Our final evening in Salta delivered a more entertaining affair, it was a Saturday night after all. However Salta as a city wasn’t the cause for much excitement, we met up with Arnaud, our French friend that we met in Chile for Christmas and New years. As was the case then, such is the case now, catching up with Arnaud involves alcohol, and with Charlie officially declared fit to travel we head out for a tipple. Considering that Salta, indeed any Argentinian city, goes out no earlier than 2am we opted for a barbecue and some wines at Arnaud’s hostel. Of course in Argentinian time we turned up at 10pm for the 9:30pm barbecue to start eating a little after 11pm. A little before 2am we wound up our last drinks from dinner and set off home with hopes of another cheeky drink on the way. The 70 pesos cover charge to go into a bar with no one in it at that hour suitably killed off those aspirations so it’s home we amble. We had a fun night wholly on account of friends and simple pleasures, Salta fading into the pages of this blog leaving little more, a flame no longer burning.
Fast forward a solid night sleep and we’re in a cafe having breakfast before we’re to be picked up to go to Sayta, a home-stay style ranch in the countryside near Salta. Calm excitement is bubbling within us for the adventure ahead, our impending next step all that we’re looking for in this part of Argentina after the spark was ignited in Cafayate. After a car ride of about an hour we arrive at Sayta ranch excited to get out of the hostel loop and into something more saturating. With the first impressions proving to be sadly too accurate of Salta lets hope that first impressions are also on the money here, I think we have hit the jackpot. Up a small dirt road we turn into a neat yet rustic working ranch, a large plane tree taking pride of place offering shade to a quaint yard. In the time it takes to draw a deep breath we are back in Argentina as we could only wish for it to be.
We’re greeted at the car and granted not the faintest opportunity to grab our own bags, Argentinian hospitality is big on smiles and light on formality; we couldn’t be made to feel more welcome. Our room is all vintage country charm, dark painted concrete floors, antique trimmings and dark polished timber, what more could Blue Mountains homo’s ask for? Arriving in good time we are told to settle in and make our way to the yard when we can, wine is waiting. Argentina has the most delightful of alcohol issues, enough wine removing any need to have said issue. Jokes aside the entire nation of Argentina could give ex-pat communities around the world a lesson on how to consume alcohol; readily, consistently and perpetually. To quote Arnaud, ‘In France it is not alcohol, it is wine’.
With wine in the yard we soak up the drastic shift in our environment, this is indeed already everything we hoped for in open display of a culture that we have travelled the world to be part of. after a short drink, Argentine speak for about three glasses of wine, the entire habitants of the ranch migrate to the dining area for lunch. Under a patio cover the eight or so metre table leads the eye up to the flaming grill weighted down by our pre-lunch meat. It’s now that we catch a moment, those times when that little slice of time sums up so much that we try to grab it in flight, to give it a name and hold it close for more than it wants to be held. An outdoor country Argentinian ranch hums to the clinking of cutlery on plates and good cheer. The ranch continues all around, the wine has flown as it continues to do while the densely layered epitome of a lifestyle time forgot pulses all around us. We’re told in that most hospitable way that the meat is going to keep coming and coming and that ‘no’ is not an acceptable answer in Argentina. Coercive hospitality at its finest.
We eat and we drink wine, that captured moment since taken flight leaves more than just a little of itself behind; and we drink it up as well. The moments remnants now indelible we’re off for a short horse ride to see the local scenery. We could easily siesta after more meat than is recommendable but it’s saddle time and we’re off. It’s a short and easy ride, winding our way through informal tracks around tobacco fields taking in the vistas to the mountains beyond, majestic as always. This perfect plunge back into culture and lifestyle lifts us with a short gallop on the horses and brings us back down, picking ripe wild figs from horseback as we ride to literally taste the region. The plunge gets ridiculously deeper and deeper as we dismount back at the ranch to awaiting tea, bread and home-made marmalade. This is no attempt at tourist convenience, with dinner late this small snack and wind down with tea in the yard is a little touch of refinement just as it is always done around here.
Ok the Argentinian hospitality gets us again, tea turns into a small glass of wine as dusk slowly blankets our world. It would be rude not to.
The afternoon wiles away in the slow motion rumble to dinner time whenever that might be, long Argentinian days a series of small events that stretch on forever. The hospitality is rich and the dinner runs late somehow introducing you to the soon-to-be new day as you drift to sleep. Evading the ebb and flow of night and day this pond we dive into rolls and rumbles on a tidal shrug; marking time takes on new meaning to its conspirators. We’re diving into the eddy only looking to see how far down we go, thoughts on surfacing for air are for another time, when night and day return and the tide recedes to shoulders drooped.