A Travellerspoint blog

Mendoza

Take one!!

sunny 38 °C

Mendoza is a lovely city of wide tree lined streets, many plaza´s, night craft markets, friendly Argentians and many restaurants and cafes.

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Main Plaza de Armas

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Usual spot for a quick 1 pound cocktail before dinner!

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Travellers come to Mendoza to experience the wines of the region and the many activities it has to offer from horse riding to rafting.

Rob and I tend not to plan much of our travelling details and take every day as it comes so when arriving in Argentina we were lucky to find accommodation. The trusty lonely planet guide book, or not so as we have discovered, stressed that Jan and Feb were the most busy time and everything is booked up quickly. This was correct but we ignored the advice and continued on anyway.

We came to Mendoza for a bit of activity and night life. It was New Years eve and we had not yet found a decent bar to spend it in. We checked out the 5 star Hyatt Hotel in true backpacker style! Asked the price and the important dress code and walked out tempting by the offer but realisation set in that we didn’t have any clean clothes let alone a dress or suit!

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New Years eve turned out fantastic. We had a 3 course meal at one of the nice restaurants. The offer included free wine and champagne so we took full advantage – 3 bottles of champagne later and we were well into the new year spirits.

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Em realised that drinking straight from the bottle was far quicker!

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The fire works in the street began and Rob and I headed outside to see the new year in. I attempted to sing "Auld Lang Syne" and dance around Rob in excitement however failed miserably with a comment from a US dude saying ´keep trying!´.

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Mendoza_Ne..r_-_Rob.jpg New tshirt for christmas. Looking good.

Back inside to finish off our meal and of course more champagne. On the table next to us I noticed that two old Italian dudes had clearly hired two young ladies for the night. Unfortunately one of them decided to take an interest in my feet! In my drunken state I was comfortably sat with my legs on the couch. While I popped off to the toilet Rob got talking to the guy. No problem as he seemed nice enough…………..until Rob went to the loo and left me alone. I heard a voice say “I noticed you feet and how sitting there seductively!!”, I burst into laughter and immediately checked out my feet to see if they were dirty!! “I said “why are they dirty?”. Rob returns and he says to Rob “Your girlfriends feet are gorgeous, I hope you suck them!!!” Arrrrrrrrrrgh, thankgod we were both so drunk and just laughed. We continued to talk to this guy, received an offer to use his soft top in Italy to drive along the coast and an invitation to dinner the next night. Hmmm I don’t think so. The two hired girls at this point were not best amused. Oh well.

During our long stay in Mendoza we took part in a couple of hours of rafting. We have both never done rafting before so we were very excited. A mini bus picked us up and we headed for Mendoza River. The water is so muddy and that day the water level was high due to the volume of water coming of the mountains. We passed by some amazing rapids but were told that these were too huge (grade 4-5) and we would not be riding these. :-(

We arrived at the camp where we prepared for the rafting. Full thick wetsuit and booties, a windproof jacket, life jacket and helmet. We were about to get very wet and muddy. Back onto the bus with the group to go further up stream. We were told the rules of rafting and signals that would help us ride the rapids safety. A lot of time was spent on what to do if someone falls out and how to rescue them!!!! Great, as Rob would put it "my bum was twitching!!".

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We hopped onto the boat, took our positions at the back (yes I was too scared to go at the front!) and held on while we started to float down the river.

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Front paddle............Back Paddle.............Stop.........Front paddle!!

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About 40 minutes later we were told that we had finished. Our adrenalin had just started and that was it :-( What fun.

We will miss Argentina when we leave. The importance of family and friends is so strong. Its normal to kiss all friends and even strangers on meeting. Even men.....not sure Rob was up for this.

Wine and beer is so cheap! A litre bootle of beer 50p, a glass of wine about 1 pound (bottle same price!). There are many wine farms near Mendoza so of course I had to drink it to try it out. Why not. This is a typical wine cellar in some of the nicer restaurants. Not that we eat there much! Honestly. When steak costs about 3 pounds for one bigger than your hand its hard to resist.

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As normal we had run out of clean clothes during our stay in Mendoza. I think the last wash we did was before christmas. Rob pants had been turned inside out many times ...... and mine, well, I decided to clean and dry my own rather than carry on wearing them. The room fan was a perfect drying machine!

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After the success of drying the pants it was time to start on the clothes. The fan wouldn´t hold the weight so the entire contents of our backpacks were taken down to the cleaners and within 24 hours and 3 pounds lighter we were all clean and ready to go again. The smell of clean clothes is the best!

Posted by robandem 08:18 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Argentina - Chile - Argentina

Longest route to Mendoza

sunny 30 °C

After christmas in Bariloche we headed to Chile to spend new year in Valdivia, apparently Chile´s most attractive and enjoyable city´! After the quietness of bariloche during the christmas period we were looking forward to the enjoyable city with a large univeristy crowd. Before entering Chile we experienced for the first time the extremely strict customs at the Argentina - Chile border. No trace of animal derivative, plant, veg etc etc was allowed through. As we were travellers not only was i carrying the left over tea bags, herbs, garlic and sugar left over from the cabin, we had also made some lovely cheese and ham sarnies for the journey and bought some juicy apples. We signed the declaration form that we had nothing to declare and continued through customs. However the yummy ham and cheese sarnies or juicy apples did not. We had to quickly munch down the sarnie before passing though. The backpacks then went through huge luggage scanners. I was extremely concerned about the tea bags but we succeeded in smuggling them though!

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Crossing Border, que of buses

Our first impressions were not good but headed into town to give it a chance. Well if this was the best that Chile could offer us we probably wouldn´t be staying long......and we didn´t! The city had the same atmosphere as Puerto Madryn, the city was not attractive at all and was very run down so we were a little disappointed.

We quickly took a taxi back to the bus terminal and booked a another bus that evening to Santiago.

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Nice 70´s bus terminal counter!

Still unsure of where we were going and why we thought head to the capital and we can decide onroute.

During our stay in Valdivia we did test out the famous ´Completa Hot Dogs´. The meat was pink and the sandwich contained everything possible including Avo! Not the best dinner we have had but we were hungry and this was about as far as our thoughts could go as to what to have for dinner and where.

We arrived in Santiago the following morning.

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The city was hot hot hot! A couple of days later was new year and we had heard that Mendoza in northern Argentina is a livley place which has much to offer. With our spirists a little low we headed off on yet another bus to Mendoza. Once again I was concerned about crossing the border, however another signed declararion later and clerance through customs the tea bags made it through! Not only was our concern over the smuggling in of food and now trying to smuggle out the food but also that the customs officials would question our one day stay in Chile, entering in the south on 28th Dec and leaving in the north on 29th Dec! We got through ok without any questions.

The journey over the border and through the Andes was amazing. The bus climbed the winding roads up and down the mountain range while we sat at the back of the bus with the smell of not only burning engine but also the smell of hot wee and sick. Not the best of journeys but the scenery made up for it.

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Fantastic. The land was so dry. You could see the skit lifts up the mountain when they are snow covered in the winter. Three hours from here you would be on the beach. The land is so different everywhere we go, every courner is a picture.

Posted by robandem 07:40 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bariloche

Christmas

all seasons in one day 15 °C

After leaving El Bolsen we were looking forward to spending christmas in our cabin in Bariloche, people had said how nice Bariloche was, with activities like Windsurfing and Mountain Bikinig to keep us occupied! We arrived mid day with clear blue sky, however there was a freezing strong wind blowing! Summer had definitely not arrived, but it didn’t matter as we jumped into a cab and headed for our cabin.

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We had been researching cabins in Bariloche for over a month and had chosen this one as it looked the best and had an open fire, we were not disappointed. It was situated 6.7km out of town, but with a regular bus service just on the door step. It was one of six cabins built in a large plot of land with its own forest, it had one bedroom, bathroom, and a living room / kitchen, cable TV and most importantly and open fire! (oh and I forgot to mention, the cabin came with a dog named ´Calvu´, a very friendly old labrador who became a regular visitor over the following week).

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In the afternoon we had unpacked and headed into town for some supplies. Now Bariloche was not what we were expecting, we had heard it was like a swiss town built next to a beautiful lake, so we were expecting a nice water front and nice restaurants etc....Bariloche was not quite like that at all, there was no water front to speak of, or any nice restaurants, and to be honest full of pikies! The lake however was amazing, too cold though for windsurfing!

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The wind was so powerfull that you would beleive it was the sea (well Emily did comment that ´I think the tide is coming in´!). We did manage to find a pub selling pints of Guinness so Rob was happy! We stocked up on supplies for christmas and headed back to the cabin. That night we cooked a great meal and I (Rob) promptly smoked out the cabin with a fire that was a little to large!! Ok I got a little over excited!

The few days before christmas were spent going on walks, trying to kick Calvu out of the cabin, and shopping in Bariloche. We had agread to buy each other pressies up to a max price of 20 pounds each. Now I had already secretly bought Em a ring in El Bolsen so was very relaxed about the whole thing, and only had to buy a few extra small presents which was lucky as the shopping was not good here, what was Em going to get me??? Emily tried to get into the festive spirit by decorating the cabin while I (Rob) went in search of a christmas tree, equiped with my trusty penknife! I didnt manage to find one but did cut a branch off which resemled a tree!!!

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The tree lasted all of 1 hour in our hot smokey cabin but fingers were crossed for it to stay up for chrimbo day. Stocked up on boose, inlcuding a few bottles of wine, champagne and a large bottle of Vodka and some beer, oh and our chicken - we were ready for Santa!

On christmas eve we thought we would head into town for a meal out, we downed quite a few vodka lemonades first and caught a bus into town....big mistake! We arrived at around 8.30 to find the town almost deserted, now we new it was early (Argentinians dont eat till 11 onwards) but everything was closed. We found a bar to have a drink, the only one open and planned our next move. There were a couple of restaurants opening and were doing set menus but they very expensive, so in our now rather drunk state we found a corner shop, bought a pizza base and went home and cooked what turned out to be a really nice pizza...with no cheese!!

We woke up on chrimbo day, with small headache a may add, and the beautifull hot sunshine and no wind! Yipee chrimbo was here and we were ready for the day. Eggs were on and Rob even managed to find himself bacon! One present later from under our branch, oh i mean tree, and we decided to head out to the lake and build up an appetite for lunch.

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The outskirts of bariloche is just like the lake district, green lush trees, a gorgeous MASSIVE blue lake, cabins and hotels, and long windy roads through the scenery. While the chook was in the oven, we consumed our champers and smoked salmon with Calvu in the blazing sun.

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After an amazing chrimbo dinner (robs gravy worked a treat and my homemade stuffing some how tasted good) we enjoyed the rest of the day watching movies and more drinking and presents.

Travelling is so hard!!!!

After christmas day and the huge consumption of food and drink we headed out to hire bikes for the afternoon. Unfortunatley what was a 4 hour bike ride around the outskirts of bariloche took only 2 hours. I was disappointed by the lack of exercise we had but happy to leave my moaning about the huge uphills behind! (yes i got of and pushed my bike many times. I´m sure the brake were constantly on!) We stopped at a small cafe on the edge of a strem for our sarnies.

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Wood carving on cycle route

Bariloche may not have been the best place to go or live up to our expectation for christmas but the cabin and Calvu certainly made up for it.

Posted by robandem 14:33 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

El Bolson

Our own place!

semi-overcast 16 °C

After a disastrous rather quick visit to Puerto Madryn we headed to El Bolson as soon as possible. The journey was one of the best we have had, cama all the way!
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– we slept through the night journey and woke up in El Bolson. Thankgod for the amazing Argentinean buses with bed seats!

El Bolson is a small town south of Bariloche in the Lake District area of Argentina. After a quick hot choc we headed out to find a Cabana (Ems thoughts were to hide for a while and just watch TV and cook our own food). We found a gorgeous place to stay, ´El Surco Cabanas´.
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El Bolson was a particularly quiet sleep town surrounded by huge beautiful mountain ranges. The so called ´non-nuclear municipality´ had a friendly atmosphere and a hippie market on the Tuesday morning selling everything from cheese, chocolate, jam and cherries to rather scary painted foam hand puppets, a variety of witch like ornaments and an array of herbs and plants. We attempted to buy a few presents during our visit but was not too successful (oh except for the chocolate for ourselves!)

A lovely lady called Betty owned the cabanas however conversation was interesting with the lack of our Spanish speaking and her English understanding. Betty was so helpful and even let us take her mountain bikes out for the day! Well, out of pure kindness we attempted to ride them to the mountains. With a slight adjustment to the wobbly seat angle (painfull for Robert), a good pump up of the forever flat tyres, and a practice at the peddling backwards to slow the bike down, we managed to get about 5 minutes down the road. Sorry Betty but we don’t think the bikes had been rode for a very long while. We did try.

As the town was so sleepy we spent the majority of the time in our warm cabana enjoying our home cooked food, gorgeous red wine, numerous beers, and many card games of ´shit head´ (by the way Em is currenlty in the lead)! We said a sad goodbye to Betty and headed to Bariloche excited about christmas. Betty gave us some jam for chrimbo too - bless.

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´It seems betty was warned of Emily´s cooking - hence the fire extinguisher!!´

Posted by robandem 13:55 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Place not worth writing about!

Whale watching

sunny 27 °C

We arrived in Puerto Madryn, on the east coast of Argentina after a rather long 24 hour mini bus and coach journey, at half 3 in the morning!!! Being poor travellers we didn´t want to pay for a hostel for a few hours so we headed off in the darkness to find a cafe. As it was a friday night there were many people rather drunk hanging around the streets. Being called a yank by some of them was not too welcome!! Eventually found a cafe and had some food and drink to pass the time. At sunrise we headed off to sit on the beach and find a hostel. The town seemed like a nice area however during our morning stroll equiped with a full backpack, rucksack on our front, handbag and all, 3 guys and a stick (or broom handle!) decided we were a perfect opportunity for them to become rich, shame we had less than $1 on us!. After a few minutes and a few blows to Rob legs we were saved by a local guy shouting at them. The offer of some toilet roll out of Robs pocket didn´t surfice!

Our idea of staying in Peurto Madryn we slightly different following our morning attack! We booked the next bus out of there for that evening to El Bolson and hired a car to drive to Penninsula Valdes in hope of seeing some whales! This area is know for the wildlife (seals, dolphins and whales). Our luck was not in with the whales or any animal in fact but the picnic on the beach (admitidly in the car as it was so windy and the flies were slightly annoying) made up it. This must have been the most expensive day we have had, rented a car, paid a fortune to get into a national park to see non-existent whales, booked an expensive coach trip for 15 hours inland to the mountains and nearly got mugged. Thankgod we didn´t have any money on us!!

Posted by robandem 10:45 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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