Malbec & steak... the gaucho lifestyle !

Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
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Trip End May 31, 2010


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Where I stayed
Oasis Hostel

Flag of Argentina  , Mendoza,
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The journey to Mendoza was amazing! Leaving Santiago we worked our way across Chile, which didn't take too long given it's such a narrow country, and before long we were winding our way up into the Andes and over the border to Argentina. The roads twisted round bends as we worked our way up to the peaks and then down through gorges. The scenery was fascinating, and quite unbelievable to think we were working our way so high up!

Unfortunately we'd been kept awake most of the night at Don Santiago due to all night revelling from the locals so we were both pretty exhausted and slept through a lot of the 7 hour journey. That was one factor about South American hostels we were beginning to find - they like to party until late.

Mendoza is quite a large city, with lots of cafes and tree lined boulevards. That combined with the blue sky and sunshine made us instantly like the place. That said it still wasn't the most modern of places - with lots of old style vehicles and crumbling pavements - in fact walking down to the centre of the city we passed a commotion on the pavement as a local bus had managed to get a wheel stuck in a hole and wedge itself on a junction... causing a lot of local annoyance and beeping.

We spend the first day recovering from the bus journey and catching up on sleep before heading out on our first trip - the wine tour of course! We had been dreaming about trying the legendary Malbec since the start of our trip so we couldn't wait to get started. We begin by touring the vineyards at Maipu and full blown tour of the factory at Lopez wines - beginning with looking at the grape vines, to processing, straining and even bottling. A whopping 9,000 bottles of wine an hour pass through the system - needless to say these wine vats were as large as some of the houses we'd seen families living in in Asia. 

It wasn't all alcohol though, we mixed it up a bit with a tour of an olive oil factory as well seeing where this was made and sampling some delicious flavoured oils and breads. We finished the day in a local boutique winery, resisting the temptation to stock up on a case load of wines as our rucksacks were already heavy enough

One of the highlights of our stay in Mendoza was the trip to the local Estancia, or ranch as we'd call it for some horse riding and gaucho training. The estancia was located 2 hours outside the city, which actually took longer as there was a road accident and our bus was forced to do some off roading to get us to the secluded ranch. The weather began to look threatening during our drive out, but that didn't deter us and as soon as we reached the ranch we were allocated our horses (Simon had one of the biggest horses, Ali's had a big bottom...) and we set out into the countryside.

It felt amazing to be roaming free in the Argentinean countryside, it wasn't long before we were trotting and even galloping along. Unfortunately it was quite short lived as the clouds got darker and darker and 40 minutes later it was torrential rain and we were forced to retreat back... feeling very glum. However, on the estancia we were treated to an early BBQ lunch of delicious homemade empanadas (small pasties with minced beef in them or vegetarian) followed by steak fresh from the ranch... it was out of this world! The meat heavy diet was proving hard to handle but difficult to resist. We had a great meal, getting to know everyone in our group and great scenery.

After lunch the weather cleared up so we were off again "gaucho-ing!" Ali and her horse, Mio, hit it off straight away. Despite being a little nervous at first it was only minutes before she was galloping off over the plains in a flash. Unfortunately Simon and his horse Teo didn't get on quite so well. Despite his size Teo just didn't seem to have the power or will to move fast (although maybe that was also something to do with the giant steak we'd just had for lunch!) Still, he was a handsome horse, towering above our friend Daniel's horse which resembled the donkey from Shrek more than a horse! We finished the afternoon trek by rounding up the wild horses on the ranch - each of us with our different strength coming in to play to safely get the horses home. It was a fantastic experience - one we would like to do again someday.

We spent our last day in Mendoza meandering around the town, visiting its four lovely squares and enjoying a long lazy lunch. To Simon's delight we didn't have to do any shopping as it was Sunday and everywhere was closed. After collecting our belongings from the hostel, and Ali finally locating the laundry the hostel had lost, we took a taxi to the bus station for our next overnight journey... the first of our Andesmare overnight bus journeys, which would feature increasingly during our S America tour.
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