Wine, Spanish and big mountains

Trip Start Nov 08, 2004
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Trip End Nov 08, 2005


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Saturday, April 2, 2005

The bus ride was 12 hours from BA to Mendoza. Only it wasn´t so much a bus as a moving luxury living room! Whilst tucking into my Spinach Souffle on my big, fat reclining arm chair the stewardess asked if we would like Champagne or Whisky after the meal! A flat screen TV pulled down from the roof and we settled down to watch a good film in English - bliss. The seat folded into a flat bed and the whole 12 hours was a damn sight more comfortable than any hostel!

Welcome to Mendoza.If you had wondered where all those Peugot 504´s, old Renaults and Cortinas from the early 80´s had gone, well don´t worry, they all have safe homes here. It´s fair sized city famous for it´s 800 vineyards and mountains.It´s next to the foothills of the Andes which you can see from most points in the city. Life is very laid back here and the city is full of lovely Plaza´s and outdoor cafes, a welcome change after the hustle and bustle of BA.

The only reasons to come here are to climb mountains, drink red wine and eat steak. We did all of these (steak and wine much more than mountains!) but our main reason was to do a week long Spanish course to prepare us for our volunteer work.

Before starting the course a gentle stroll in the foothills seemed to be a good idea. We have hiked up a fair few mountains so far but there were a few differences this time. Apart from the fact that we had done no exercise since January, there was an absence of the usual meandering path to the top. Instead we were led by our guide straight up a steep slope of loose gravel, stones, and prickly thorn bushes. It took a huge amount of concentration and physical effort to make it to the top without falling flat on my face and the whole way up I was wondering how on earth I would get down since the path was so slippy and there was nothing to grab onto except thorn bushes! The views of the Andes were great though and apart from some very friendly venture scouts at the top there was absolutely no one else around but the 3 of us. I skidded and tripped my way down with the guide shouting "Stand up straight and stop trying to sidle down sideways!" Yeah right, I´ll just walk straight down a slippy near vertical slope no problems!

The mountain trek shocked us into realising how unfit we have become so we hired a bike and cycled to Mendoza´s massive park which is lovely. Once there I got quite over excited and couldn´t stop cycling around the park, but Jason parked himself under a tree by the lake and exercised only his jaw with a picnic. We also went to a couple of vineyards, but these were quite disappointing after wine tasting in South Africa and New Zealand - not enough of the "tasting" part and too much of the tour round the vineyard.

Our Spanish school was really good this time. We have both improved alot since leaving Brazil and feel we can at least make ourselves understood in Argentina now. Whether anyone will be able to understand us in Ecuador is another matter!People have finally stopped looking at me quizzically and asking whether I want to speak in ´Italian or English´ when I try and speak Spanish to them, so it seems like I have finally buried my special Spanglish-Italian dialect!

Although, as you will see from photos in the future (If I ever let the camera near me again), my Spanish is obviously quite not up to the challenge of a visit to the hairdressers yet. I asked for ¨¨Natural brown¨ colour, and for only the very ends of my hair to be trimmed. I emerged 3 hours later with jet black, short, straight hair resembling a cross between Morticia Addams and a punk. Arrrrrhhhhhh!It is absolutely horrible. At school the secretary didn´t even recognise me and after my teacher had politely pretended it looked nice for a while she then suggested I go back and demand to get it re done. Hence Jason and I took her back to help argue with the hairdressers. After the usual long heated discussion they attempted to reverse some of the colour and now I don´t look quite as scary.... a lesson learned!!!

We are now at Santiago airport after a quick 6 hour zip through the Andes which was a stunning bus journey. We are really looking forward to getting to the Galapagos.Being on the move for 5 months is tiring although we have seen some amazing stuff of course. The almost daily arguments between me and Mr bulging Backpack are beginning to get to me and I am dying to unpack and put him away for 3 months! We are bored of hostel rooms, and our usual custom of giving each hostel shower a rating our of 10! (Yes being together 24/7 for this long we have had every conversation going!)No shower has received a 10 yet and both the best and worst have been in Brazil! (just incase you were interested..)

We know we have been spoiled in Argentina in so many ways and from what we have heard conditions are very different in the North of the continent so here goes the Ecuadorian adventure...

Things to take home from Argentina:

-Taxis - for the price of a bus in England you can go right across a city and the driver will know every number of every street!
-Fantastic steak and wine for the price of a McDonalds at home
-Tango shoes (Jason didnt think they extra weight could be justified unfortunately..)
- Mega sized mountains!
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