Mendoza Travel Blog

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After a 20 hour bus ride from Salta I was released from the bus in Mendoza around 9am, seriously doubting my sanity.  It took me a few minutes to figure out where the hell I was and then I started the search for my hostel.  Luckily the hostel´s website provided pretty quality directions from the bus station and I found it without a problem.  The hostel was fantastic, easily the best one I have stayed at in all my travels.  Hostel Lao is run by a British guy and his Argentine wife who had basically converted a house into a small hostel.  There was a full breakfast, complete with a dining room table which everyone would eat at, this made it a lot more social in the hostel.  There was also a great tv room, hammocks in the backyard beside the pool, which unfortunately wasn´t in use yet.  And best off, being in Mendoza, they provided free wine every night, what could be better??? 

I spent my first day as usual just wandering the city.  It is a very well laid out place, wide boulevards with plenty of trees and cafes.  The streets are actually so large that it gives the preception the place is mostly empty of people.  Later that night I met a few guys from the hostel and we sat around watching soccer, not doing much and went to bed early.  The next morning, 3 other guys and myself went to visit the local legend Mr. Hugo.  Mr. Hugo is an eccentric Argentinian guy who runs a bike tour company out in the wine area of Mendoza.  You can rent a bike for 25 Pesos and he shows you on a map the local wineries which are more than happy to show you around and let you taste some of their product.  The first place we went to was incredibly boring, a 45 minute tour on the history of Argentinian winemaking which ended with a thimble full of some wine that they had deemed not worthy of selling on the market.  Basically vinegar, and this coming from someone with absolutely no palate for great wine.  Anyways the next place we hit on our tour was a liquor/chocolate/olive oil producer.  It was a small family run and operated place which made small batches of just about anything, meaning high quality.  The chocolate was fantastic, and they were more than happy to let us try everything they made.  Of course we also sampled some of their liquors, dulce de leche, chocolate hazelnut, passion d´femme, all were very tasty but probably only in small doses as they were incredibly rich.  Now considerably more full we continued down the road a few kilometers to find a winery which we had been told served a great BBQ.

After about an hour of riding we came across Vina de Carne and it most definitly came through on its great BBQ promise.  The guy who showed us around was a really friendly guy, mostly because he was able to speak in Spanish and realized we made an effort to understand him. It really does go a long way with many people here, as we found out later, he spoke perfect English as well. He gave us a free sample of their finest wines, a 2000 Malbec and a 2002 Cab Sauv, both of which so few were produced that they are labelled by hand.  They were truly amazing, and ridiculously cheap, only 40 Pesos for a bottle (the exchange is about $1CDN to 5 Pesos).  After tasting the wine we were walked out to the vineyard and presented with an amazing spread of food on the BBQ.  We all ordered the beef, naturally, and popped open the bottle. The steak was probably the best of my life. Slowly cooked, massive and incredibly savoury. I would later see the guy on the grill pouring salt for about 3 seconds onto each piece of meat. It was a great meal and location, so we sat in the sun drinking for an hour or so more letting our meal settle.   After another vineyard, which had very nice wine as well, but it couldn´t compare with our last place, we pedalled back to Mr. Hugo´s.  We were greeted with free wine from Mr. Hugo, as if we needed it, and he demanded we sit around and talk with him and his family for the next hour or so. This guy was just obsessed with getting people drinking as you couldn´t even get a sip in without him topping you up with some truly horrible wine. Nonetheless he was a great guy and got us all onto the bus back to our hostel. Back at the hostel that night there was another BBQ which served amazing steak again.  Great steak, as you can probably tell, was the overarching theme of my stay in Mendoza.  We all stayed up`late with the people from the hostel, singing the praises of Mr. Hugo and the wine tour.

The next day feeling slightly sluggish from yesterday´s gluttony I went for a long walk across the entire city to a massive park called Parque San Martin.  It was quite nice to get out in the brisk air. The city only got nicer as I got further across town, about an hour from my hostel, full of large mansions.  I sat down and read my book beside a rowing lake for a couple hours before heading back to the hostel in the afternoon.  That night we were going to Don Mario´s, the most recommended steakhouse in Mendoza, which the guy at the hostel said meant it was the best in the world.  The steak we all ordered was the Bife de Chorizo, which is just a thick cut of steak at most places. At Don Mario´s its basically half the cow.  The waiter told us it was 800 grams, but honestly it looked like an entire roast to feed a family.  It was delicious, not quite as good as the one from lunch the day before but still amazing.  After conquering my meal, I instantly needed to sleep and went into a slumber quite easily.

Desperately needing some exercise I signed up for a hike and repelling tour in the mountains surrounding Mendoza the next morning.  Our hike wasn´t much really, basically going up a couple hunderd meters, but still took our group about an hour and half thanks to Don Mario and the horribly slow Chileans who joined us.  The Hostel Lao group was mostly doing fine, after the hour hike, slowly but surely walking off the monsterous meal from the night before.  Next was the repelling, first down a small 12 meter drop, then a 7 meter, ending with quite a dramatic, at least for me, a beginner, 47m cliff.  THe first two were pretty easy after becoming accustomed to trusting the ropes but the last was a slightly different story.  The first step over the edge is quite nerveracking as leaning backwards off a cliff is not something I am used to.  But once over the edge and slightly more comfortable I started to enjoy it, bouncing down the cliff.   once at the bottom we headed across the street to the hot springs and spent the next hour or so relaxing.  That night another local hostel was having an all you can eat BBQ followed by all you can drink tequila. I´m not sure who´s idea this was, I assume they were not offended by people puking all night, but it turned out to be a great night.  The steaks were magnificent as always in this city followed by pure insanity once the tequila came out.  The guys behind the bar insisted that if you wanted to drink the tequila you do it their way.  Their way was, you standing with your back to the bar and they pull your head back and pour the awful stuff down your throat for more seconds than reasonable.  After watching a couple people do this without gaging, I figured I either, was surrounded by the toughest group of alcoholics in all of South America, or something was up with the tequila.  I gave it a shot, and afterwards having not lost my steak, realized that the tequila had in fact been watered down with dulce de leche, making it actually quite a tame drink.  The rest of the night was filled with dancing and joking around with my new group of friends until very early/late the next morning, as Argentinians seem to enojy. 

After such an unhealthy few days in Mendoza I had to pry myself away from the great little town and jumped on a night bus to Buenos Aires, happy to be leaving, in the same way I was happy to leave Las Vegas, but still knowing it could possibly be the most fun I have had so far.  
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photo by: montecarlostar