...There are just a couple of stops overnight from Cordoba to Mendoza, and the lights are left off so it is easier to drop straight back off to sleep each time. A definite improvement on Flecha's way of doing things.
We arrive into Mendoza around 10am, later than our 8.40am arrival time. But we don't mind, as at least being later means our chances of checking straight into our hostel are better. We ask a taxi how much to our hostel, but its 15 pesos, which seems a lot. We are told we can get a number (2) bus, to our hostel, but can't find out the right (2), so give up and decide to walk.
About 30 minutes later we have walked to the main plaza and then north to our hostel, Empedrado, where we are bloody glad to take off our packs. The hostel is really beaut, with a big guest kitchen, dining area, lounge, computers and wifi. Our room is a two bed dorm, so we're on our own, but in bunk beds! We are allowed free use of the washing machine, so immediately chuck in a load of washing, jump in the showers and hang our washing on the sunny roof terrace.
Refreshed we head out to see if we can get a night bus to Buenos Aires the following night after a day's wine tasting. We persist with booking through Andesmar again, but make sure we book on a bus that will be an actual Andesmar bus - a semi cama for 249 pesos, leaving at 8pm and arriving into Buenos Aires at 10.20am.
Having just blown 500 pesos on our next bus tickets, we get out some cash before heading down to Plaza Espana. On the way we are distracted by a paralla (bbq restaurant) we pass, pressing our noses up against the window admiring the bbq'ing meat. In Plaza Espana we admire the beautiful tile work and relax in the sunshine. On our walk back to the hostel we walk alongside the irrigation canals lining the wide, tree lined streets of Mendoza that have been built extra wide to accommodate falling buildings and rubble should the city be struck with another large earthquake like have hit the city in the past.
We see a Carrefour, which excites us, reminding us of our Europe trip. We get some dinner - chicken milenesa, broccoli, and whip up some pasta in a white sauce for dinner. Ryan is still struggling to eat, and the chicken is particularly difficult. Our hostel provides a free glass of wine to guests each day, so again Ryan's suffering sees me being lucky, getting both glasses of wine.
We relax with our wine, watching American Pie Wedding before we call Ryan's folks. Our hostel lets you make a 15 minute phone call internationally, for free! Stay here!
The following morning I get up early and take advantage of the free 15 minute phone call, and call my folks. There's a big spring storm on the way, predicted to hit Southland tomorrow, and as I say goodbye to mum, it's just starting to snow on the farm.
The breakfast at the hostel is great, one of the best we've had - breads, pastries, fruit, cereal, juice and hot drinks. We put our bags in luggage storage, and for the first time in two months, the hostel gives us luggage tickets, much like the buses do! We head off down the street to catch a bus out to Maipu. On the bus we meet a guy who is a Brit, and works for Maipu Bikes, so we head there with him to hire our bikes for the day.
Maipu Bikes provide us bikes at a great price, 20 pesos each, for all day hire. They give us a map, an explanation and some discounts for three wineries. We get a bottle of water each included in our hire price and set off.
Ryan has a mountain bike, but I've gone for the bike with a basket option, so have had to sacrifice gears. The town and surrounding vineyard area is dead flat though, so having no gears is not a problem. We head a kilometre into town to see the free wine museum at La Rural. When we get there they have a tour going in Spanish and tell us as they have a busy day of groups coming through, they can't do a tour for us in English as we didn't call ahead. We join the Spanish group so that we can see the working vineyard, not just the museum and then at the end of the tour we are given a free tasting of a red wine.
Back on our bikes we head 300m down the road to a chocolate place, which also turns out to produce olive oil, antipasto sauces, jams, chutney's and liquers, in addition to their chocolate. For 30 pesos we are given a tour which explains the olive oil production process which is quite neat as we've never learnt about that before. Then it's on to the tastings. We start with the olive oil and their balsamic vinegar, which is deliciously sweet. Then we taste the antipasto sauces, a number of which are mixed with crushed olives. We try olive with garlic, red pepper, blue cheese and more. We are not fans of olives, and the saltiness of the antipasto sauces is a bit overpowering for our tastes. The jams and spreads are delicious, very sweet - we taste apple and cinnamon, apple and whiskey, pears in chardonnay, dulce de leche with chocolate, and strawberry jam. The liqueurs are nice, but I only try Pina Colada. Ryan tries Irish Coffee and a Pineapple liqueur. They also have Cognac and Absinth, but it seems a little early in the day for the hard stuff! The chocolate tastings are our favourite, there is white with chocolate chips, milk chocolate with dulce de leche, as well as a hazelnut option and a coconut one.Mmm. We buy some chocolate to add to our picnic lunch we have packed and wobble off on our bikes.
We decide to try the other winery marked as free on our map, about 5km out of town. After a slow and leisurely bike ride, (having a basket on the front of your bike makes you feel like wheeling down the road slowly), we pull into the manicured grounds of Tempus Alba and put our bikes in racks. The tour here is self guided, starting with the vines, the processing plant, the cellar and then the aging process.
Finally it's up to the wine bar. Tastings start at 20 pesos for a taste of three wines. We tell the friendly and charming owner that this is the option we'd like and head out for a seat in the sun on their roof terrace. He surprises us by bringing out 6 different wines, when we'd thought he'd bring us the same tastings each. But this is much better, and the tastings are substantial, almost half glasses! We taste our way through their Rose, Merlot, another red Tempranillo, unique to Argentina, a Syrah, Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. All quite delicious. The food on the menu sounds amazing and is very tempting, but with Ryan out of eating action he wouldn't be able to do it justice.
We ask about sending some wine home, but the owner advises us against doing so, telling us the postage would be more than the wine is worth, and the wine is 50 pesos per bottle!
We take our leave and enjoy our picnic lunch on the grass by a canal in the sunshine. Fed, we carry on, and make Di Tomasso our next stop. It's a winery from the 1800's and is a working museum with heritage protections over the original building, cellar and fixtures. The building is rather neat to be shown around on our tour. This winery sells 90% of their annual produce in the winery itself. We taste two Malbecs; one not aged in Oak and one aged in Oak for 6 months and then a Cabernet Sauvignon aged in Oak for one year.
We get a bottle of Malbec and then wobble/cycle our way back towards town. One last stop is called for, so we make it at a beer garden. 'Garden' is a bit strong, and the beer was a bit s***. Very wheaty. Oh well. We head back to drop our bikes off and enjoy our complimentary glasses of wine from Maipu Bikes. We bus back to Mendoza, hustle to our hostel, heat some leftovers, scoff them down and then grab a taxi to the bus station.
On board our Andesmar bus we are given dinner - a small portion of cold rice, a slice of ham and cheese and some sad looking salad. And of course some caramel pudding. Just what is the annual consumption of dulce de leche in Argentina? Then to our surprise we are given a dish of hot lasagne. Which would have been appreciated more if it was carne and not vegetarian. Oh well, there's always the pepsi.