Meat Feast

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hostel Empedrado

Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We were up before the alarm so we could at least get a coffee before we checked out of the hostel and embarked on our 7 hour bus journey across the border in to Argentina. Whilst enjoying our morning cuppa it suddenly dawned on Andrew that the cash card was not in the money belt anymore so this understandably prompted a mass search of pockets, bags, coats, beds, dorms but to no avail it was gone.  Shit.  Spanner...In...The....Works.  As we were now running late and the last thing that we wanted was to miss the bus we left our contact details with the owner to let us know if it turned up.  It seems ironic that the only time we lose the card is when we are trying too hard to look after it (Andrew was keeping it under his clothes around his waist in the money belt) (Andrew Edit – The blame game starts in earnest).  Plus we had also been having a conversation with a British couple the night before about bad luck on their travels (they had been in hospital three times and had their passports stolen and they had only been travelling for 6 months) I think the wooden table that I touched must have been MDF.  A great start to our South American adventure the small mercy was that we still had some cash and the credit card (although this was almost lost too when it fell down Andrew's trouser leg and on to his shoe) – shambles. (This was actually trying to put it back in the money belt but someone had filled it up with yellow fever certificates, travel details for flights back from mexico etc oh yeah oh yeah the blame game is being played in earnest – Although I do accept complete responsibility for the loss of the card perhaps we might try Erica’s card oh yes that got lost just minutes before we left the UK thus ensuring no money was withdrawn from the ladies cashpile).

We took the metro to the bus station which was really packed as it was rush hour and we had to squeeze ourselves on to the train with our back packs whilst being alert to pick pockets AT ALL TIMES (Andrew’s mantra) the only thing that I have in my bag side pockets are toiletries and I’m not sure that Silverkrin for dry and damaged hair is top of a pickpockets wish list.  So of course I was thrilled to arrive at the bus station with shampoo and conditioner still on my person they hadn’t even been interested in Andrew’s dry and flaky scalp shampoo so we considered ourselves very lucky.  We stocked up on snacks for the bus (2 bags of crisps for lack of anything else to buy) as we didn’t know what to expect in terms of food on our first South American bus journey, some services offer a cooked meal and champagne while others give you nothing at all.  The bus arrived and we got in line to give our bags to the bag porter (who puts them in the bag store), a well dressed elderly lady decided that she wanted to play the pushing in game and practically stood between me and Andrew – this time I stood my ground and moved my bag firmly to the side of me blocking her way – I will no longer have people take the piss out of me like that (memories of the Philippines and China come flooding back) anyhow everyone was giving a small tip so we followed suit as we wanted to get rid of the last of our change which amounted to about 30p.  We boarded the bus and found our seats that were normal reclinable seats with a foot rest, adequate for a 7 hour journey.

Not long after setting off the steward brought round breakfast, a paper bag with a cookie, diet chocolate puff bar and a carton of pineapple juice – we promptly scoffed the lot.  I decided that I quite fancied watching the film which was showing English subtitles, however after plugging in my headphones the subtitles disappeared and I couldn’t understand a word – no I still can’t cope with listening to Michel Thomas’s recordings teaching Spanish his voice really grates on me but we do feel terrible that we can’t speak the language it feels like China or Russia all over again.  We watched the last Entourage and then I was glad that I hadn’t got in to the film because what was happening outside the window was far more stunning.  As we crossed the Andes the scenery was stunning, snow covered peaks, glaciers and CACTUS!  Now I do feel like we are in a different continent.  As we climbed higher and higher Andrew started to suffer with a headache – oh god this does not bode well for the Inca Trail in Peru – we both realised that this was the highest altitude either of us had ever been at and poor Andrew was feeling it.

At the Chile/Argentine border we got off the bus and got our passports stamped out and in.  I have been a bit worried about the state of my passport as it is all ink stained from the rain on the glacier in New Zealand and some of the stamps have practically disappeared...shame, but  the border guards let it go so we were both firmly in Argentina.  Next we got our bags scanned no wood, meat or fruit is allowed in.  We got chatting to a lovely Argentinean guy who was asking us where we had been and where we were going to, immediately I could see that Mr Paranoia was wondering why we were being interrogated instead of politely involved in curious conversation (Andrew Edit -He was actually a border official but in the end genuinely wanted to know if we had missed Carlos Tevez and wanting to know all about Manchester and Old Trafford etc).  The other bag check for hand luggage the guy opened the zip about 4 cm then waved us on, bodes wel for my crack mule on her way back home). Back on the bus I managed to fall on to a man’s head as I was trying to get the camera out of Andrew’s rucksack at his request, poor guy he’ll probably need a psychiatrist to get over the severe trauma.  Sheepishly I fell asleep only to be woken up what felt like minutes later by Andrew announcing that we had arrived in Mendoza.  We got our bags together and went in search of an ATM only to find that it was out of order the nearest one was in the centre so we ok I reluctantly started the trawl downtown in the heat of the day with two rucksacks.  After a bit of whinging on my part – you will know that I am not very good with the heat, we found an ATM and after a bit more walking and "are we nearly there yet’s" I was relieved to get to the hostel in a quiet area of town.  The hostel was lovely and big and the helpful guy at the desk told us all we needed to know and more.  We decamped to our 2 man dorm – much cheaper than a double or twin room and we still had our own little haven to escape to and lock the door.  The hostel offered amongst loads of other things free Spanish lessons and a free glass of wine every night, well we are in wine country after all.

We emptied the bags in the room and sent a quick email to Andrew’s mum to send the new cashcard on to us.  After a quick freshen up we decided to walk in to town to explore and check out the eateries for dinner that night.  After wandering through the park with its many fountains and amorous couples we ended up at a bar (shock me) along the main street and shared a beer as we people watched.  To our amazement it was here that we actually saw a seemingly normal guy walk up to a table where a man had half a sandwich left on his plate casually asked “don’t you want that” and walk away with the leftovers!  Talk about cheek!  That’s even worse than anything Andrew would do.  We whiled away an hour and then decided to go in search of the 'eat as much as you can’ restaurant that the hostel owner had told us about.  We wandered around and eventually found it with its smoking and sizzling BBQ displaying a whole host of delicious looking meat.

We got a table and ordered the wine at 3 pounds a bottle an absolute steal then tucked in to the cold food counter before  getting stuck in to the BBQ.  The food was sensational and at 7 pounds a head a veritable bargain.  We both gorged ourselves on steak, ribs, chicken, pork, black pudding, chorizo and intestine (the latter I left to Andrew).  As we were on our 3rd plate of fare a band struck up and serenaded everyone as we ate it was very charming and a great introduction to Argentina – we could get very used to this wine and steak, it beats petrol and pasta any day of the week.  When we physically couldn’t eat anymore and the second bottle of wine was empty we wobbled back to the hostel with our stomachs full and our hearts happy.  Back at the hostel we decided on one for the ditch, well it was our free glass after all and got chatting to Rob from Ireland and some other very, very drunk Dutch guys who entertained us with a midnight wrestle on the hostel floor – I don’t know about you but that’s how I prefer to end all my evenings.  Time went on and by this time it was 2am so we bid buenos noches to our new friends who for the most part had passed out on the sofa and climbed in to our bunk beds exhausted from eating like great big fat pigs.
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