* I had written the start of this blog entry just over a year ago. I was in the middle of blogging my South American Travels when my laptop kicked the bucket. I never got back into it as things started moving at light speed and before I knew it, I was in Chicago, living and working in the Land of the Free (not including Tip). I will try and summarize the rest of my South American Trip from what I remember in the blogs to follow.
When Sam and I planned our South America Adventure, the first thing that made it on the ‘to do’ list was to visit a winery. At this point in our trip, we had drunk enough wine to keep the wine industry afloat during these hard economic times. It’s called ‘Meaningful Travel’ where you give back to the community.
It was my spreadsheet skills up against the Hostel’s booking system
Mendoza was apparently the place to go for wine, but it was not quite what we expected. We expected mountains surrounding green rolling hills, dotted with grape vines and large stone and wood distilleries. Instead Mendoza was a large sprawling metropolis with busy avenues, surrounded by highways. It is on the semi-arid eastern side of the Andes. It’s arid enough that Brad Pitt’s Seven Years in Tibet was filmed here. I guess it was cheaper to fly all those Tibetans to Argentina than to film in Tibet? We decided to take the 8 hour bus ride during the day. We were told that the scenery was amazing and they weren’t wrong. Heading out of Santiago, it wasn’t long before we were at the foot of the snow covered Andes as we drove through valley’s and up through the mountains via dangerous sharp switchbacks. Cars, buses, trucks and semi-trailers battled for every inch of tarmac as we cut through the Andes and into the dry plains of the wine Region.
Putting our expectations aside, Mendoza didn’t start off well for us. For some reason, not even the power of my Excel itinerary, with its color coded, info filled, cells could prevent me from getting my dates wrong. We had arrived a day early and it was my spreadsheet skills up against the Hostel’s booking system. It took me two seconds to realize I had made a mistake and so we had to make do with dorm bunk beds. Sam was on top, as usual.
The next two days would make up for it as we met a group of fellow travelers at the hostel. They had organized a wine tour the next day and were good enough to invite us. It was a mixture of Irish and Aussies who had either met travelling or had just met the night before*. At one point I was wandering why Simon Baker was staying at a hostel. No Joke, one of the Irish guys was a spitting image of the Aussie star of the tv show The Mentalist. I swore I thought it was him because he knew straight away I was thinking “Are you Simon Baker?” Just like a Mentalist!
After some warm up wheelies and bunny hops, we set off on our first winery
We gathered the next morning in the foyer. There were some casualties from the night before and they decided to give it a miss. In all, there were ten of us and so we set off on a bicycle wine tour. Yes, we would be riding bicycles from winery to winery. After some warm up wheelies and bunny hops, we set off on our first winery. It was a small winery and probably a good thing to start off slowly. The owner was even trying to flog some of his shirts which I would have bought as a laugh if I wasn’t on a budget. If you can imagine an Ed Hardy shirt with a picture of a tiger, but instead of the tiger, it had his face on it. I could have used it as my ‘Pull’ Shirt…back in the 90’s.
a correlation between the increase in wine intake and the decrease in hand, eye, and foot coordination
With the first winery down, it all went downhill, uphill, sideways, stacks and near misses after that. Most of the roads were unpaved, more like dirt tracks with trucks, buses, pedestrians and suckers on bicycles. A couple of times we got lost as it all started looking the same and signage wasn’t on the top of the local council’s list of improvements. We stopped for an amazing lunch of wine (of course) and some tasty gourmet pizza on our second winery. By the third winery, our concentration and interest in the wine making was beginning to diminish but our appetite for wine tasting kept a steady course. The same could not be said for our cycling as obviously there was a correlation between the increase in wine intake and the decrease in hand, eye, and foot coordination. By our fourth and last winery, we politely declined the tour and just told them we would do our own wine tasting by ordering bottles of their fine wine, along with some cheese, meats, crackers and rested our weary bodies in the restaurant lounge area. I was definitely in love with South American wines, especially the Argentinian Malbec. I had yet to experience a bad bottle of Red whilst in South America and I had tasted some of its best wine. Noice.
It was a great way to end the day, but little did we know it was only a precursor to a great night. We caught the bus back to the Hostel even though no one knew where we were going. Amazingly we managed to get off at the right stop and even head in the right direction to the Hostel. There was a bet going on what time we would get back to the hostel and so there was a mad dash out of the bus to the hostel. Probably not the best thing to have done after whole day of wine fuelled cycling.
(This is the point where my laptop died and fast forward a year, I will now try and recall the rest of my trip)
So now I’ll try and remember what happened after that. We went to an Argentinean Steak (of course) Restaurant and ordered their ‘second’ best wine. We were, after all, backpackers on a budget. That didn’t stopping us from ordering their finest, biggest, juiciest steak and it WAS the finest, biggest juiciest steak I had ever had. It was around the size of my head. Some managed to finish the beastly meat but I could only get a through three quarters of it. Some others took leftovers home. I may have been on a budger but I have a rule about Steak, eat it fresh, or don’t eat it at all.
The night ended off visiting a few bars I think. We ended up at an Irish bar...Or was it a regular bar with Irish people? Blur.
Next stop, Peru…I think?! Let me check my passport.