Paul Kelly sang about it being 13 hours on a bus from St Kilda to Kings Cross. I can tell you that from Salta to Mendoza it's 19 hours on a bus. Not as bad as it may sound. Comfortable super reclining seats, coffee and snack service and even a hot evening meal served to your seat. But the undoubted highlight was playing Bus Bingo. That's right. We were all given a bingo card and as each number was called out we feverishly crossed it off. With 2 numbers to go I was feeling mildly confident. After all there was a bottle of wine up for grabs. And then my confidence was shattered by a call of Bingo from somewhere down the back. Not to worry, it was only a white, much prefer a nice shiraz. The countryside here is reasonably flat and the road is good so we appear to make good time. Despite the smooth travel and the reclining seats I struggle to get a decent sleep so by the time we pull into Mendoza at about 10am I am definitely not bright eyed and bushy tailed. Mendoza is quite a pretty city. Well maintained parks, modern buildings. It is easy to see that Argentina is a wealthier country than neighbouring Bolivia. Tonight our leader, Juani, has organised a special treat for us. An Argentinean BBQ at a friend's house, complete with Argentinean Malbec. It's about a 30 minute walk from the hotel, through suburbs that appear to have some affluence about them. Juanis friend lives in an apartment block and the BBQ is a roof top terrace on the 4th floor. Great views over the city. Juani amazes us with his cooking skills. Beef, pork, chorizos and salad all cooked and prepared to perfection. A really good night. It's a very well fed and contented group that heads back to the hotel.
The next day 4 of us have booked a wine tour. Mendoza is basically the centre of the Argentine wine producing areas and over 50% of the production is Malbec. Peter, our guide for the day is a former winemaker, and his knowledge is impressive. We visit a total of 3 wineries, with lunch (another Argentinean BBQ) at the third. Unbelievable wines, fantastic food and an enormous amount learned about wine production in this region. And the whole time we had the snow capped Andes Mountains as a backdrop. Not sure we could have had a better day. Dinner was definitely not required tonight.
The following morning we headed to the airport for our flight to Buenos Aires. We hadn't really seen a lot of Mendoza but we had been fortunate enough to experience some genuine Argentinean home hospitality, drink good wine and eat enough red meat to last for the next few days. And sometimes it's experience such as these which enable you to understand more about a city than walking the streets. I think for all of us Mendoza will always hold a special place in our memories