Luckily I don't get car sick otherwise these bus journeys could be a burden rather than a joy. Currently on an 10 hr bus ride from Mendoza to Santiago (Chile)...got a 22 hr one next week as a reminder of the distances to travel when I head up to the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. The route today takes me over the Andes past the highest peak in the Americas called Aconcagua. At nearly 7000m it is an achievable climb and like Kilimanjaro is a non-technical climb...one for another trip!! Issue is it is overcast and raining so can't confirm how beautiful the scenery is!! Having said that the border proved a lengthy wait but interesting after watching the Fratelli's (Goonies reference) + Maradona lookalike try to smuggle numerous house hold goods into strict Chile...one of my worst border crossings of about 3 hrs. But before sharing stories about Mendoza check out the photos below from a recent flight in Patagonia from Calafate to Bariloche...one of the scenic commercial flights I have taken.
Mendoza is a must stop for anyone on a trip to Argentina. The city has loads to offer but top of this list is wine...lots of red Malbec wine to enjoy. Also is known for its food quality, art and adventure sports. I participated in 3 of the 4...let's just say I was lazy for 4 days!!
"Nice legs" and "lovely body" are the crap jokes in my wine repertoire and not comments I get on my travels! After visiting 5 vineyards to sample the local vino (mainly Melbec) my rubbish banter didn't improve!! I know a little more about the wine than before but to fair just enjoyed the vineyards (bodega), food and company. Perhaps my nose/mouth just hasn't got the palette to taste all the flavours...no comments about my Roman nose!! Reminds of that gin advert sketch..."hmmm I'm getting oyster shells, lavender, chocolate...Rubbish!"
The settings weren't always as beautiful as Cape Town but the wine tours and tasting certainly matched Stellenbosch. The knowledgable staff meant I learned more about the process than before...also here many of the vineyards are relatively new due to the previous economic crisis's forcing bodega to be sold or left fallow...so the passionate owners often showed us around. We visited small and organic vineyards like Clos de Chacras, Carinae, Pulmary through to larger estates like Luigi Bosca and Escorihurela.
Also the food here is great and the abundance of steak is starting to show across the waist line! Went to a place called Ituzaingo which is a closed door restaurant...essentially a local has converted his house into a restaurant but still lives there. On offer was a taste journey of 7 courses around Argentina with accompanying wines. Nice idea when you have a nice place...not sure my Balham flat has the same wow factor! My foodie friend Nancy (who runs her own catering company in Sydney) picked the restaurants and bodega and choose winners every time!!
A stroke of genius from Nancy was the flat we hired for the 4 nights. Meant we had more space, could cook and had a roof terrace for sundowners...felt like being a local and my old life back in London. Bumped into a friend Tiffany from Bariloche who we invited over for drinks and nibbles. 6 of us had a cracking and raucous night...good litmus test is getting a knock at 1am from an angry neighbour about the noise!! Like all parties numerous bottles of wine helped lubricate the conversation!! The issue as always is the head the morning after which appears to get worse with age!! But well worth it as learnt a new drinking game and how to beatbox...important life skills at the age of 33!! Cheats way to beatbox is to say "boots n cats n boots n cats..." over again and quickly and then throw in "cats n tits n cats n tits..." Once mastered that can mix it all up to sound like an average beat boxer. The beauty of travel is learning about life experiences and skills of others around the world...in our flat were people from London, Sydney, Georgia USA, Auckland.
Finally to ensure we tick the art box we stumbled across a Pablo Picasso art exhibition in town...always nice to throw in a bit of culture once in a while!
Nancy departs tomorrow and has been a great 3 weeks sharing my travel experience with her. Going back to Sydney means work for her and me to find a new Scrabble partner. I know that I am not ready for work yet...so much more to see!!