"I am NOT drinking any malbec."

Trip Start Oct 09, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mendoza is a bustling little city in the west of Argentina that has a deceptively sleepy Santa Barbara feel. It's situated near the base of the Andes mountains and the Chilean border. It's also the wine capital of Argentina, producing more than 60% of the nation's wines.

I found a superb hostel right on the main drag with a nice backyard and pool. Felt more like a resort than a hostel. And as a bonus they played Oasis for nearly the full two hours I was sitting by the pool.

Around 2:00pm a bus picked me up for an afternoon vineyard tour. Prior to my arrival I had studied up on how to say some of my favorite ridiculous wine terms in Spanish ("bold", "haunting", "well-balanced", "the perfect summer red"), so I could properly clown around during the proceedings.

The afternoon went something like this:
Tour of vineyard. Wine. Wine. Wine. Tour of new vineyard. Wine. Wine. Wine. Tour of olive oil farm. Blah. Blah. Blah. Aaaaand back to another vineyard for more wine. Wine. Wine.

The owner of one vineyard offered me a free glass of their highest premium wine. I was having so much fun trying out my idiotic wine terms on him ("Ooooh, citrusy", "a refreshing blend", "the barrels must be a neutral oak") that I didn't realize my whole tour group had left and were sitting on the bus waiting.

I was in high spirits when I returned to my hostel and found a group of people having a BBQ out back by the pool. They suggested I go to the butcher across the street, get some meat for the grill, and join them. At the butcher's I picked up two big pieces of lomo for US$3 and a bottle of Brahma and headed back to my new group of single-serving friends. They were a real bunch of characters (a mix of Americans, Dutch, Irish, Norwegian and Canadian), unofficially led by a brash New Yorker named Chris. Most of them had only met each other the day before, but it quickly felt as though we'd been friends longer than that. We ate, drank and talked until midnight then headed out to the crowded sidewalk cafes. By this point, reason and logic were in short supply. Pradeep (from Los Angeles) launched into an absurd (but completely sincere) theory that Americans "invented 'rags to riches'" then "exported" the idea to other cultures. When others dismissed the notion, he simply got louder: "It was our idea! It originated there! Of course it did! Who imported it to us? Who was doing it before us?" He looked to me but I could not back him up on this one (I think "invented" may have been the operative word here). An Irish firecracker named Mayve mocked him relentlessly. Bjorn, a Norwegian oddball and possible future serial killer, didn't utter a single word all night until a group of pretty girls walked by and he exclaimed in his thick accent: "That was the hottest shit that's been seen all night!" Chris ended up getting a kiss from a local beauty queen after she asked him about his tattoos. She claimed she had placed third out of seventeen contestants in Mendoza's Grape Harvest beauty pageant. "Third out of seventeen," Chris would repeat with pride several times during the next 12 hours.

We all went to bed late and got up very early the next morning to go white water rafting in the Andes mountains. This was a first for me. Our cloudy heads didn't diminish our enthusiasm, and once we put on our silly rubber suits the jokes flowed non-stop. The rapids were up to a class 3 due the melting mountain snow. Had we come a couple of months later the water level would be three feet higher and the rapids would be up to a class 4. Regardless, we got soaked and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. 

I would have liked to stay in Mendoza longer with this great crew, but I had to get back to Buenos Aires to catch a flight. As I left for the bus station they were preparing to BBQ and do it all over again. 

Reading: Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman
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