WHEN EUROPEAN VAGABONDS BUILT A FINCA IN NW ARGENTINA
Updated: Dec 26, 2019
WHAT TICKLES YOU GUYS?
We met at the movies. Both attracted to good storytelling and that mystical experience of sliding into somebody’s life in a far away place. These days while streaming, but we still prepare for it: lights dimmed, drinks and snacks ready, hands held, push: start. We like to peek into the unknown, be out there, hiking, cycling, diving, or just hanging out on a beach somewhere, absorbed in a thriller. As a journalist and business consultant we were able to organize our time so we could always travel to different parts of the world for weeks on end and immerse ourselves in ways otherwise only possible in the dark at a cinema.
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE CALCHAQUI VALLEY?
The ‘weeks’ weren’t doing it anymore for us, so in 2003 we travelled for about 7 months from Ushuaia in the South to Mexico-City. Crisscrossing Patagonia between Chile and Argentina, we made our way up hiking the Torres del Paine, Mount Fitz Roy and enjoying a great cruise on the Navimag. We were triggered by the joy of the Argentinians we met, though it wasn’t easy to literally grasp what they were saying. Our Spanish only improved substantially when we settled for some classes in Salta and then tested our knowledge as we rented a worn Volkswagen to do the circuit Salta-Cachi-Cafayate -Salta.
We signed off on the dotted line that stated we would not take the car on dirt roads. What did we know. The trip was truly amazing, no asphalt in sight and glorious landscapes for as long as the trip lasted. As if cruising through the Grand Canyon.
WHY BUILD A PRIVATE FINCA IN A SMALL PUEBLITO LIKE COLALAO DE VALLE?
At one point the ‘months’ away had become years as we had traded in Amsterdam for Hong Kong, and then Singapore. We’d been keeping an eye on Argentina stating that after 30 years in 15 countries we might one day settle down there. It became a sort of dreamscape, until we said ‘why wait that long, let’s check whether we can live there right now’. And so we took some time off, checked properties and life in general and decided it was not for us. We closed the book. Except that we still wanted to revisit Cafayate where we had only spent an afternoon back then. We checked in at La Vieja Posada and were received by the owners Paola and Ramiro like old friends. Though we’d never met them. They had arrived from Buenos Aires not that long ago and were still in discovery mode. They pointed us to a friend who was the only ‘inmobiliaria’ at the time, just in case we wanted to have a look at properties in the region. We’d made a property wishlist during the long bus rides while crossing the country.
On top of that list was a virgin terrain on which we could build something from scratch. Why? Because we’d never done that, not even lived on the ground floor together, ever. A project with the potential of becoming a sort of small community with tiny houses should we want to, not unlike what we experienced in Bali. The equally enthusiastic realtor showed us some smaller terrains near Cafayate, and a huge mountainous area further up North, but once we were shown the property in Colalao we were taken away. Bordering the dry river, spectacular views, peaceful, not too far from the town square, near the Ruta 40, it was all we could have imagined. And so we bought it.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE AND/ OR MORE UNIQUE EXPERIENCES IN THE AREA?
It’s an absolute luxury to live in a place where the stars shine bright, every night. Where you wake up with birds singing and where you can just walk out of the finca into the 4 km high mountains on either side of the valley and enjoy the spaciousness, the wondrous nature of the high desert and with some luck see guanacos, with a lot of luck a puma at night. And to discover small villages on top, where local farmers take their animals in summer time, and see the communities they’ve established up there. And still have 3G.
As we love cycling one of our favorite tours is cycling through the Quebrada de las Conchas, up to the Posta de las Cabras (Km 89, RN 68), stay there and bike back the next day. Highlight was probably the trip we did on bike along the RN 40 starting at the very beginning in La Quiaca (3400 masl), at the border with Bolivia. From there the 5000 km long Ruta 40 goes down to small settlements like Timón Cruz, Paicone, Cusi Cusi, and Coranzuli (4000 masl) to Susques (3600 masl) and then up to the Abra del Acay where we passed a sign that said 4895 masl. We did a second trip from Mendoza all the way down to Bariloche a year later. Fabulous.
HOW DO YOU TYPICALLY SPEND YOUR TIME WHEN YOU ARE IN THE AREA? WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF LIFE HERE THAT KEEP BRINGING YOU BACK?
Before we started building the house, guesthouse, shed, pool we developed a vineyard and planted several fruit trees next to the walnut trees that came with the property. So there’s a clear rhythm of pruning the vineyard in September and harvesting at the end of March. In between there is always something to do, to improve on a finca. And we enjoy that, there is a peace and tranquility in doing farm stuff, in the open, sun shining and knowing these grapes and fruits will find their way to your dish or glass.
Together with a winemaker friend we produce a very special wine in new French oak barrels that we like to enjoy and sell to people in the know. We only produce about 1200 bottles a year, so that’s a pretty limited edition. Apart from that we enjoy reading and work on the galeria, do our lunch laps in the pool, getting together with friends at asados.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELVES WITH A LONG TERM FUTURE HERE?
The Calchaqui Valleys are not dominated by big wineries competing for the most extravagant architecture as in the Valle de Uco, below Mendoza. Neither are the mountains in the far distance. It’s all touchable, on a human scale, and that speaks to many. The wines are proof of the extraordinary climate, warm days cool nights, that give the grapes lots of time to ripe, makes them very fruity and colorful. What’s good for the grapes, might not be that bad for us.
Having the farm really gives us a peace of mind where we live now, in Korea. After several years at the farm new options came across and we decided to step in, so we moved to Abu Dhabi, and now Seoul. We don’t really think in ways of settling in one spot all the time, but we do cherish Colalao as our home base. It’s where our core is. And in case we are done moving around, it’s still one of the best places in the world to be, counting that Argentina has a solid universal health scheme, and daily life and food is fresh and clean.
And note: rising sea water levels won’t touch us.
ADDITIONAL: CULTURE, FRIENDSHIPS?
What makes it entertaining, is that the community is still growing, slowly, new pioneers coming in, being able to escape big city life, looking for ways to explore themselves instead of cheering on what others do. More artists, directors basing themselves near where that great movie “Relatos Salvajes” with Ricardo Darin was shot. It’s like Bali or Aspen in the very early stages, that sort of arty/well being touch and feel dripping in. We wouldn’t mind a drone service though, to hop to nearby cities just to go the cinema once in a while, but that problem will get solved in the years to come we guess.
If you would like more information on options to participate in living life in such a special place as Cafayate, please contact me. With confidentiality and confidence we can assist you to find the right fit for you to enjoy this wonderful place and invest in the bright future there.
Tel: +54 9 11 4145 6640
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