Cafayate is the point at which my route intersects that of ten years ago. It was a lovely place to spend some time then, and remains a lovely place to enjoy the same today. The only difference I can see on this occasion is the almost complete absence of foreign tourists, particularly the backpacking crowd. I’m not certain why that would be; perhaps the economic and political turmoil is putting people off, but it seems more likely that they have simply moved on to the next “thing”. Cafayate apparently lacks Instagram-worthy locations in which tens of thousands of folk can all take the same insta-photo for their social media feeds; the local wineries must not be sufficiently hip. Instead the tourism seems to be predominantly of the homegrown variety, something I am quite happy with.
As a place to put my feet up and adjust from the previous few months of hard riding to a more relaxed approach it has been perfect. It is a delight to sit at a pavement cafe in the tree-shaded plaza and watch daily life pass by, much of it on two wheels, to a soundtrack of abundant birdsong. Indeed it would seem that bicycles outnumber, or at least equal the number of cars in this town. Everyone rides, from kids through young mums to grannies and old men in flat caps with their walking sticks balanced across their handlebars. They ride everything from ancient singlespeed roadsters with barely a flake of paint paint remaining, through modern mountain bikes, to well-battered cargo bikes. As a fan of bicycles in general the variety is a refreshing change from the relative homogeneity, and fetishisation of cycling culture in the UK – i.e. an abundance of expensive carbon and lycra. There is no cycling infrastructure as such here, it isn’t needed; those who do drive appear to lack the rabid, occasionally fatal, sense of entitlement that afflicts drivers at home; everyone would appear to be happy to share the available space. It’s the kind of place that particularly reinforces just how dumb it is to choose to use 1500kg of gasoline burning steel as personal transport in an urban context. If only UK towns could be a little more this way.
Furthermore, with the absence of large supermarkets and out of town shopping centers it is apparent how much those western inventions, created under the guise of ‘convenience’, have eroded the glue of communities at home. A wide variety of small businesses, together with pleasant public spaces, appear to form the commercial, and social backbone of the town. It is a pleasure to visit the market, the bakery, and so on; each involving some banter, small talk, and a smile. I may be wrong in my assumption but I feel that loneliness is probably much less of a social issue here than it is back in the UK.
I fell in love a little bit with Argentina and its people the last time I was here, and the same thing is happening all over again.
I’ve stayed a little longer in Cafayate than planned, but I have time before setting sail on the next leg of 900km to Córdoba, so here is a little bit of street photography. It’s been warm, up to 37 degs C, the last few days which makes for somnolent afternoons but I did manage to fire off a few frames in between siestas, icecreams and cold beers.