Mendoza Trip

Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
Trip End ??? ??, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, August 25, 2008

Alllright, so, I'll begin with my fairly anti-climactic story about almost getting mugged.  
So, some friends and I decided to meet on Wednesday night at Job's to decide whether or not to go to Mendoza for the weekend (you all know how that turned out).  On my way home, very early (1:30 am.. which is very early by argentine standards, some places are just opening) I decided to walk down Avenida Santa Fe, because it's well lit and busy and I thought I'd for sure have no problems.  Anyway, I got caught off-guard and some young homeless guys (as in early to mid-twenties) that were sitting in a staircase stoop thing started hassling me and saying "Dame todo!" which means, "give me everything."  They didn't touch me though, only this boy who looked to be about 9 or 10 that was with them.  I think the idea was that they stayed in the staircase so no cops could see them from the street, and the little kid would be able to get me within reach of them, or just get money from me himself.  Anyway, I said, "Permiso" which basically means "Excuse me" (it's all I could think of!) like 20 times.  The little kid wasn't listening and was pushing me closer and closer to the staircase and not letting me pass, so in the end I just pushed him and ran.  I felt bad for pushing a kid but, he knew what he was doing.
I got home and my host mom was up making some tea, and I told her about it.  She felt really bad but told me next time that happens to just give them everything because they're all on drugs and would have no problem stabbing me for $5.  But I just really didn't want to buy a new cell-phone!  So I guess I maaaybe used up a bit of luck there.
Now, to the fun part, Mendoza!  We decided on Wednesday night, bought our tickets on Thursday morning, and then left Thursday night.  I thought that I had purchased a round-trip ticket for Menoza for $153 pesos (about $50), but ended up being only one way.  No big, $100 for a 600 mile trip is not bad.
Only 3 of us ended up being able to go being myself, a girl named Denicia from Amherst and a girl named Caitlin from Tufts.  The bus was a bit late, so we boarded at about 9:30 pm and made it to Mendoza at about 2:30 pm the next day.  Yes, that is 17 hours.  We have since learned that there are faster buses (this one stopped quite frequently), and I will be taking those from now on.  The buses are very comfortable though.  They're two stories, the first story is nicer leather seats called cama's (beds), and then the top floor is for poor people like us.  They still recline quite a bit though, much better than any greyhound I've ever been on.  Also, the buses in Argentina don't have the same clientele as in the states.  It's a much classier, cleaner experience than the buses in the US, my host mom says that's because the plane tickets here are prohibitively expensive, even for the upper-middle class.  Interesting (i.e. not family-appropriate) movie choices, and also for a couple hours they played 80's music videos, including George Michael, Boy George, and Duran Duran.  
The cab rides in Mendoza are even more dirt-cheap than in Buenos Aires, it was great.  It cost $2.50 (total, not per person) to get the couple miles from the bus station to our hostel.  We elected to stay at Hostel Independencia, because my lonely planet pegged it as the best of the cheap hostels in Mendoza.  Hostel Independencia occupies an allegedly historic mansion, and it's got a great feeling atmosphere, and large common areas to mingle with others. It was really pretty nice.  For 34 pesos (about $11), you get a bed with clean sheets (which you put on yourself), towel, free breakfast, and access to everything you need including full bathrooms and showers.  There were 6 beds in our room, which we shared with some Brits the first night and some Germans the second night.  I'd say there were about 30 people staying at the hostel in total.  
As a side note, I'm really intrigued by the hostel culture.  Hostels are for the traveler, and travelers are sweet, for the most-part.  We didn't really have time to partake in the scene, but I look forward to staying in hostels on other trips.  Some of the people staying at Independencia had been traveling for upwards of 7 months.  I have a feeling there are some great conversations to be had in hostels.
Anyway, for the evening we decided to just take it easy, check out some of Mendoza's five central plazas, grab a bite to eat, and book a horseback excursion in the Andes for the next day.  I've attached pictures of a couple of the plazas. 
I'll say that I definitely like the feel of Mendoza much more than Buenos Aires.  It's still urban, but less dirty and busy and cut-throat.  Its smack in the middle of the desert, but you'd barely know this with all of the trees which are watered by the little irrigation canals along the streets throughout the city.    
Friday, we got up at about 8:00 am (that's intense for a vacation!) and ate our free breakfast and hopped in a van for our horseback riding.  I have to mention how easy this was.  There was just a book at the desk in the hostel with all the different tourist options, and this was just one of the amazing options.  We just called the night before to book it. For 150 pesos ($50) per person, they came to our hostel, picked us up in a van, drove well over an hour into the mountains, put us on horses with a guide for what ended up being closer to 6 hours, and brought us back.  Steal. 
So, Denicia, Caitlin and I were the only people on our ride.  Our guide was a 23 year old guy named Alejandro who was born and raised in Mendoza.  He was super nice and fun, and the girls were in love with him.  It was nice that he was so young, he was like a friend by the end of the ride.  And, he spoke clearly and slowly and listened with patience, so communication was no problem.  Good times.
The ride was great.  We went surprisingly high, enough to be among snow, which was weird because it was so warm.  It was probably 70 during the warmest part of the ride.  It was a pretty aggressive ride, far more than any of the times I've been on horseback in the states or South Africa.  There were some pretty steep parts and there were times when I got pretty nervous because I can't control whether or not the horse slips.  But it was so fun, and so, so beautiful.  The pictures do not convey how stunning the Andes are, and the entire panorama.  But I'll attach them nonetheless.  Some highlights of the ride:
-For some reason, my body is not made to trot or gallop on a horse.  It causes me great pain.  On the upside, this provided hours of laughter for Alejandro and the girls.
-I packed bananas and oranges for the mountain.  This was stupid.  I had a nice fresh-fruit smoothie in my backpack by the time we took our first break, and had to haphazardly clean it with snow
-We ran into a herd (gaggle? pack?) of wild horses.
-My horse, Limbo, got annoyed with me and purposely parked me in a thorn-bush.

-I think 6 hours on horseback is maybe too long.  I'm sore in places I didn't know existed.
Friday also happened to be Denicia's birthday, so after the amaaazing ride we went out to eat at a Mexican! (spicy food and all!!) restaurant and then were going to go out, but I was so exhausted that I was no match for my cold, and went to bed.  They went out for a little bit but returned pretty early as well.  
Saturday morning, we were a ridiculous looking group.  There was Brad, with his incessant coughing, Denicia with her newly-acquired eye infection, and Caitlin with her nauseating migraine.  We just kinda hung out on Sarmiento, the touristy avenue of Mendoza, and snacked and talked and accidentally adopted an extremely cute stray dog that we named Charlie.  He followed us to every café and store we went to until we hopped in a taxi to go to the bus station.  I was sad to leave her!  I ended up feeding her biscuits after a while because... well I don't know.  
It felt like too short of a trip for how much time I spent on the bus, but the girls had class Monday so I didn't really have a choice.  The ride back was just as long, and the older woman next to me seemed to enjoy using my hip bone as an armrest.  I'm tired now, but I'm feeling great about the weekend and looking forward to planning my next trip.  (Sorry about the abrupt ending, I'm crashing!)
Hope you're all doing well, keep the emails coming.
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