After settling logistical things in Buenos Aires, I hopped on yet another overnight bus. This time, my destination was Mendoza, the famous wine country of Argentina.

More pictures

The first couple days I enjoyed things like reading in the park, calisthenics workout in the park, and taking a snooze in the park. I have a thing for parks… Fortunately, Mendoza has a great selection of lovely parks, including Parque San Martin, a park the size of the city center itself. I also had met a great crew in my first hostel – an Aussie, an Israeli, and a Chilean. We spent many hours sharing meals and drinks around tables while teaching each other bad words and phrases in our respective languages. Google translate enabled much the hilarity as well, notably the voice-to-text and vice versa options. I’m pleased to report that I can now say “shit” in Hebrew. (That one goes over well, when I meet Israeli travelers…) Just don’t ask me to spell what I’m saying.

I moved hostels after 2 nights, to sample a different part of the city. This hostel (Empedrado) actively encouraged socialization with a free wine happy hour every day at 7. I also met a lovely crew of people here (including another Seattleite), and we would end up on a bike tour of the wineries on my last day.

Also of note in Mendoza is the lovely CouchSurfing community. Somewhere in March, I’d decided I was sick of staying in hostels and wanted to get to know local people better. So before leaving for Mendoza, I shot out a bunch of requests to stay on couches. While none of them were accepted, I did receive a counter offer to head out for a beer with one of the more active members of the community, the guy who organizes the weekly Spanish-English language exchange meetup. We’d set a date and time (Sunday at 23:00… oh hey, Argentine schedule), and even after an hour of confused logistics (2 streets, same name, different regions of the city), we finally made it out for the beer. Alejandro is super friendly and we chatted for a few hours, until my yawning was getting ridiculous. Beer chats until 3am are still not something I’m used to, even if that’s normal behavior in Argentina. That meetup was the first of a number of lovely experiences using CouchSurfing simply as a social networking tool, independent of it’s function as a housing finder.

My third day, I’d had enough of city time and made for the foothills of the Andes, to do a popular hike up Cerro Arco. Fortunately, I could just take a collectivo (public transport) about 30 minutes north to the town of El Challao. I got there and had to walk along a road for about 45 minutes in the sizzling dry heat toward the trailhead. Apparently this hike is quite popular among Mendocinos, and when I arrived, the number of people on the hill confirmed this. Like many hikes I’ve done (excluding Patagonia), this one was surrounded by evidence of humans. The trail itself follows a service road up to loads of antennae (and a paragliding base) on top. And when the trail didn’t follow the road, it was the road itself. I powered to the top in an hour, and then made my way past some maintenance station to wander along a more or less deserted ridge.

IMG_6856.JPG IMG_6862.JPG IMG_6842.JPG IMG_6857.JPG

Then I settled in for some mountain time lunch and meditation. Partway through my ridge top chillaxing, the call of the #2 wild began to howl. I knew what I had to do to leave no trace: get down off the trail a bit, find a nice flat rock, do my thing, and huck the evidence down to where no one would ever be hiking. I wasn’t worried about hiding from other hikers, because as far as I knew no one was on the ridge or behind me. So as I finished my business and was zipping up my pantalones, I looked up and was startled to behold a paraglider swooping around within 100m of my position. I hadn’t accounted for overhead surveillance in my pooing logistics. However, there was nothing to be done. Maybe I’d been spotted, maybe not. I scrambled back to my sit spot on the ridge and watched about 6 paragliders wheeling about in front of me, like my own personal show. I’m pretty sure one of them whistled at me. Typical latino male. Probably not the one who’d had a view of my squatting a few minutes past. Whatever, shit happens. I waved and smiled, took pictures, and enjoyed the silence broken only by the whooshing of parasails.

IMG_6844.JPG IMG_6848.JPG

Then I started my descent. Some runners earlier had inspired me, so I jogged down the road as much as possible, mostly to get it over with. Mercifully, I was back to the bus stop in an hour. I read Game of Thrones on my phone (Kindle for Android) until the bus came, and then most of the way home as well. (Books 1 and 2 were addicting; book 3 has gone less quickly as I’ve become more and more disgusted with the fatal turns of events.) I was back to the hostel for wine happy hour.

My last day, a group from my hostel headed to the Maipu region to ride around on bikes and taste wine. The bikes were crap but the wine and the company were good, so the day was a great one. It was also incredibly affordable – 5 USD for the bike, 13 USD for two winery tours and a tasting at a bottle shop, plus 5 USD for lunch and “hydration” at the cerveceria (brewery) en route. Even the nice bottle of reserve for sale at the wineries cost around 10 USD. And the wines are incredible.

IMG_6868.JPG IMG_6870.JPG IMG_6879.JPG IMG_6889.JPG IMG_6900.JPG

We left Maipu and got back to the hostel with just enough time for me and a travel buddy to gather our things and take a cab to the bus station for our 22:00 bus south (another 18 hours) to Bariloche and the lakes region. We went with the company Andesmar, and they win the prize in my book for best Argentine bus company. Hot meals, friendly staff, and not-noticeably-smelly busses. My favorite was the essentially mandatory bingo game in the afternoon. Travel buddy and I were trying to watch a movie on my tablet, but the boom of our server through the bus speaker system could not be outdone by the volume on my tablet. So we played bingo for a bottle of wine. Neither of us won, but the guy who did apparently had a bunch of that wine type in his home town, so he gifted it to the obvious gringos sitting next to him. Nice guy.

We arrived in Bariloche to delightful weather (25 C and sunny), and then made our ways to our respective lodgings. Travel buddy to his hostel and me to my CouchSurf host 8km outside of the city. The weather didn’t stay that nice, but I still had a good, low-key time in the city…

2 comments on “Mendoza and Argentine Wine Country

Leave a Reply