Wine and exercise!

Trip Start Feb 21, 2006
Trip End Sep 11, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Saturday, April 8, 2006

We´ve just come to the end of 4 lovely days in Mendoza, a really pretty, shady and peaceful town in the heart of Argentina´s wine region. Naturally, on our first day we headed straight to the vinyards. We turned our noses up at the organised tours (we´ve decided by now we hate being herded around like sheep and paying heaps for the privilege), and were thinking about getting around by bike but the friends we were travelling with are "bicycly challenged" - probably a good thing and I´m not sure cycling pissed on the Argentinian roads is the best idea! Instead by a combination of bus and taxi we went to 3 vineyards and tried some delicious wine and some horrible wine; did a Spanish-speaking guided tour of the "Wine museum" which I´m sure was very interesting and informative; ate one of the best empanadas in Mendoza; and had a lovely bottle of red on a terrace in the late afternoon sun with a stunning view of grape vines and olive trees and the Andean foothills in the background - heaven!

The next day we decided to have a look around the town, and ended up doing a massive 5 hour walk through the huge park near the city. We decided to look for the Greek Theatre which was on our map and after getting slightly lost asked a nearby jogger for directions. He looked at us suspiciously, said "First, where are you from?" and we nervously told him Nueva Zelanda, which was greeted with an excited grin and a mimed action of throwing a rugby ball, followed by a long, detailed set of directions in a mix of Spanish and English. Whether he would have been so helpful if we hadn´t come from the land of the beloved All Blacks we can only speculate! Actually, it turned out he gave us directions to the zoo instead of the theatre but by that stage we had walked pretty far already so decided to go there instead. Some of the cages were slightly grim, but we did get to see some toucans which looked like stuffed toys and a crazed armadillo (we might just pretend we saw them in the Amazon to any future wildlife-obsessed fellow travellers we meet!) and Dave had great fun pretending to be a monkey.

The next day it was time for some outdoor adventures; we were picked up at a ridiculously early hour and driven to a base camp by a lake in the foothills for a day of canopy and white water rafting. Canopy involves attaching yourself by a harness to a cable between two high points then whizzing down it - sort of like a flying fox. Once we had mastered doing it the normal way our guides tied us in so we could go down upside down and backwards (slightly sickening and scary but a lot of fun!) and also head first like Superman. It was a fantastic adrenalin rush! Then in the afternoon it was white water rafting which was slightly tame but still great fun. We returned to our hostel absolutely exhausted - too much fresh air and exercise had done us in. Yet again we are reminded that we really do have to get fit before the Inca Trail...

The next day was a chillout day - Dave started teaching me to play chess which he´s been threatening to do for years - I don´t normally have the patience for it but it didn´t seem so bad sitting in the garden in the morning sun with all the time in the world. That night we got the overnight bus to Tucuman, the plan being to stop there for a day on our way to Cafayate as Lonely Planet made it sound like quite an interesting, buzzing city. Arriving at 9am on a Sunday morning though it was absolutely dead and looked really boring, and we then discovered we could have got to Cafayate quicker from Salta anyway - groan! It livened up a bit in the afternoon though and we even caught "Benjamin" in concert in the square last night - we think he might have been a Pop Idol-type contestant, he certainly seemed to have a lot of excited teenage fans anyway.
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