Mountainbikes and Malbec plus reflections on Argi

Trip Start May 10, 2009
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Trip End Nov 02, 2009


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Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And what would our blog post be without yet another bus experience to add to the collection!

This time not a funny one, a terrifying one! I thought we'd never live to write anoter blog! Ian of course slept through it all (the key is to fall asleep before the action begins, similar to snoring!) It all started off well, with bingo games on board and food and drinks served...but as soon as night fell and most people were sleeping the driver put foot and didn't lift it until we arrived. They usually stop every 2 hours for a break but this guy was obviously trying to set a new land speed record or something. He was speeding like a madman and swerving all over the place, oncoming cars slamming their hooters as they passed us! I fell asleep at about 4am eventually and was very happy to open my eyes again. No pleasant but alls well that ends well - We made it to Mendoza in one piece.

A Hostel lady was recruiting at the bus station so we decided to go with her as we were exhausted and didnt feel like hacking around town looking for another hostel. The price was good and the offer of unlimited free wine on tap was what sold it! Turned out to be a good decision as the hostel is lovely.

Mendoza is far bigger than we expected and we miss Bariloche already. Mendoza is noisy and busy (except during siesta) and a little grubby to be honest. The Lonely Planet painted a much better picture than reality in my opinion...in saying that I think in summer it will be stunning when all the trees lining the streets are green. One good thing is that the temperature is back to an acceptable level (around 17 in the day), what a relief! 2 weeks in the snow etc was enough for this holiday thanks! We wonder around town, familiarise ourselves with everything and organise a bus trip to Santiago, Chile on Saturday.

There are a few wine routes near Mendoza, we select the Maipu area which has smaller farms using good old fashioned manual labour (family run vineyards) as opposed to the larger farms which mass produce using machinery, mostly for export.

Skipping the overpriced tour offered at the Hostel we opt to go it alone and make our way to Maipu. Great decision: we get to hire bikes for the day for 15 Pesos ($4) and merrily make our way to some wine farms selected from the map issued by the bike place. 

About an 11km cycle gets us to the first stop where we take a tour of the winery (Carinae) and have a few delicious samples. Unfortunately they dont export a lot and we couldnt possibly carry wine with us for a few more months so you'll just have to believe us that it was absolutely divine wine!

Across the road was an olive oil farm which proved to be a very interesting little tour. We now now why extra virgin olive oil costs the most and that sometimes in the shop you see white blobs in the oil - it means its a good quality oil but has been stored at too low a temperature. Also, some great tastings of home made bread with olive oil and sundried tomotoes (my new addiction, and NO, Mom, I still dont like raw tomatoes!)

A little unsteady on the wheels we head to the next farm for lunch and more tastings. The family farm of Tomasso. Quite pricy so we just have one taster. Also very, very good Cab Sav.

Another few km down the road we find our 3rd and last stop, so we make it a good one. Vina el Cerno is renowned for their tasters that are full sized wine glasses! Armed with some cheese and biscuits we settle in to our tasters. Some 2007 Malbec and 2001 Cab Sav. Loved the Malbec but the Cab Sav was a very close second. Sitting in the vineyards in the warmth of the sun, peacefully sipping quality wines bumped this afternoon very high up in the 'best day of the trip' stakes. It was a task and a half to peel ourselves off the ground and go back into the busy city, but we managed eventually.

Its quite funny, in the wine areas they have special 'tourist police' that drive around for the sole purpose of making sure that the tourists on bikes are not a hazard on the road! They pop in at random at all the wine farms to make sure you are still capable of steering your bike home!

Mission accomplished in Mendoza, we have a day to relax and shop a bit before we hot foot it outta here.

***************************

After being in Argentina for the month of July (except the time on the boat when we were technically in Chile), we found it to be a really great place. It was cheaper than Brazil (except for some of our tours) and the people were super-friendly. We can't say enough about the quality of the red meat and wine - chicken is more expensive than steak and the water is sometimes more expensive than wine!

The people and culture here is quite European with coffee shops aplenty and products and services as you would expect. Definitely an easy place to travel and get around with the great full-cama bus seats being more comfy than some dorm beds!

Highlight: By a nostril Perito Moreno Glaciers take the honours. Close second is whale watching in Puerto Madryn. (Iguacu, Argentina side, is in a league of its own, too good to be considered for the highlights section.) The incredible (and cheap) steak and wine deserves a special mention!

Lowlight: Wierd white, crustless bread sandwiches with ham and cheese served on every bus. Enough with the ham and cheese now.

Funniest moment: The cacophany of vomit sounds coming from green faces on the whale watching boat, and then everyone walking back on unsteady legs carrying their little parcels of puke. We were unaffected so we had great fun mimicking their sounds to make them vomit more! HAHA!

'What the hell are we doing here' moment: Drug bust en route to Puerto Madryn. 6 hours on the roadside watching pirated movies on the bus DVD player.

'Lost in Translation' moment: None come to mind really, except not having coins on the local bus to buy a ticket and they don't accept notes. Bus driver didn't know what to do so just waved us on...

New food tried: Empanadas! Amazing little meat pies - definitely Ian's favourite. Mate tea - an acquired taste which we probably won't be acquiring. Churros, Alfajors and other caramel-filled traditional delights.

Most useful item: The warm clothing we packed finally made an appearance and was worth its weight in gold! Apologies if we look exactly the same in every photo.

Most useless item: Sunblock.

Most useful Spanish phrase: Actually, our spanish is coming along nicely and we have a few good phrases now.

Tan Status (0-10): 0. ai shame...the little that we had has disappeared after too much time in the snow under warm clothes. So starting from scratch for both of us I'm afraid.

What we miss: 'Normal' towels. These 'ooo-look-at-me-I-can-fit-into-a-matchbox' shammy type towels just arent the same!

What we dont miss: Sunday blues! (What day is it again?)

We take being sad to leave a place as a good sign meaning that we've had a great experience seeing a lot of the country with its incredibly varying landscapes from north to south and the stunning lake district in between. 

Yet again with heavy hearts we leave a country behind but with hope that we will come back one day to do the things we never got around to.

Upon checking the diary we can barely belive that we are half way through our 6 months now...its gone so fast but at the same time, slowly! We are looking forward to more of Chile and the 2nd half of our adventure...onwards and upwards we go!
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed

Comments

clairbroedelet
clairbroedelet on

wha ha ha ha ha
Hello blakes
I love your blog, its hilarious!

I cant wait to hear about Santiago, we plan on spending a night or 2 there and hear its a bit dodge, want to hear first hand!

Lots of love and sunshine from SA!

brendahughes
brendahughes on

HI Hi
Hello Blakes

The 'cycling through the wine routes' bit really did it for me - amazing fun!! Can't believe you are half way along - enjoy enjoy enjoy!!!!!

Brenda & Bob

shozie
shozie on

Hehehe
I almost burst out laughing (in my office) at the 'ooo look at me shammy' description hahaha i know exactly what you mean about a normal sized towel thats smells deliciously clean like fabric softener.. aaa the small things! Loving the wine tips, will have to find some Malbec and pretend Im in a sunny climate xx

theblakes
theblakes on

Re: HI Hi
it was STUNNING!! of course tatsting was the best part :)
will tell all the tales when we see you in Dec!
love to bob and joshy!

januk
januk on

haha!
LOL love the idea of tourist police. Although Ang its probably necessary... I remember a certain someone riding into a postbox once after a night out in London ;)
Sounds like you guys are having the experience of a lifetime. Enjoy every second.
Miss you looooads!!! xxx

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