As I may have mentioned previously, the house I'm staying at is opposite a massive park, called Parque General San Martín. San Martín was an important figure in Latin American independence, who formed an army in Mendoza in 1814, which crossed the Andes and helped liberate Chile. Although I'd been in the park before, I hadn't really explored it properly, so yesterday I decided to venture deeper inside.
In the morning I went into the centre of Mendoza to catch a bus that does a tour of the park. It takes you to the top a hill called Cerro de la Gloria on the far side of the park, giving you a commentary as you go around. On the summit of the hill is an impressive monument to San Martín and his army. There were also excellent views of the surrounding area and of the city. On the way down, we passed the Frank Romero Day Amphitheatre, where the climax of the annual Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, or National Grape Harvest Festival is held in March. It's a big celebration of wine making, and includes a grape blessing ceremony, a big parade, and the election of a festival Queen, chosen from women nominated from the local departments of the province.
After some lunch I went back to the park, walking this time. There are actually a lot of important buildings there, including a football stadium, a hospital and a university, but I was headed to the zoo at the foot of Cerro de la Gloria.
The zoo was pretty big, and at only $15, very cheap. There were lots of animals to see, with goats wandering around freely and monkeys swinging through the trees. I had read in my guidebook that the animals were treated pretty well there, and as far as the grazing animals went, it seemed to be true, but some of the bigger animals didn't seem very well catered for. There was one bear in particular who was in a pretty small cage that I felt sorry for, and the elephants and chimpanzees looked very bored.
My favourite animals were the llamas and their close relations. They have a tendency to look at the camera as you take photos and seem genuinely interested in you, which I loved. There was also an enclosure of a particular species of monkey (I'm afraid don't remember which!) that was very amusing. It was located next to a stall selling nuts for the monkeys, although the enclosure itself had a sign telling people not to feed them! This was largely ignored however, and there were big scrabbles for the nuts as people threw them in. I also got to see a bit of monkey sex and one adult monkey putting one of the younger ones into submission by pinning him down and showing his penis - naturally I have photos :p
By the time I had walked around the zoo and all the way back to the house, I was exhausted, and just a little red from being out in the sun! Unfortunately I had a call from the agency with whom I had booked my San Rafael trip for today, to say that they had forgotten about the elections taking place, and so had to cancel, which was disappointing. After collecting my refund, I made it just in time to Carrefour to buy some beer and pizza, (you can't buy alcohol on election days, apparently from 8pm the day before) and had a relaxing evening watching the Hangover.