Bicycles and vineyards

Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
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Trip End Oct 01, 2015


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Flag of Argentina  , Mendoza Province,
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The bus we got from buenos aires to Mendoza was our last big bus journey of south America. It was like any other overnight bus journey , or so we thought. Just after we boarded a huge group of around 20 Americans got on with bags of loads of booze and proceeded to sit up , walk around , play music and chat till the early hours. At the risk of sounding incredibly old and boring it was pretty annoying!
Anyway we made it to Mendoza the following day and jumped into a very angry lady taxi drivers cab and headed to our hostel, which we'd thankfully booked ahead as when we arrived there was a sign on the door stating they were full.
Mendoza is famous for its wine and most importantly the bicycle ride wine tours which you could do, expecting a small square with a couple of hostels dotted along the edge and the square to be surrounded by vineyards we were surprised to find ourselves in a fairly big city.
We checked in, got rid of our bags, went to do some very much needed laundry , cooked some lunch (double portions and saved some for dinner - I think it's probably still in the fridge now - at the time of writing this blog entry we'd left about a week ago) and headed out to explore. Shockingly tai had actually found us something to do that day and we headed to a huge park in the city centre to look round. The park was called general san martin and was massive! So big that it had a sports stadium, a university and a lake within it! Of course we got lost for a while before finding the lake where we found some shelter under a tree and hid from the shade for the rest of the afternoon. We laid back on the grass looking up at the sun shining down through the trees turning the leaves to lots of different shades of green. It was lovely and relaxing after coming from the hustle and bustle of buenos aires. It was soon time to head back to the hostel to make the most of free wine hour which actually turned into free wine night as the boss had gone out and so the girls that worked there kept topping our glasses up.
We also managed to eat the popcorn we'd been carrying with us for the past few weeks in the hope we'd find somewhere with a microwave! That night we met an English couple that night - David and Victoria , they were from Brighton and had pretty much done the same trip as us just in the opposite direction. We arranged to all do our wine tour together the following day when needless to say we all met for breakfast with very fuzzy heads!
We forced a little breakfast down and headed out, it was an hours bus ride away and by the time we arrived it was around one. We went straight to orange bikes - a bike hire company owned by a very enthusiastic man- they gave us a little map of all the wineries near by and we picked the ones we wanted to do, opting to head to the furthest one first and work our way back, we'd picked 3 wineries, a chocolate place and the beer garden for lunch. We set off, it was now probably the hottest part of the day.
Our expectations of dirt paths, covered by overhanging trees, with vineyards either side for us to cycle down was not at all what we were met with, we expected children playing with grapes at the side of the path, waving merrily as we passed, women picking the fruit and carrying them to the bodegas in wooden tubs on there heads - maybe singing songs as they went, the wineries all grouped together with maybe each one being 5 minutes from the next, this was not the reality!
The reality was we were told to stick to the main roads or we'd get guns to our heads and the bikes stolen, the main road offered no shade and every few minutes a huge arctic would tear past causing us to wobble on our bikes. The furthest winery on the map looked like a short little distance and actually turned into a 12km cycle away. By the time we reached there we were shattered but a tasting had just started so we bagged ourselves a seat at the front and tasted a white, 2 reds and a desert wine which was actually the grandmothers recipe and was delicious! Once we were done we were starving and decided to head to the beer garden for lunch- another 8km ride! When we arrived we went a little overboard ordering 3 pizzas and 12 empanadas between 5 of us. We drank a couple of beers, ate about half of the food and then had to force ourselves to leave as it was 3.30 already, we headed to another winery, it was closed so we went back in the direction of the bike hire place as there was another one near there. We didn't make it in time for that one either so we went to a chocolate and liquor place where we didn't eat a thing as we were all so full from lunch. By the time we'd done that it was time to give the bikes back. We got back on the bus feeling utterly defeated and sick, back at the hostel we all went for a quick nap before wine time, where we sat with the lady of the hostel , who although very nice we were sure was an alcoholic and a finish guy who wasn't very nice and fell off his chair!
The next day we decided to try again so we met bright and early and headed off, picked up our bikes and tried a different plan, we would just pick a couple nearby and see how we go. David and Victoria got a tandem and we all headed off to the first winery which was about 5 minutes away, it was a huge place with a museum and they told us the tour didn't start until 12.30 so we had an hour to kill. We'd passed a small winery on route which wasn't on our map and tried our luck there, it was beautiful, we were the only ones there and instead of tasters we were given full glasses of wine and we sat and drank them on overturned wooden crates under the shade of some trees as children played with grapes nearby- ok the last bit isn't true.
Soon it was time to head back to the museum, a different person was on the desk and we were told there wasn't a tour till 1, we explained what we were told and the response was that we could wander by ourselves if we went and then have a tasting at the end, perfect, we asked how much and she said free as we'd been told wrong information - well that definitely makes up for it we thought and quickly went through before she could change her mind! We wandered through the grapes and olive trees with a backdrop of snow capped mountains in the distance, we passed old barrels which we imagined women with there skirts hitched up used to be standing in squashing the grapes with their feet.
Then we headed inside for a tasting where we got to try a malbec that they don't sell outside of the winery, it was delicious but we were glad we didn't pay as that was only one we got. Next we got back on the bikes and headed for lunch, we skipped the beer garden opting for a little restaurant around 8km away! It was the only big ride we did that day but it made us even more grateful for lunch when we sat down. We shared another bottle of wine with lunch and then not wanting to miss another winery, headed off for our final tasting to the biggest winery in the region. The tour didn't start for another 45 minutes so we headed to a nearby restaurant and shared another bottle- wed discovered that just ordering bottles was the way forward!
Then we headed back, had a tour where we learned the winery produced 29million litres of wine a year and that until recently an average argentinian would consume around 4 bottles of wine a week!
There was also an old railway line there which they used to used to transport the wine to buenos aires to be bottled, however they found out people there were mixing the wine with other ingredients so it went further and now there is a law that the wine must be bottled on the premises. So due to that and the fact that Argentinians train lines are no longer in use there's a disused line that runs through the region. We got to taste 4 wines here, a white, a malbec, a Sauvignon franc (which is apparently going to be the next malbec in 5 years time and is actually the parent grape of Sauvignon blanc) and - as the boss was apparently away - we tried there premium malbec.
Feeling much better than the following day we headed back to orange bikes and dropped of our bikes, I'd noticed that the dog looked as though it had recently had puppies and so asked and was motioned to the garage where I found 2 little month old puppies which we brought out and everyone cooed over for the next hour.
It was then time to head back - not wanting to miss wine time.
That night there was a big party on the square in front of our hostel, there was stalls, music, a beauty pageant and fireworks and we say on the grass chatting a watching it all for a little while. We all had early starts the following day and so headed to bed saying goodbye to our new friends at around midnight.
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