Our 8 hour bus over the border into Mendoza was spectacular with amazing views of the Andes covered with thick pure white snow. It was beautiful and Vic seemed to enjoy it, taking about 40 photos out the window of the bus! She was particulary excited when she spotted a lone skier up in the hills before realising that the lifts werent actually open. When we got to the border of Argentina we all had to leav the bus for passport control and they emptied off our big bags to check although they didnt seem to care about the ones inside the bus! It was sooo cold and we had to stand around for a while!
Once back on the bus we had another couple of hours before we reached Mendoza and the Andes on this side were completely different. Less snow and more of a barren feel with a huge lake which kinda reminded us of NZ!
We hadnt booked a hostel in advance and on leaving the bus were bombarded with people trying to sell us rooms. There were another couple on the same bus who were having the same problem and we decided we anted to go to the same place as them but none of us could decide between this sweet old guy who spoke no english and this young boy who was fluent! Both hostels sounded good. Eventually, we went for the younger guy and couldnt help feeling quilty for the old man! The hostel turned out to be this guys house where he lived with his 2 sons, one fo whom he had sent out to "fish" for us at the bus station! The man who owned the hostel had lost all his money when Argentina`s economy went down in 2002. He´d met some German guys who asked if they could stay with him for a bit and the idea of opening a hostel came from there and over time he´s built on it and added more rooms. It was really nice although his youngest son was a bit crazy and wouldnt let you win card games!
That evening we headed out with the couple from the bus, Soph and Phil for dinner before heading back to the hostel for the unlimted free red wine they had coxed us with! The follwing day was a Sunday and we went for a wander around the town but everything was shut! Argentina is 90% Roman Catholic so sunday here is actually taken as a day of rest unlike at home. We wandered around the empty plazas which there are loads of before we passed a tempting looking icecream cafe so headed in for a coffee. We were the only people in there and there were 3 members of staff who seemed to find us very amusing especially when Lucy threw her coffee everywhere without dropping the cup at the thought of going to Amsterdam!
That evening there was a craft fair in the main plaza which brought the city to life after the lonely day! We wandered round the stalls with some other people from the hostel trying not to spend money! The guys from the hostel were heading for steak in what is meant to be the best steak house in Argentina, Don Mario. We decided to join them, even though none of us are overly keen on it, esp Vic who got a big surprise when half a cow came out on our plates! You cant come to Argentina and not eat a steak! They really were huge, dont think you could ever get such a big steak at home ans we only managed to eat about a third before giving up, meat sweats and all!
Mendoza is a famous wine region which produces 70% of the countries wine so we thought we should give some a try! The guy at the hostel runs a tour taking you to 3 of the vine yards, (one being the only organic one) and a chocolate factory. Almost everyone staying in the hostel embarked on this tour the next day and we were crammed into his car for an hour trip to the first stop, Lopez Vinery. After a tour of the wine making process we got to the exciting part, the tasting! The sparkling wine was yummy! We then tried a red wine from 2005 before leaving for the next vinery for another tour and more tasting! At the third vinery, the organic yard, we sampled our first white wine. We also got to see the actual vines but it was not the harvesting season and there wasn´t any fruit on them. This last vineyard was in a beautiful setting with views of the snow capped Andes in the distance.
The chocolate factory was a little disappointing. We didn´t see any of the production methods but did get to sample some lovely chocolate, some interesting liquors including a particularly horrible shot of Tia Maria and then some chutneys.
Back at the hostel we sat around killing time before we had to get our first night bus to Buenos Aires. Rach and Phil drank some more of the free wine while passing the time! Phil and Soph were getting the same bus to BA so we all walked to the bus station together.
The bus was pretty impressive. We chose Cama class after several people had recommended it to us. The leather seats recline to 160 degrees, almost horizontal, and each passenger has their own table for the meals that are served by a host, a set of headphones to watch films (unfortunately the tv wasn´t working) and a blanket and pillow to help you get comfortable while sleeping (or trying to!). After 14 hours we arrived in BA.