13/06/05 - 18/06/05
Trip Start Apr 22, 2005
17Trip End Aug 12, 2005
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It was so bloody cold! I had to buy a pair of gloves on my second day as just walking around left me with numb fingers! I was watching BBC World News (with a patriotic tear in my eye, good old Blighty) and the weather for Europe showed that the UK had been having temperatures of about 3 times what it was there! At least now I appreciate the fleeces that I have been dragging around with me in the warmer parts of South America!
Mendoza is very nice- it is small enough to wander around on foot with lots of pretty plazas and a huge park (huge being it is about a quarter of the city!).
Apparently Mendozaīs wine production accounts for 70% of Argentinaīs total and although this obviously had no bearing on my decision to come here, whilst I was in the area it would have been rude not to have sampled the local produce
One day I went on what is advertised by the company as a "bike wine tour" but is in fact merely the rental of a bike and receipt of a crude, hand drawn map for you to find the places on your own! Now Iīm not too shabby a map reader (except possibly when Iīm directing someone back from Heathrow airport in a camper van) but after confidently setting off (the vineyards are mainly in a little place called Maipu which is about 17km outside of Mendoza) I became lost halfway there. It was only later (having found myself in a town in the arse end of nowhere called Jesus of Nazareth) that I realised that the map had been directing me to go the wrong way down a main slip road that had no cycle path or pavement. How silly of me not to have realised.
Once I finally got there and had sat down to a fantastic lunch of local food and an even better huge glass of local wine it occurred to me that cycling 17km to sample lots of wine when I would have to cycle back that evening (with no lights) was possibly not the wisest thing to have done. Especially considering my history of cycling after drinking...
However, you will be relieved to know that I made it back with no other injury than a slightly sore arse from the hard seat
The vineyards were amazing, especially one that had a little museum with original tools from ancient times to today. They also gave you a few glasses of wine after the tour and the whole thing was free! I also went to a place where they make all different types of liqueurs, whiskey and vodka and they let you try shots of whichever ones you want. Now, not knowing much about "shots" it was necessary for me to try a number, for educational purposes.
I also decided to go paragliding one of the days and this actually went ahead! We drove to the top of a mountain / very big hill and it is then that they pull out all of the forms where you sign away liability for your life should anything go horribly wrong. I hadnīt been nervous before but the list of things that could go wrong that they had made was slightly disconcerting. It was even worse when they pointed to the (very steep) edge and told me to run off of it, no matter what. It was then that images of Mike after his attempt to paraglide in Turkey began to creep into my mind (ie he and the instructor crashed to the ground like a sack of shite and he busted his knee). But, Iīm still alive and it was excellent. Especially when the instructor did what he called "aerobatics" which was basically his pulling on the controls in opposite directions as fast as possible so that you become so disorientated that you donīt know where the ground is anymore
It was then my final night in Argentina! It is an absolutely fantastic country, probably the best place Iīve ever been to. The people are so friendly, the men are actually very fit, the food and wine are excellent, the places I went to were beautiful, the transport good, the prices so cheap... blah blah blah. You get the picture, I loved it there- go if you can.
So for my final night I cracked open the bottle of Champana (basically Champagne) that I had bought for about 3 pounds from the vineyard (it was very, very good too) with a couple of people I had met at the hostel. One of them was a guy from BA whose younger brother was playing in the Argentine team in the under 21s Rugby World Cup that is happening in Mendoza now. He invited us to go out with them as they had just beaten Wales that afternoon and were going to celebrate.
We ended up driving (in their team bus) out to a beautiful mansion just outside of Mendoza with the entire under 21 Argentine squad! The house was so big that we got lost in the grounds trying to find the party and they even had swans in their swimming pool!! We didnīt hang around ītil too late though as they were very fond of crap music played repeatedly and very loud and much beer (typical rugby players)!