Audrey displaying the muddy foot gained whilst following my rather poor directions to a bodega.
I skipped over Mendoza like a flat stone across water. I Arrived Sunday morning off the night bus, dishevelled and a little confused as to why the sky was still pitch black just before 8am. They currently have a strange time system in place within Argentina which means that it´s two hours ahead of Bolivia, its neighbour directly to the North on the same longitude. This leads to long evenings and dark mornings; the system is apparently in use to save electricity but many of the locals seem to doubt its effectiveness. Anyway, after being approached by some random bloke (a hostel manager as it turns out) at the bus station touting for a hostel, I ended up at Hostel A, a name which, in the running for this year´s Lack of Imagination Oscars, will take some beating.
Ellie proudly showing off her magnificent basketed bicycle known as "Pinkie."
Hostel A is hardly the Ritz, I realised this as soon as I arrived outside and there was no sign up to announce its existence to the world. The place is basically just a large house shabbily converted into cramped bedrooms packed with bunk beds. There is a single bathroom for 20 people - I think that tells you all you need to know really. Don´t stay there. The only good thing I have to say about the place is that it was where I met two outgoing and fun girls; Ellie (Aussie) and Audrey (US) who had been teaching English in Buenos Aires.
The other notable person I met in Mendoza was a long-haired goth who happened upon me in the park a little later on Sunday morning.
Me showing the Exclusive Parking sign the respect it deserves. And parking my bike - what a rebel.
I was minding my own business, listening to Arctic Monkeys and chilling out, still knackered from the night bus. All of a sudden this lanky local geezer, all togged up in black, plonked himself down next to me, and asked me where I´m from. Upon hearing the answer and ignoring my "leave me alone you nutter" body language, he immediately began harping on about how he loves music from Manchester and demanded to know my favourite Morrissey and Smiths songs. He subsequently claimed that not only can he sing Nick Cave songs better than Nick Cave but that he´s also a vampire.
That´s right: a vampire.
But do not be concerned dear readers, for he was not the type of vampire who sucks blood. Of course not - that would be ridiculous! No, instead this guy apparently sucks out the energy that people derive from the enjoyment of music. Obviously this is exactly the type of thing you wish to hear when you are worse for wear due to travel fatigue and trying to relax in a sunny park in Mendoza on a Sunday morning.
At this point I decided that the surreality of the previous day in Cordoba (see previous entry) was enough for me and so, to his obvious disappointment, I made a sharp exit.
Lots of probably very nice wine.
I then had a nice hamburger and chips in a city centre cafe and mused as to just why random weirdos seem to be attracted to approaching me. I concluded that I simply must have one of those: "Please talk to me - chatting to random mentalists floats my boat" types of faces.
Anyway, the following day Ellie, Audrey and I hired bikes and visited some bodegas near the city. Despite getting a little lost, as is my wont, it was a splendid day filled with excellent wine (the reds down here are amazing) and good company. It just confirms my notion that it is who you are with, as much as where you are, that often makes or breaks each travelling experience. It´s always nice to meet people who are on the same wavelength and share a similar sense of humour to yourself. And who aren´t vampires.
I had to dash to the bus station after underestimating the time it would take to get back from the wine biking. Thankfully the local bus driver drove like his tea was on the table back home and delivered me back to Hostel A with enough time to gather my gear and hot foot it to the terminal on time.
On the whole Mendoza seems a really nice place, it´s yet another Argentinian city filled with wide leafy avenues and the scent of sycamore. I guess I didn´t really do the place justice and there were loads of activities I missed. However, time waits for no Salad: Bariloche, and a birthday, were beckoning.