Mendoza has been amazing. We have been in the foothills of the Andes for the past week, its a beautiful green city with no skyscrapers, excellent wine and lots of cool stuff to do. We arrived in Mendoza in style, on a Cama Suite (first class) bus. We were served a meal with wine, followed by champagne and our leather seats reclined into beds. Much better than any bus I’ve ever seen in Britain.
On our first day we got ourselves settled in Hostel Lagares, explored the city and went for a walk around Parque General San Martin (liberator of Argentina). The park is huge, 420 hectares to be precise. We had a wander round the lake and had a play on the swings and basically just took it easy. That night we went to Taco Tabasco, a quality Mexican eatery, we went the whole hog with margaritas, nachos and fajitas. We got to sit outside, even though it was 10 o’clock and it was freezing thanks to some energy inefficient heaters.
Since we had such a strenuous first day we decided to treat ourselves to a bit of R&R on our second day. We headed to the thermal hot springs on nearby Cacheuta. Greatest place ever! Set in between the Andes with the Mendoza river flowing by, there were 4 outdoor pools, some with bubbles, some without and a varying range of temperatures. Inside there at least 6 more pools ranging from freezing to extremely hot. I went lobster red in the hottest one, which provided a good laugh for the locals. We also discovered a flume outside, so we spent all day playing on that then heading to the warmest outdoor pool to suck in the scenery and bask in the sun & pools heat. Needless to say we were rather wrinkly by the time the sun set over the mountains and were the last people to leave. When we arrived back in Mendoza we hit a small supermarket for some sirloin steak which we rustled up in the hostel,mighty tasty.
On day 3 we hit up Mr Hugo’s infamous bike tour with a couple of dudes from California. Jeremy, Cardiff, Eilidh and I arrived in Maipu (where the wineries are) a bit later than we originally anticipated after a bit of a nightmare getting the bus. (You have to use exact coinage on the bus but it is actually impossible to get coins from anywhere.) Mr Hugo provides a bike, a map and the promise of unlimited free wine upon your return and sends you on your way.
Our first stop was an olive oil, chocolate and liquor producer. We got to try their olive oil, thier olive conserves, some chocolate and finally some booze! We kicked the day off with a shot of 75% absinthe (complete with wormwood oil) followed by a shot of chocolate and mint liquor. We then jumped back on our bikes and went to a wine museum where Cardiff & Jeremy gave us a brief tour (they had done a proper wine tour the day before) followed by a free glass of vinho tinto. As it was Saturday a couple of the larger wineries like Trapiche annoyingly shut at 1:30, we didn’t even make it to Maipu for then, so unfortunately we had to check them out from afar. Our next stop on our wine tour was a beer garden where we enjoyed the best beer in South America (so far at least) and a small snack. Before heading to a family run vineyard that sold their wine solely from their premises. We tried 3 vinho tintos, 2 malbecs and 1 cabernet sauvignon and 1 desert wine that was created by the Grandma of the family. All delicious. Jeremy, Cardiff, Eilidh and I, as well as a number of other people hit one of the clubs after that, all in all a very enjoyable day!
Unfortunately it did lead to a rather lazy Sunday but since pretty much everything shuts down on Sunday we didn’t feel too guilty!
On Monday we went back to Parque General San Martin and walked about 10km (round trip) to see one of Mendozas most famous landmarks, the Monument to the Army of the Andes, on the summit of Cerro de la Gloria. The monument is situated at the top of a hill at the back of the park, and as it was a bank holiday it was reasonably busy. You get amazing views of the city, the park and the Andes all in one. After such a strenuous day we needed to get some good grub in us, so we teamed up with a Mancunian called Alex to create team barbecue. We had burgers, sausages, guacamole, corn on the cob and of course chocolate bananas. Mindblowingly good stuff.
On Tuesday we realised that we had no idea what we were going to do next so we swiftly booked ourselves in for another night and got some planning done. We decided to go to Rosario next. It is on the opposite side of Argentina, around 4 hours away from Buenos Aires. We will be staying in Hostel La Comunidad for 3 nights before heading to B.A to stay for 1 month in San Telmo in our own apartment! (link shows actual apartment)
After the success of Mondays barbecue, Alex, Eilidh and I got it fired up again on Tuesday night replacing the sausages with steaks and therefore completing our goal of beating the previous night. We also had more chocolate bananas, completing our fruit requirements 😉 just can’t beat em!
On Wednesday we booked our bus tickets and generally did some preparation for our move. We knew we would be busy on Thursday as we had booked a trip to go horseriding and white water rafting. So we got our travel pizzas (cooked pizza we then put back in the box, our travelling food of choice) made up and had pasta for dinner so we could take it for lunch on Thursday.
Thursday was beyond amazing. We had to be up early doors as we were being picked up by Argentina Rafting who we were doing the activities with. We got whisked out to the Andes, where they have their base next to a huge lake. We were taken up to a small village and introduced to our gaucho guide and our horses before getting saddled up and riding into some of the most majestic scenery we have seen yet. Snow topped peaks, accompanied by Clint Eastwoodish western terrain with the lake appearing every so often as well. We trotted around for a couple of hours, all the while with this amazing backdrop of scenery. It was the first time I had ever ridden, Eilidh had done it a number of times when she was younger, we both loved it.
We were then transported back to base camp where we were told we would have to wait an hour or so for the rafting as the group we were doing it with were getting lunch. The hour turned into an hour and a half, at this point Eilidh and I were getting a bit nervous as the bus we had booked was sailing rather close to the wind in terms of time frame. After making a wee bit of a nuisance of ourselves we were told the reason for the delay was we had a VIP in our group. It turned out to be none other than Argentina and Newcastle football star Jonas “Spiderman” Gutierrez! To make matters even better, even though he had 15 friends with him, Eilidh and I were in the same raft with him and 2 other guys! We had 6 in total including our guide, and with that we set out down the Mendozan River. Again, Eilidh had done rafting before while I hadn’t, so getting to do it with a Premier League star just made it even more memorable. Rafting is extremely fun, my good friend Jonas and I even took a tumble into the river at the same time (the wise folks on our raft obviously rescued me first). We went through 4 rapids, including one grade 3 rapid and three grade 2s. Once we had finished Eilidh and I had just enough time to get out of our wetsuits and get changed before racing back for our bus. Thankfully the helpful guys at Argentina Rafting swung us by the hostel to get our gear before dropping us off at the bus terminal, we made the bus by the skin of our teeth! Unfortunately due to our haste we did not get a chance to buy the photos of the rafting, we are currently trying to get Argentina Rafting to email them to us.
Anyway, a fantastic week in Mendoza. One of the highlights of the trip so far! As always we have lots of pics up on flickr with more to follow!