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Yesterday morning, we went to the hospital emergency room in Cafayate. My wife had developed what she suspected was an infection, and rather than let it fester, she opted to see a doctor right away.

It being a Sunday, we were directed by our hotel’s staff to the one hospital in town that was open 24-7. So we took the 20-minute walk to the hospital, which was on the edge of the town’s center.

Once we checked in with the emergency room administration (a good thing I remembered my passport number), my wife was seen pretty quickly by one nurse, then by the emergency room doctor on duty, and then sent to a second department, where the service also was prompt. Traffic was light, which was sort of a surprise as it was only a couple of days before Mardi Gras, when I expected emergency room business would spike from the revelry.

With initial test results in hand, she only had to see the doctor one more time to confirm the prescription he had conveniently pre-written for her earlier. So we checked in again at the administration desk. So sorry, my wife was told, but you’ll have to wait. The doctor was out to lunch. Literally. They would have to call him, and see if he would come back.

This was a new one on us. I guess, trained by television programs and the tales of the children of friends and relatives who have gone into the medical business, we assumed the emergency room doctor would always be in the emergency department in case of, you know, an emergency.

There was a little time pressure involved, too, as we’d spent the latter part of the morning and now the early afternoon at the hospital, and we’d already purchased our tickets for a tour that afternoon of the surrounding mountain ranges that encircle Cafayate.

So we waited. Eventually, the doctor appeared, looked at the test results, and said that the prescription should be filled and the infection would likely be gone in less than a week. My wife had correctly self-diagnosed.

Since we had not much time left before our tour group was to depart, my wife opted to fill the prescription that night. We looked for a cab. None was to be found, as I guess the cabbies, like just about everyone else in Cafayate around midday, is off for the daily siesta.

So we hoofed it back to our hotel (with a quick stop-off by me for some empanadas), in time to make the tour.

And, were we glad we did. That’s because if Cafayate never produced even one drop of the wonderfully fruity, bright, silky and powerful Torrontes white wines that it does, our 14-hour overnight bus trek to the town would have been worth every minute.

This section of the Andes Mountains, which I think are known as the Colorado Mountains, was simply spectacular: massive mountainsides embracing deep valleys filled with little more than scrub brush. From that green scrub brush rose amazing and, at times, anthropomorphic rock shapes in colors that ran from rust iron red, to tan, then to slate gray, and then to the green that forms on oxidized copper pots, and then again to rust red, before hitting the clear blue sky. And these segments of rock were not only of the pastry thin variety; they were often hundreds of feet thick each. Wow!

We hiked into one of the valleys, up and down narrow trails that at times left us feeling a little bit of vertigo. It was a long, rough ride down the mountainside for anyone careless or unlucky enough to slip.

Cafayate is changing quickly. One cab driver told us the population had grown by around 20% in the last five years. With an ever-more well regarded wine industry, and with more tourists discovering the area, I doubt that the still quaint, laid back vibe of the town, from its central plaza radiating out to the many sandy side streets, will be around much longer.

Of course, by going soon, you will only hasten the changes. But, since that change seems all but inevitable, why miss such a rare opportunity? It was just what the doctor ordered.

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