We set off on our journey, straining livers all too pleased to be departing Mendoza; but for where? We set off up north towards Salta but for a stop into Cafayate, another wine growing region so we can’t say for sure if the livers are cheering or cowering in fear at this point. Mendoza has been very good to us as a first introduction to Argentina so it comes with a trace of heavy-heart that we depart just a day too soon. Mendoza has over-lived the hype for us providing us with succinct window into the Argentinian good life, indeed a version of the good life that would stand up tall anywhere in the world. We chat of our good times here and our conversation is filled with all the best words: food, authentic, friends, laughs, experiences and of course wine. We can’t help but realise that none of these words relate in any way to a digital existence that so often rules our lives. I’ll shelve the social commentary for now, we’re still clinging to the good life like a safety tube in a raging sea. This time harks back to a simpler time and facebook could not be further from our minds
What a contrast, we leave behind a place that conjures so many great terms for one that conjures very little, a night bus. But move on we must, the traveller spirit doesn’t fare so well sitting still. On the bus we are however treated to a belated new years show, our journey into a fading day is barraged by a relentless electrical storm for about 3 hours. The lightning isn’t close but it covers the entirety of the front, left and right side views from the bus in the most constant and complete light show I’ve ever seen. From this distance it’s not raging, just beautiful but we are heading in the direction of one beast of a storm, no wonder the Spanish word for storm is tormenta. Despite some heavy rain the bus trip escapes the storm proper, not that we’d know through the dazed travel slumber. None the less we arrive at our changeover town Tucuman to a sodden bus floor, weary eyes and still another six hours to Cafayate.
No bus for four hours; could be better, could be worse so we bunk in for some surely high brow cuisine and divine coffee as hopes exceed brainpower in the cultural wasteland of a bus terminal. Thinking back to our words for Mendoza we are now surrounded by a whole new range of terms that it simply hurts me to type, so I won’t, the good life feels very distant. And of course the only bank in the terminal doesn’t take our card so this means I’m off for a run into town. The banking street is about ten blocks into the drizzling rain, this should be about as fun as wasting a good bottle of wine.
Lets just say Tucuman is a bit of a shitty town, very lucky we didn’t stay here. Boarded up shops, deserted streets and not a clean building in sight gives this place an all together dodgy feel. Not to mention it’s raining and in my thongs I slip flat on my ass in front of a small crowd of people and now Mendoza seems so far away. Think of vines think of vines I tell myself, better times are just around the corner. The bank situation doesn’t go well either, nine banks wont accept any of our cards. This is not a good day, we have barely enough cash for an empanada so I defeatedly huff back to the station. I pass one last ATM and in an effort to tick all boxes I give it a try, it works and I can’t believe it; I’m so over it by this stage it’s all just a little emotional. I get out two lots of cash and bolt back to the station as as fast as my sore ass allows. So I’m disheveled, in flip flops, soaking wet and carrying a chunky wad of cash in a dodgy town running on the road as the footpaths are slippery tiles so I can only imagine what sort of figure I cast.
Having accomplished mission impossible from the simplest of objectives I arrive back into the terminal to my diligent bag guard Charlie. We have an hour or so till our bus takes off, we can now eat more than a cheese stick so the hill has been crested, surely it’s all looking up from here. We’re in the midst of the single biggest travel day we’ve had since arriving into Mexico so it’s safe to say it’s not all beer and skittles. We are dealt a turn of fortune though with our top deck seats at the very front of the bus for what is reported to be a picturesque journey. Things are definitely looking up.
All about us we see signs of what was a cracker of a storm which obstructs our panoramic view through the front but none the less it’s a great drive. Until the road goes under water. The bus pulls up beside a local soccer game in the middle of nowhere, the road is blocked. The dirt pitch sitting afore the backdrop of the Andes is a culturally picturesque scene heavy with images that are all things Argentina, we could have a worse place to stop I guess. But a little over two hours passes and we’re not sure if we’re heading back or not, this is getting frustrating. We’re thinking we’ll get through eventually but we’re ticking over 24 hours in a bus so these stinky hungry boys are not pictures of serenity.
Eventually we do hear the call, vamos, the road now looking more like a river bed full of debris than anything made for a vehicle. As they say the rest is history as we make it to Cafayate, this journey from the safe succour of one wine area to another not without it’s less than romantic middle. We passed many notions of thinking about a sizzling parrilla and a glass of red in Mendoza on this deviation from the good life. Yet what is the good life without a sense of adventure, the eternal optimist now in a comfortable bed sees this contrast as little more than a spotlight to illuminate the better times. Yes the good life can easily be summarised in having the opportunity for days like this, perspective is now a word we can add to the list.