Mendoza is the most famous wine region of Argentina with 75% of the countries wines being produced here, it is also flanked by the Andes which separate Argentina from Chile. As such the two main attractions here are vineyards and the Andes themselves of which we experienced both to varying degrees. Our first day we simply wandered the pretty city which is wealthy due to the oil and vineyards in the area. We visited the main park which is massive and includes football stadiums, a zoo and a boating lake.
We wanted to do some walking in the Andes, and with the famous Alta Montana the highest mountain outside of the Himilayas just three hours away along with its surroinding areas being where they filmed Seven Years in Tibet we felt this was a good place to start. As such we booked what we believed to be a walking tour of the area for the following day. Travellers lesson number 1, always ask the right questions. What we were to find out too late is that this tour was in fact a jump off jump on tour of the highlights of the Alta Montana area with no walking at all and just 12 hours spent on a bus, as if we don't spend enough time on those already! As you can imagine we were less then impressed, however we did manage to get some pictures from the day (what else could we get!) so you can appreciate the beauty of the area. These include the Christ the Redeemer statue at 5,000m which is half in Chile and half in Argentina as well as the Inca bridge which is a naturally formed bridge which once formed part of an Inca trail and later the place of a 1940's 5 star resort which took advantage of the natural hot baths which formed the rocks. Other highlights were the mountain itself if not seen from some distance.
Not all was lost from the day, as after returning from our trip we took advantage of the free wine that the hostel provides every evening (this is wine country after all and you would not believe how they can get through the stuff) and made some new friends in the process.
The following day we had a more successful cycling (well a bit of cycling) and wine tour which took us to three vineyards of various sizes including Tapiz, Norton and Cabrini. The tour at Tapiz was fantastic, it is a medium sized vineyard and produces mainly Malbec which this region is famous for, the women giving the tour explained how they grow the plants and we learned some interesting things about wine making such as they bomb the clouds to encourage them to hail or rain elsewhere and not on their crops to damage them. We enjoyed a tasting before cycling to the next vineyards the massive Nortons where they produce 25 million bottles a year. Another tour showed the different scale of this operation and of course included yet more wine. The final vineyard (bikes were dispensed with by now) was a small scale Italian owned vineyard in a beautiful old bodega. After sampling their wine and having a brief tour here we returned to the hostel, our day far from over.
There was a football game organised with the hostel and the staff and we had a 7 a side kick about on some near by pitches followed by some beers, we returned to the hostel once more after this for an Asado (BBQ) and more of that free wine. At 1.30am (early by South American standards) we, along with our new friends from the tour and the football, 10 of us in all headed for a club for some Cumbia music native of Argentina. This was a surreal experience, when we first arrived there was some sort of talent show with comedy, clowns, juggling and magic. At some point the chairs are removed and the awful Cumbia music starts, it is difficult to describe but you can be assured it is awful! We finally crawled in at half 4 (lightweights)! That was a long day....
The next day we went to watch the France v Wales rugby game, with some French guys from our hostel - was a little awkward when they lost and we then had four depressed looking French guys on our hands. The evening was followed by, you guessed it, more wine and an Empanada making lesson in the hostel. Our final day we went for a stroll round the park and took a picnic as the weather was 30 degrees plus. We were pretty sad to be leaving Mendoza by the time our stay came to an end but the torrential rain that began as we reached the bus station made it slightly easier. We were also saying Goodbye to Argentina as we were headed for Chile, where we'll spend the last 3 weeks of our stay in South America.