despite my weariness and a deplorable urge to throw off my cycling kit and watch Latin soaps on the probably-black-and-white portable TV in my hotel room, I set out to immerse myself in the town. After all, I might never come here again. Live each precious moment to the full! I think. Savour the experience. Meet people. Make notes. Crush each ripe fruit of sensation against the palate, until the appetite is cloyed in intoxicating richness.

Richness. Savour. Palate. Appetite….  That – of course – brings me to food. The restaurants are closed when I eventually find them, what with it being a Sunday, half past March and everyone being at home for their weekly family Asado******. In the end, in a garage that has run out of petrol, I find a couple of boiled cardboard media lunas**** and two dented plastic bottles of water in slightly-less-than-2-litre holders.

3 dogs outside a single story houes that looks as if it is held together by too much cement and even more hope, light shows it's towards the end of the day, the walls of the houe are leaning different ways but it is clearly lived in, with quite new looking windows. The doogs are active and happy.
s3 dogs outside an Argentine dwelling that looks like it’s put together with more hope and cement than ability and structure (c) Carole Edrich 2006

That night, I wake up to scuttling.

Being run over by cockroaches in bed is never conducive to a pleasant night’s rest, even when you’ve been cycling through a strange and fasicinating land. In the ‘pleasantly intimate’ cupboard that was booked for me to share with said cockroaches, the minutes of the luminous green clock that I can neither turn off nor cover creep slowly to 6am. I decide to get up and cycle through yet more rain to my next destination, leaving the cockroaches to feast on the second media luna, which I haven’t been able to face.

Onwards, and uphill… again… to Cafayate.

whitewashed professional lookin building that could be an office or similar, with lots of written graffiti, including 'skatehoarding is not a crime' 'gordas 06' and 'los quieros chicas, de verdad'
An eclectic selection of Salteno graffiti, I liked the contrast of the Spanish language ‘los quieros chicas, dee verdad’ and the ‘skateboarding is not a crime’ messages. (c) Carole Edrich 2006

This is the penultimate stage of my nine-stage* bike ride through the wine trails of Argentina. On September 12th at Wanstead Fringe we’ll have time for four**, and will be tasting four wines*** that match my experience that covered 4,500km through the wineries of Argentina. Thanks to Bodegas Tapiz, Wanstead Fringe and Daygustation, the sections we cover will – naturally enough , coz it’s interactive – be totally up to you.******

* I think it’s nine stages. I haven’t written them all yet. I’ll read some, know some by heart and show some pictures. And share wine. Don’t forget the wine.

** Though I’ll try to squeeze in some of the other good bits

*** Definitely four wines. Four marvellously mouthwatering evocations of my experiences.

**** Local speciality pasties, they’re normally really tasty.

***** Directly translated ‘bar-b-cue’ or ‘grill’. Culturally translated ‘more meat than you can eat and then some. The true asador (yes there’s a word for an the person who does the asado-ing) doesn’t believe in vegetables and will tell you they are not asado. This is not just a meet-up. Don’t you dare miss it or your entire family and their friends, and the friends of their friends, and the friends of their friends’ friends will be after you forever’

****** Based on your responses. Interactive innit.

(first published in edited form in Wanstead Village Directory here

you can read more about the event and my experiences here and here )


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