Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ah, Mendoza!!

My time in Bariloche came to an end and I was on the road again. This time to Mendoza. A place I have wanted to visit for many years, mainly down to my predilection for Malbec wine. And so it was, I was meeting my Canadian friend Leah and we were gonna jump on the bus to the bus station.

This was a 17 hour bus trip and the bus operators way of making you forget the length is to play bingo. More specifically “Bingo Andesmar” in honour of the bus operator. Now, have you ever tried to play bingo when the numbers are called out in a foreign language? Not easy I can tell you. However, as the game went on the tension, and excitement increased. I was just 2 numbers short. Come on, come on. Alas, it wasn't to be, my luck was out.

And in the blink of an eye, we were in early morning Mendoza, in the hustle and bustle of the bus station. Fortunately, our hostel was only a 10 minute walk. And the hostel turned out to be the best yet. Hostel Lao if you are ever in Mendoza. Chilled music, hammocks in a quiet garden in which there was a small pool. And the best breakfast in any hostel hands down. Fresh pastries, fresh grapefruit juice (amazing!) and in the evening, free Malbec. Yes folks, free Malbec. To the extent that one night we had 3 bottles before heading out for dinner. In the hostel, besides myself and Leah we met Richard and Alison again from our trip up Ruta 40 to Bariloche. Over Malbec we decided to do the cycling tour of the wineries in the morning and Grace, from Holland decided to come too so the 5 of us were up early and off on the bus to wine country.

The day was fantastic. We cycled around 4 wineries, having tastings at each. Stopping for a picnic lunch in the shade of some trees to escape the scorching Mendoza sun. Thankfully Leah had worn her overcoat for the ride. Otherwise known as factor 60 sun screen. Seriously folks, factor 60. Apparently they make factor 80 but at this point I was convinced I was being subject to a bit of Canadian humour. However, the red knees that were on display over wine in the evening would suggest that the factor 60 was not fastidiously applied!

We managed to see a real cross section of wineries from an independent family owned one, one owned by Carmelo Patti (apparently quite famous in these circles) and a couple of bigger ones. I made a purchase of a bottle of Pinot Noir which I shared over dinner with a group of us who had a pizza party. And the more the wine flowed, the weirder the conversation got. There was an Aussie, a Dutch, an American, English, Canadian and a German. The conversations ranged from subjects as bizarre as dolphins being gay sharks, their tendency to partake in group rape and a particularly disturbing story of an eyelash-stroking fetish! I kid you not.

Whilst in Mendoza we also got the opportunity of meeting a friend of Leah's who is a Mendoza resident. She was able to show us the “real Mendoza”. We had the usual late start and headed out to Alameda district for drinks and live street music. The conversation was good, the beer very cold and before we knew it it was 4.30am. And people were still ordering drinks. However, we called it a night, walked home and I was safely tucked up in bed for 5am.

Needless to say, the following day was a relaxing one. Mooching around Mendoza, sitting in leafy Plazas with my book, sipping coffee at sidewalk cafes and generally watching the world go by. I had slipped into Mendoza time, where time drifts and drifts and drifts.

And it drifted for 4 days because before I knew it, it was time to leave and head to Santiago. This is the point the people started heading off in different directions with just myself and Grace on the 10.30am bus to Santiago de Chile, through the awesome Andes mountains. But that is for another blog.

And I couldn't leave without posting a picture of a steak from Mendoza.

Until the next time, chau.

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