The Wheel Argentina

routeDSC_0124© Carole Edrich

In a Wanstead Fringe travelogue with a difference, Carole Edrich invites you to sample some of the wines emblematic of her experience of cycling to every winery in Argentina

Salta Province has sub-tropical weather. That means either pouring rain or hot sun and humidity in the lowlands or hot sun with more hot sun everywhere else. Salta is mostly desert. The thermal amplitude makes for amazing wines. 

Downhill towards the city. Wet and humid. On a normal trip, humidity would have been welcome. Humidity 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 this humidity is like swimming through treacle. Exhausting, sweaty and no sane person would do it.

I find my hotel in Salta – the only one in the entire five-month adventure that the local PRs have organised – and immediately go for a shower. The pipes grumble. I wait. 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 room, I set out to immerse myself in the town. After all, I might never come here again. Live this 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 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 (directly translated: ‘bar-b-cue’ or ‘grill’, culturally translated: more meat than you can eat and then some). In the end, in a garage that has run out of petrol, I find a couple of boiled cardboard media lunas (pasties) and two dented plastic bottles of water in slightly-less-than-two-litre holders.

That night, I wake up to scuttling. After being run over by cockroaches in bed in the ‘pleasantly intimate’ cupboard they have booked for me to share with said cockroaches, the minutes of the luminous green clock that I can neither turn off nor cover creep to 6am. I make the decision to get up and cycle through horizontal 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. This is the penultimate stage of my nine-stage bike ride through the wine trails of Argentina. On 12 September, we’ll have time to talk about four of the stages – and we’ll be tasting four wines that match my experience that covered 4,500km through the wineries of Argentina. Which four sections we cover will be up to you (interactive, innit).

For more information on Wanstead Fringe events, visit wnstd.com/fringe