Its been quite a long day, I’ve walked about 3km to a goat cheese farm and guess what I saw? Goats! Guess what I ate? Goat’s cheese! I actually loved the visit, walking in beautiful sunshine in the countryside of Cafayete. You walk through gravel roads, sometimes kicking up dust, and other times banging your foot into a rock unexpectedly.
As the afternoon arrives, I set off to catch my bus to Tafi des Valles. Three hours of meandering roads and oh boy its such a green mountainous, hilly valley with a strong scent of fresh cut grass but also lots of manure and horse piss (gross!) There are several dogs that run about freely although they are cared for and owned by individual households dotted across the place. Dogs in other places all appear to be stray and I have avoided stroking any of them to date, there are articles in local papers about rabies and the need to be aware.
Tafi des Valles reminds me clearly of North Wales, and as I have said in social media, you almost want to start writing Taffy instead of Tafi! There are some blogs that claim Tafi des Valles to be the Switzerland of South America, I still think its North Wales!
As I get off the bus at a tiny bus station, which by the way is the only bus station I have seen so far to have its own café and wifi, I navigate using googlemaps to find the Nuestro Destino Youth Hostel. I had booked a single bed in an 8-bed share, just 9pounds for the night. My large rucksack follows me on its 2 wheels, with an additional small rucksack clipped on it. It is starting to look worse for wear but I don’t care, there’s nothing worse than travelling budget style with a brand new rucksack in my view! Its handle bar is broken meaning you either travel with the handlebar extended out, or its closed but only by some exhausting investigative work behind hidden zips inside the main bag, which means taking out all your clothes! So frustrating… but here I am 4 months and still coping!
The hostel looks like a wonderful farm house, there is this huge gate at the front and you walk in whilst being greeted by a dalmation and 2 other older dogs of unknown breed. There is a clear blue sky and great views of the mountains that form this valley. I am conscious that my luggage wheels are cranking up due to pebbles on the ground. Out of the main house, walks over a lady, with dark hair and skin. She looks experienced, a lady who has been around the world (or around the block). She has this natural aura about her, as if she wants my stay to be as easy as possible. She helps me register my details, pay my bill, and then this other lady comes along to walk me to my 8-bed room.
Monica makes it clear Marcela is her partner, she then puts her arm around Marcela. Monica and Marcela have lived and worked at this hostel for 18years. I nod in anticipation – having received a few emails “from Monica and Marcela” prior to arriving I had kind of guessed. I point to my rainbow bracelet and indicate I am also a friend of Dorothy :). They smile, but its also as if they had suspected since I walked through the main gates. Maybe it was my bracelet, maybe its because I move my rucksack by its 2 staggering wheels rather than macho carrying?!
After having “come out” to each other, I immediately ask if there are any other gay guys in Tafi des Valles. They both almost immediately do the gestural sign for ‘ go hang yourself’. I get what they mean, its as if it’d be suicide to be a gay man in this valley. Hmm! Ah well better luck for me next place I go ha ha…
As I settle into my dorm, unpacking stuff, I discover half of my travel wash has spilled all over my clothes grr, Marcela pops in and out making sure I am ok, giving me a towel and soap.
Monica has drawn a little map for me, and given me directions to reach a wonderful panoramic view of the valley. I am grateful. Its 5pm and I decide I have time to go and see the view before shower and dinner.
The hike was truly wonderful, I kind of did it in a rush as I didn’t want to be stranded up there after sunset! As I arrive back to the hostel, I see both Marcela and Monica on the front. Sweaty and hot from the hike, I order a nice long bottle of Salta lager. Marcela agrees to have a glass too. Monica doesn’t drink, although she smokes. We get talking about life in the valley and what they did before. Monica used to live in Switzerland and Salta.
The pair of them just click. They also look like one another. I love this “click” in couples. I do envy this click. I have several friends who are in love with their partners. Some have kids, some are gay, some are straight. It’s the life they have, that continual affection for one another, that conversation about what needs doing, that conversation about what one has been doing. I see the energy between the dyad, its lovely.
But its rare too. I know the movies seem to suggest everyone falls in love and lives happily ever after with that perfect match. But I reckon it’s not something everyone experiences. I was in California back in July where 350 deaf gay men got together for 5 days. Not that many were in relationships. We still had a great party lol!
I like how Monica and Marcela have opted for the quiet life in the valley. Probably no lesbians for miles as far as I could see, but also no external pressures too. No need to do this or that, to catch a daily bus or train, have a daily routine of meetings, commit to meals out, drinks with friends and colleagues etc. They are very focused on their hostel for sure but every day is different, with new arrivals and departures. There is also a bar on site. Each day they make breakfast for their guests, sort beds out for new arrivals. They also work hard to make sure the dining room is interesting with various bits that help tourists feel informed. There are numerous pictures on the walls, various board games in the dining room, and resources about the valley and its surrounding neighbourhoods.
Monica continually gives me tips about what to see and how to get there. She also tells me where to get cheap eats for dinner and how staff are friendly in a restaurant nearby.
I think I would like a ‘Monica’ in my life, someone older and wiser but also really chilled. You can tell Monica doesn’t care what people think, that she is strong and wise from years of experience. Maybe I am a ‘Monica’?
Marcela loves Monica, its easy to tell. I’m unsure how experienced Marcela is. I can see how happy they are together and how they want to make each other happy. I can imagine them enjoying afternoon strolls around the valley and how much they enjoy hosting guests at their hostel. Around the hostel are “8.9” and “9.0” rating certificates from Trip Advisor, very well commended and deserved.
I kind of want to hold an interview with them both, and to ask them their secret to their relationship. But its obvious really; getting away from city pressure, gay community pressure etc.
On my second day, I enjoy trekking to the lake all day with amazing views. I return early to sun- bathe a while in the gorgeous garden with Fido the dalmation. I really feel like this is one accommodation I am gonna miss. I have stayed in so many places in these past 4 months, but this is a wonderful hostel with great hosts whom I both admire and envy. They hug me goodbye and I set off to the bus station….with my bloody luggage behind me being dragged on its two wheels!