It is said Mendoza is the wine capital of Argentina, so out of all places we clearly could not miss out on this one. We were on our sixth week in Argentina, way behind the original plan, but that did not stop us from spending at least another week in the North of this amazing country.
The first hostel we entered in Mendoza welcomed us with a great surprise: the sight of two gals we had met in a hostel in Chile two months before. We could hardly believe our eyes and that was another confirmation of how tiny the world is and how you can never really say : ‘Well, we’ll never meet again anyway’, but you’d have a better chance at the truth by just saying ‘See you later!’
By now we were overdosed with pizza and empanadas, so when during one of our walks around the city we passed by a Subway, we felt we’ve finally received the answer to our intense prayers. We managed to eat there 3 times in 4 days and our heart sang with joy every single time. Watching president Cristina’s speech on TV with the locals was the icing on the cake, and life was simply great!
Our first destination while there was Maipu, the most famous wine region around. To get there we had to take a bus that again only worked with coins (or a card the locals used) – this time the story turned out to be even more complicated than before, as literally no one seemed to have any coins to give us, be it in shops or in the street. The universal response was ‘Oh, coins, nooo, it’s impossible to find coins here’. Perplexed! How can it be impossible if that’s the only way the buses work? Nobody managed to give us an answer, and they just settled for a shy shrug of shoulders.
Somebody sent us to the bank and as we started towards there almost in despair we heard a voice from behind ‘Do you need coins?’. It was an individual of about 30, who after looking through all his pockets without any luck said he could pay for our tickets with his card and we could pay him in bancnotes. ‘It’s the first time in my life I speak English with a foreigner’ confessed he in a flawless English. ‘Seriously? But your English is so good, how can that be?’ ‘I study English for 3 hours each day …I really like it!’. Alex was a history teacher and did his best to give us all the information he deemed necessary about Mendoza and Argentina. Although he had to take another bus, he waited until ours came, went inside and paid for our tickets, and then instructed the driver to tell us where to get off. We were indeed very much impressed…
The first thing we did in Maipu was to rent a bicycle that would help us cover the 10km of wineries awaiting to be visited. We took it from Senor Hugo as we had heard he had very good service – he would go out with his truck at night and follow his customers in case they had a glass to much and were not able to properly pedal back. We realized he was not the only one doing this, but even the local police was on the same mission – we kept seeing a police car following us at some point on the way back, but didn’t make much of it until we saw three French guys getting out of a police car in front of Hugo’s store. They were definitely very wine-happy and also very excited to be coming out of the police car – they even took time to photograph themselves beside the car, hands behind their backs. We enjoyed their little moment of happiness :).
We took our bikes (and I realized I’d be the happy temporary owner of a Mary Poppins one) and our first stop was the chocolate and olive oil factory – I know, not necessarily the most common combination, but we later heard the wonder appeared as a result of a partnership between a Swiss man (with chocolate and liquor plans) and an already existing olive oil factory. It was the first time we were visiting such a place and we were so excited to find out how the whole oil business works. A young lady took us on a tour around the little factory and explained to us the process of how olives become olive oil.
At one point Silviu saw a box of olives next to the press machine and asked if he could taste one. The woman said they are bitter, but he may if he wishes to. Obviously I could not not taste one as well, so I took a reasonably big bite from one and I though my teeth will instantly fall off. It was certainly the most bitter thing I had ever experienced and half an hour later I still had suffering gums. We learned on this occasion that the olives we normally eat never come directly from the tree, but stay a month in a mixture of water and salt to lose their bitterness. A very precious lesson, indeed!
From there we continued to the wine museum, it seems the best equipped in the country, with thousands of objects from the past 400 years. We had a tour of the place and learned how our Argentine ancestors made their wine in the past few centuries. At the end we were given a special reserve wine to taste and it completely delighted our olfactory and gustatory senses.
From there we started towards the other wineries and we made the plan to cycle straight the 6 km to the last one and then stop at the other ones on the way back. But of course the plan made at home does not match the one on the way – most of the road was under construction and our bikes were not the most evolved, so after 2km our legs already showed signs of alarm. It was not a hard decision to change the plan and stop at km 4, where we came across a winery with tradition and special reserve wines. We received a good briefing on the difference between different types of wine, the proper tasting, the order in which different wines should be drank (depending on color, age, how they were kept) and it was interesting to observe the reaction of our taste buds at the different types of wines. Our favorite was an oak stored 2002 Tempranillo – a marvel!
In the evening we attended a pizza party (all you can eat pizza + tequila shots from 11 to 11.30) in the hostel. We met Becca there and ended up spending the next day with her, Jake and 3 other cool people on the way to Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas – 6959m. Words are certainly useless when it comes to describing the landscape along the way. We started at 700m and went all the way to about 4000, where we stopped 31km away from the peak. We found out that the expedition to conquer the peak lasts 20-30 days, so getting up that mountain has become a potential candidate to our Bucket List :).
Anyway, the tour we did from Mendoza is called the High Andes Tour and we recommend it 150%!
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