Red, Red Wine, Goes to My Head
Trip Start Oct 29, 2011
48Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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The city is in the foothills and high plains, on the eastern side of the Andes. Two of the main industries of Mendoza area are olive oil production and wine making. The region around Mendoza is the largest wine producing area in Latin America. So basically it has great weather, the Andes (including Aconcagu), steak, wine and a North Face shop – This is my kind of town !!!
When we arrived we spent the first afternoon going around all of the tour agencies trying to organise activites for the next few days we were going to be there
So onto the next day and we had booked a trip into the Andes so we could see the mountains properly and hopefully get a glimpse of Aconcagua. So we piled into a minibus with our guide Carolina and then drove around and around Mendoza picking various people up from different hotels and hostels
Next stop was the famous Puente del Inca "The Inca's Bridge", which is a natural arch that forms a bridge over the Vacas River, a tributary of the Mendoza River. It has the name of Puente del Inca because it was used by the Incas before the colonisation of this part of the America's by the Spanish. Scientists speculate that interaction of extreme elements like ice and hot springs was involved in the origin of the formation. They suppose that in ancient times ice covered the river and acted as support for avalanches of snow, dust and rocks. So the dust over the ice over the river would have served as a path for the sulphurous water and petrified the surface, so when the snow melted, the bridge remained by itself.It looks like the bright yellow colour has been painted onto the side of the rocks. However, throughout the years a transformation in colouring was triggered by the sulphur compounds and numerous minerals within the hot waters that flow through the ruins.
The final stop was a glimpse of Aconcagua, which unlike most of the mountains in the area is not a volcano. It is the highest moutain in the the Americas at 6 962m (22,841 ft) and also the higest mountain outside of the Himalayas. It is is also one of the seven summits.
The next day was a wine tasting tour in the Valle de Uco. So here’s a bit of a low down on Argentinian wine for you all
Once again we piled into a mini bus and did another thirteen lap tour of Mendoza picking up people. In our group was a British couple called Ashley and Paddy, a Polish couple and Shoshana an American travelling by herself. The group was led by the lovely guide Pamela and was run by one of the top wine tour companies. We were going to be taken to some very sophisticated wineries (what else for such sophistated ladies as Helen and myself). So we made our first stop at 9.30am at the Pulenta Estate. This is a boutique winery owned by an Italian family which makes some very nice wines. On arrival we were greeted by the winery’s guide – she had amazing English – turns out she’s from Missouri
So onto the next winery which was a lot smaller called La Azul. Here we got to taste wine directly from the barrel. By this stage we thought we were becoming experts in the wine tasting process.
The final winery was Salentein, which is owned by a Dutch couple and has these rather bizarre buildings, with great big cellars for storing all of the wine. The only way I can describe it is a cross between a holocaust museum and the bat cave (I’m sure that is exactly the image they were going for when they built it). We had a bit of a tour, more information on wine production and then a lovely four course meal with even more wine
However, the minibus driver had other ideas – it was karaoke time and he started us off (whilst still driving the bus!) with a rendition of New York, New York. He even had disco lights in the bus – it was like being on Doobie Duck’s Disco Bus. So lovely ,shy Pamela then steps up and doesn’t an amazing rendition of a traditional Argentian song – yes she can sing as well !!! Then Miss Helen Devine did 'Fly Me to the Moon’. This was followe up by the whole minibus attempting to the Macarena – but we had the usual problem in that we couldn’t remember which actions were the Macarena and which were from Saturday Night (Helen was doing the Birdie Song I think). I loved the way that this tour had deterioated from a very sophisticated, high class event to the journey back on a coach from a day out in Weston-Super-Mare. The driver then put on his DVD of rock classics from the 80’s and 90’s and we all had a big sing-a-long, with dancing (it was at this point we all realised quite how much wine we had consumed)
Next day was Christmas Eve and were on another wine tour, this time on bikes !! (Yes I know alcohol and riding a bike don’t mix – and no I obviously hadn’t learnt my lesson from Amsterdam). We were only on a half day tour and visited 2 wineries. This was a far cheaper tour and the wineries were not as boutique. I think that Helen and I had visions of us cycling around the countryside with tree lined avenues and French music in the background. Was thinking along the lines of the Allo Allo theme – had to choose that one as it’s the only French music I can think of apart from Joe le Taxi or Chanson l’Amour (Rat ta tat ta tat – Remember that legendry ‘Are You Being Served’ episode?). Ooh and there’s that Seirge Gainsborgh thing but that wouldn’t be appropiate. It was a nice half day, but as it was the cheap tour you got far less wine and it was of a far lesser quality (please note we are now complete experts –can tell a merlot from a malbec at 20 paces !).
So onto the evening – now in Argentina they celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve with a family meal and then everybody shuts up all shops and restaurants on restaurants and goes into the mountains with the family for a picnic
So Christmas Day and we each had a chocolate orange left by Father Christmas. Then we went white water rafting. We decided to do a half day on the Rio Mendoza. Also there was Paddy and Ashley who we had met on the wine tour and then another British couple Bushra and David. The river only had up to Class III rapids so it wasn’t too scary (the Zambezi and White Nile had been up to Class V). We had a lot of fun though as our guide Lucio seemed on a mission to get us as wet as possible. When we had finished we had a couple of hours to kill before our transfer back to Mendoza – so we sat down with a few beers and enjoyed the sunshine (it was well into the thirties). We had a great chat with the two British couples. They both lived in London but Bushra was originally from Burnley so we have a brilliant north vs south conversation. She has also been at UCL and was now a barrister in London but was desperate to move back to Manchester. It was really good for me as it made me realise that I think it’s time for me to head back to my semi-northern routes. Not too sure if that will be the Midlands or further north but I think my time in London is definately over - There’s just not enough gravy.