Monday, November 3, 2008

Weekend in Mendoza

This weekend I set off for Mendoza, Argentina for a weekend adventure. There's something romantic about the weekend getaway, and something equally alluring about setting off on one's own. With a pioneering spirit, I boarded an Ahumada bus on Thursday. 4 hours later, through harrowing switchbacks in the Andes, I crossed the border into Argentina.

Below are pictures from the immigration station at the top. Doesn't it look like an entirely different planet?

I discovered a couple things just on the journey over. Here they are:

1. I was suited for bus rides. Perhaps this was because of all the long car rides we took for family vacations. Perhaps it was because I love watching the scenery go by without having to drive. Plus, South American buses were pretty sweet. Videos, drinks, even a steward to make sure you didn't miss your stop.
2. As soon as we neared Mendoza, I was in a panic. Then I remembered my first day in Santiago, also filled with the same familar panic. Thinking further back, I realized that since I started traveling on my own, I have, without fail, experienced a panic phase upon arrival. My first time in New York (and my first solo trip), I nearly fainted from being so scared. I pretty much hate every new city when I first arrive. It's amazing that I actually like traveling.
Another three hours, and we were pulling into the Mendoza bus station. That's when I had my third revelation:
3. I wanted to go home. But, when I thought of home, I didn't think of Cali and San Jose. I thought of my little house in La Reina. My roommates. My friends in Santiago. When had that happened?
When I left the Mendoza bus station, I got lost. This was not an unusual event. Unfortunately, I did not inherit an inherent sense of direction...or rather, my direction was usually always initially wrong.
This was always a pain in the ass.
But always good, too, because while others explored a direct route to their hostel, I traversed over a larger area, and if I had encountered said foreign area again, while others would feel lost, I would know exactly where I was (think: I've been lost here before!).
Eventually I rang the buzzer to be let in to Hostel Chimbas, the cutest hostel I have ever stayed in.
Check out pics of the patio and kitchen area. Beautifully decorated.

When I first arrived, I did what I always do in a new place. I just laid back on my bed and stared at the ceiling. I find that 10 or 20 minutes of this is enough for me to push away my feelings of panic and lonliness and to motivate myself to explore (and by explore, I mean, wander around the hostel).
My wandering was fruitful. I met a couple from Manchester in the kitchen. After a bit of talking, they invited me to join them for dinner and wine. Suddenly, I didn't hate the city so much, and my distrust dissolved.
At breakfast the next day, I met two more Englanders, and we wandered through downtown Mendoza together. Note the red water in the fountain below. Cool, huh.

After lunch, I took a wine tour that included an olive oil factory and a family-owned liquor/chocolate factory and two wineries. The tour group was really wild, and half the guys were doing shots of absinthe which I believe is banned in Europe for turning artists crazy.

Below is the third largest barrel in Mendoza and the largest barrel in use in Mendoza. This puppy held sauvignon blanc I believe. (I was unsuccessful in lifting it.)

The next day, I went on a white water rafting adventure--the first class three river I had ever tried. When they gave me a wet suit, helmet, and life jacket, I knew this was going to be very different from the tame rivers from family rafting trips.

In the photos below, I'm in the back on the left side of the boat, next to the guide. I had the best time, and I can't wait to go again. It was the perfect mix of fear and excitement. I'm at the very edge of this photo. Others are not pictured because the front end is completely covered with water.

I made friends with the girl we're holding in this photo, along with the other women in this photo. They were German, but luckily, they spoke English and Spanish so we found a common language. After a beautiful drive back to the hostal (see below), we went out to dinner together.

Notice the ice cream we all have in front of us--we got four flavors per person! I love Argentina!

When I returned to my hostel, my four English friends were on the patio drinking wine and eating chocolate. I joined them and stayed up till 1am having the best time.

Oh yeah, and the guy behind me took all of us for Tango lessons too!
I couldn't have dreamed of a better time in Mendoza. I'm going to have to run every day this week to burn off all the wine/chocolate/dulce de leche calories. But it was worth it!
Here's to exciting weekends!
Que te vaya bien,
C in C

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tara4002003 said...
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