THE SMELL OF WINE IS HEAVY IN THE AIR..we are in Cafayate about three hours south west of Salta in the North West corner of Argentina. This is the second most important wine region, Mendoza being the first. We have traveled here from Salta with our guide and the journey was absolutely stunning. The hotel we are staying at is called Patios de Cafayate, and the vineyards surround us as well as the machinery to create numerous bottles of wine. The hotel is old and graceful and yet another former home of a family who has since moved on. As I walk out to the gardens the aroma hits me. It is a familiar smell of wine, but the smell I prefer is of the new mown grass and all the images that this projects. The weather is warm and sunny and it is nice to feel the heat on my bones after Ushuaia! Guy and I constantly remind each other that we should not compare one place to another but I have been overwhelmed by the similarity of this town to Sonoma in California. The “plaza” along with the buildings, artisan shops, cafes and restaurants around the square give me a feeling of being in another place which is quite strange. Each place of beauty should be unique and of course they are but the “Spanish” influence that we are constantly experiencing is similar in so many of the places we have visited that it is very easy to make comparisons. Comparison also makes looking for that something different a bit of a challenge. So much of what is on sale here comes from Peru and Bolivia and we constantly say “ oh there is that shawl we saw in such and such a place” Truck loads of goods come to Argentina daily, (all trains were taken out of service in 1982 when the president came under pressure from the Truckers Union to disband all services) and the goods are distributed around the small villages to be sold in the markets. We were taken by our guide to some shops that only sell original goods and so as a result we now have some original Argentinian items to enjoy and give as xmas presents. Another comparison that I make is the similarity to Ireland in one respect. The amount of horses around here. Every field, shed, front and back garden, and of course miles of roadside grazing are available to tie your horse up in. I have only seen one animal that was a bit underweight otherwise they all look strong and in good condition. On the way to Molinas we saw a horse in the middle of an enormous area of land tied up, fully tacked and with no gaucho in sight, eventually Guy said “there he is” and right in the middle of a herd of cows the gaucho was calmly checking things out. The horse meanwhile just waited for his master to return. Certainly in some of the small villages we passed through horses were tied up, again saddles and bridles on just waiting, no attempt being made to escape, what patient creatures they are, and how I am enjoying seeing all of them. Guides are people that we do tend to compare. One incredible thing that they have all had in common (at this point we have had fourteen) is their ability to talk non-stop! Some speak excellent English and others have a mixture of words that they favour so after a few hours those words that they do favour become somewhat annoying. We have found that by the end of some outings (we have had all private tours) that our heads are swimming with statistics and we cant take it all in. I have been really interested in the “story” of how our guides have ended up with that role in life. Many have spent a number of years in training and have been at it a long time and some are in the locations they have chosen because of family or a loved one. I have to say that I really respect them for their enthusiasm and dedication. Buenos Aires and a week in an apartment in Recoleta is our next port of call. I spent two months there five years ago and will be interested to see if things have changed…..