My penultimate week in Mendoza was a busy one - I had another new housemate, a British girl called Cristina arrived on Monday. She lives in Australia and has just finished her finals. She speaks perfect Spanish as her mum is from Spain, which has been very useful! We tried lots of new restaurants in the city for lunches and dinners, and bonded over an extensive wine tasting session :)
On Saturday we all went for lunch in Lujan with Jose. It was nice to catch up with her as she had stopped working for Work the World due to upcoming exams. After, I went to get a haircut and managed to correctly ask for the style I wanted. I was worried that I would end up with one of the mullets that seem to be so beloved by the Mendocino men >_<
On Saturday evening we decided to go out for a few drinks. Nat had invited us to her parent's house in Lujan, but we thought it would be better to stay local as Cristina and I had a day of trekking planned for Sunday. After a giant bottle of beer and several cocktails, we managed to convince ourselves it would be fine to go dancing despite our early start the next day…
…which turned out to be completely wrong! Sunday morning came far too early. As far as I remember, I think we finally got to be at 4.30am and had to get up at 7.30am to go hiking. The worst part was that despite being told we would be picked up at 8.30, we could have had an extra hour in bed because the guide arrived an hour late.
After a horribly cramped, very hot (we couldn't wind down the windows) and slightly nauseous car journey, we arrived in Cordon del Plata. I realised that I had stupidly forgotten to put the memory card in my camera, and so was forced to use my iPhone to take photos. The scenery quickly lifted my mood however, and at the start of the hike was a spring whose water splashed on my face helped me feel a little more alive.
Our task was to climb Cerro Arenales. We began at a height of 2.500m and the summit was at 3,500m. My hung over body definitely felt the initial part of the journey, though we managed a good pace, and I actually started to fell much better quite quickly. I imagine I was sweating out most of the alcohol by-products from my body!
Our guide, Humberto, was pretty cool, and he was really into the local environment. He used to live in a refuge in the mountains that got destroyed last winter and was planning to build a new house there that was carbon-neutral ecologically friendly. He also told us lots about the indigenous populations in the local area and about the local wildlife.
The scenery was beautiful, and even though we passed a couple of other groups, for most of the climb we were alone. When we stopped to drink water and rest it was so silent and peaceful - I could understand why Humberto liked being here so much.
The final part of the ascent was pretty steep and by this point I was getting tired and ready for lunch, but managed to reach the top. The view from the summit was amazing, and we decided that it was definitely worth the climb. The experience was made even better as some condors flew past very close to us.
After some lunch we made our descent, spotting a guanaco on the horizon (it's kind of like a llama), which was cool. Before long we reached the car again and, after bathing our tired feet in the stream, started the journey home. With a now functioning brain I realised that the windows did open - there was a winder on the panel below and in the morning I had been trying to slide them open. This stupidity of course amused Cristina greatly!
Once back at the house we settled down for a well deserved rest, watching a DVD with some burgers from the local takeaway :)