A cultured excuse for a day on the drink

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

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Friday, November 19, 2010

We woke up after another terrible nights sleep, we just can't get to sleep early so I guess it is just jet lag still with us. We had managed about 6 hours each but the alarm went off and it was time to get some breako before going on to the bus station. I cooked up an omelette (the hostel provided raw eggs which was a nice touch) and Erica had some pastries. We loaded up the bags and set off to the bus station. On the way we just couldn’t stop talking about how we could have done with at least another day here and we really regretted not doing the vineyards in Maipu (what Mendoza is most famous for).

We got to the bus station only to find that our bus company had somehow managed to double book our seats and unfortunately we couldn’t get on. Finding this out involved visiting the ticket office, going to a phone box to ring another company who handled the transaction at another office etc. In the end we managed to rebook for the following day, still feeling knackered and exhausted we headed back to another slightly closer hostel with double rooms (despite being a two man dorm in the last place we were in the kitchen area (behind closed doors obviously) but you couldn’t get in or out without speaking to everyone and people were still knocking about late and early. We literally just dumped our bags and set off in the direction of Rioja Street (amusingly this is where the bus stop is to Maipu Wine region). After about 45 minutes on a crowded bus we finally managed to figure out where we were without a map and got off in the correct place. We did a quick tour of the bike hire places to find a guy from Barnsley working as a tout for Maipu Bikes, he had such a funny accent, it was almost like he was Spanish but with a strong Barnsley twang when he spoke in English. Maipu bikes beat Mr Hugo by a good 20% or so in the end so we jumped on our bikes and head off in the midday heat for a 12km cycle ride to our first bodega.

Erica, not known as a keen cyclist at the best of times didn’t really enjoy the prolonged gentle uphill ride but I think we were both relived when we reached the vineyard. Personally I loved the gentle ride through the vineyards with big trees overhead, despite those large Argentinean trucks almost throwing you off the road each time they overtook at speed.  Our first tasting was about 2.40 each and consisted of 3 decent sized wines, a rose and two reds.  I think I prefer this cheap tasting rather than a free tasting followed by an expected expensive purchase. We then did another vineyard then stopped for lunch. I started to feel a little bit rough by this time with a combination of lack of sleep, heat and dehydration I thought I was going to pass out and the large red wine in front of me became less and less appealing. As I ordered the bike special menu of traditional Argentinean chicken stew, I got out my money only to realise I only had a minimal amount of Argentinean Peso’s left so went running over to the waitress explaining I would have to pay in Chilean Peso, of course she said no and there was no ATM for miles around. I stood feeling worse and worse before realising I had US dollars and she would accept them giving us the change in Peso. I must have looked white and my hearing and sight started to dwindle a bit symbolising the fact I was just about to faint and hit the deck. As I staggered back to the table my flip flop broke again (which is happening an increasing amount over the last 24 hours) the whole place was staring at the cheap skate who can’t pay his bill, looks like he is going to pass out and then his shoe breaks nearly sending him into the vines. Erica was sympathetically in hysterics but I had to sit down with my head between my knees telling Erica to get me water. I really did feel terrible but after a few waters managed to drink my sparkling white. We got another couple of waters and suddenly I started to feel much better. Still with my back in agony from a morning twinge with the back pack I was starting to feel like I was falling apart at the seams. We cycled back to be closer to the bike drop off point and decided to go to one place which I had really wanted to go to, when you feel like poo you head straight to the Absinthe distillery obviously.

It wasn’t just Absinthe to be fair, they had a huge assortment of pickles, chutneys and jams for starters, our personal favourite was the Malbec jam and Chardonnay jam which were just divine, we didn’t buy them as wine on toast in the mornings would be pushing the wine thing a bit too far. Next we sampled the liquors that they had Erica skipped the Absinthe having a banana and vodka spirit but the Chilean guy and American girl who we were tasting with joined me. It was all done in a traditional style that made you feel a bit like a heroin addict. Cooked sugar on spoons with a few splashs of Absinthe to turn into a caramel before adding to the Absinthe and downing in one. Somehow I ended up with the irregularly large one. We then had some olives and olive pastes, olives paste with garlic, with chilli, with lemon etc. We tucked into olive oils and balsamics which again was a taste sensation.  We finished all this off with a tour of the grounds and some beautiful chocolate.

The cycling then got a little more interesting as we all felt a little bit light headed to say the least. Absinthe being most famous for being the reason that Van Gogh cut his ear off. Things then started to go a bit odd, we crossed the road and in between my flip flop coming off continually a dog ran out at me jumping up at the bike trying to bite me, barking like mad. I swerved into the road nearly being taken off my bike by a passing lorry. It was over fairly quickly but the dog was just as fast as my bike at full pace so it was a nerve racking minute or so.  Erica edit:  It was absolutely hilarious, I was in hysterics and promptly got off my bike and wheeled it passed the demented dog – it was like a scene from a comedy sketch.

We eventually got back to the bike shop at about 18:30 realising we had been at it for about 5 and a half hours. We got a free wine from the bike place chatting to our new friends and caught the bus back to Mendoza. My flip flop by this stage was a complete joke and within seconds of being put back together it would fall off again. It was so annoying and Erica was on the floor laughing at such a volume as she had been in exactly the same situation in Bali so laughed at the half limp half shuffle that I had adopted as she had had to too. Then oddly at about 8pm we found a shoe shop which sold flip flops we over spent but to solve the issue 7 was worth it.  We got back to the hostel and replenished our money supply on the way. We have loved Mendoza, what a great start to Argentina but we know this time that we are definitely leaving tomorrow morning.
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