Wineries, Zombies, Bike Rides and Picnics

Trip Start Sep 22, 2011
Trip End Aug 11, 2012

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hello from Mendoza, our last stop in Argentina. This episode includes a lot of wine, some zombies, a bike ride and a picnic in the park, hope you enjoy.

After Salta Rafting the next major destination on our travels through Argentina was to be Cordoba, followed by Mendoza, but the distances meant that a couple of stop overs were needed before reaching Cordoba. The day we left Salta (Thursday 27th Oct) started off excellently as Jill made everyone poached eggs on toast for breakfast. This came as a much welcomed break from porridge and cereals. Today was long drive day down to the town of Cafayate. On route we stopped off at a place called The Devil's Throat. This was a huge gorge-way in the side of the mountain that we were able to walk through (just about). The gorge was stunning but the slippy rocks made walking up pretty difficult in flip flops, and getting back down again even more so. I opted to run and hope whilst opted for the slide-on-your-bum technique. Both worked pretty well although my clothes remained cleaner.
After the Devil's Throat we continued on and arrived at Cafayate at around lunch time. We had a short while to check out the very pretty little town before we met back up again to head out to some wineries. The whole town is surrounded by grape vines and so find a vineyard wasn't hard. The first was called Vasija Secreta. The wine was ok but nothing special. The second place had a stunning house that Alex fell in love with and the views were also in the same league. This place offered a short tour but no tasting. The place itself was so nice though that we didn't really mind. The third and final vineyard, Finca Domingo, was much better. We got a short tour and then got to try several different wines, all of which were gorgeous. So much so that me and Alex chipped in with some of the girls and bought two boxes of the stuff :-) As we drove out of the vineyard Dave pulled Jack over and pointed out a mulberry tree (I thought they were bushes, but this was definitely a tree!). What followed was a mass gorging and foraging for mulberries, because they were delicious. People were leaning out of the windows whilst me and others opted to get out and climb the nearby wall. Both methods worked well and we ended up with hundreds of the things, despite me eating as many as I put in the bag.
Following the vineyards was a simple evening of camping. Me, Jill and Sonya were cooking team so we rustled up an awesome spagbol for the group before having an early night.

Friday morning also started with a breakfast treat, as Andy volunteered to make the group pancakes. These went down amazingly with the left over mulberries. It was then back onto Jack for another long drive day to Catamarca. On route we visited some old Quilmes ruins, who were around at a similar time to the Incas. The ruins included some very impressive hillside forts. We also had a very impressive cheese toast things. Not quite on the same scale as the ruins but I was starving. Once we reached the campsite at Catamarca we had a relatively uneventful evening with dinner and a few drinks, but not before I'd shouted at my tent. It seems as though the campsite was located on a carpark with an inch on dirt on top. Every time I tried to put a peg into the ground I hit stone. Eventually however, and with the air a little bluer, we got it up. Now we just had to sleep on it, but for that we had wine.

Saturday started with an early morning wake up call followed by a long truck journey. Lunch broke the journey up with a stop at a little local market in the hills. Here me and Alex bought some exciting salad tongs, they had llamas on!!
We reached Cordoba around mid afternoon, booked into our dorms (yay, beds!!) and headed for a night out. We went for dinner first and I had a very disappointing parrilla (BBQ mixed grill). The cuts of meat were beautiful and the huge coal fired grill behind the counter looked awesome, but everything was served over cooked and dry. This is Argentina, I thought they were meant to know how to cook steaks! Alex's plain steak was excellent though.
After dinner we headed into the bar district of town and had several beers and wines. We had an awesome evening, but not quite as good as Claire's who require a little more than some helpful guidance home. Very funny!
Sunday morning we all awoke with the hangover munchies and so we made a b-line for the food court at the mall. My steak, egg and cheese baguette soon sorted and hangover I had. We need these in England! Alex and I then spent the day with Ali, Jill, Sonya and Emily just wandering around, snacking and drinking teas and coffees before heading home. That evening me and Emilie joined Andy, Claire, Shamel, Lachi and Amy for some bowling. My excuse as I gutter-balled my first throw was that I haven't played in a while, but that lost credit as everyone else said the same a got strikes, damn! I soon sorted it out and finished second and then won the second game. Pride resorted!
Alex meanwhile found an excellent little pasta place with Jill, Ali and Sonya and then chilled out at the hostel.

The next day was another early start as we set off for Mendoza. It was also Halloween and so the group used the journey to decorate Jack. We had a pumpkin, into which Emilie carved a scary face, cobwebs, which seems to be there only for me to walk into, and scary bats and spiders that hung in the webs. Apparently there was also a South American quiz which took place, but even though it happened right on the seats next to me, with about 10 people playing, I slept right through it. I'm getting used to sleeping on the move.
Arriving into Mendoza the girls got excited by the high street shops and relative sense that we were back in normal civilisation. The city layout and architecture was such that it wouldn't have looked out of place anywhere in Europe. On arrival at the hostel we were treated to a free glass of vino and the afternoon was spent orientating ourselves with the city, followed by some excellent local tacos and a few beers in the hostel's garden/courtyard.
Tuesday was our substitute Halloween. As we had been driving all yesterday we decided that today, 1st November, we would do our fancy dress. We had all sorted our costumes previously and now donned them ready for our vineyard bike tour. But if we were going to feel daft on our bikes, first we had to get through town and take the local bus to the outskirts of the city. This was very amusing and we all received some very strange looks. I was dressed as a caveman, a costume I'd made from some brown carpet type cloth I'd bought in La Paz, and Alex had backed combed her hair and with a little makeup and some torn clothes she made a fine looking zombie. Ali was a devil, Jill was Cat Woman with a very amusing mask, Emilie was another zombie and Sonya a witch. Amongst the others we also had a few more witches, Captain Jack Sparrow, Slimer (think ghostbusters), but the grand prize must go to Lachi who dressed as a Mexican luchidore wrestler. His costume consisted of a pair of sliver tights, a cape and a mask. This left him bare chested, looking completely ridiculous and absolutely hilarious.
So, after a very amusing walk and bus ride we thought it was going to get a whole lot worse when our bus broke down. Luckily though it turned out that it broke down right outside the bike hire shop, how convenient!
Once there we got our bikes and set off down the road. We used a company called Bikes and Wine, who are located right next to a fair few vineyards, chocolatiers and olive groves. We started at the closest vineyard, which turned out to be free as an added bonus. The wine was good but we weren't offered a great deal as we clearly didn't look like distinguished conisures. Neverless we carried on. We looked ridiculous riding around the local roads but we were thoroughly enjoying it. The beautiful weather did nothing to dampen our spirits either. Next stop was a liqueur place where we had some very tasty chocolate liqueurs. Our next winery was definitely our favourite. The building and surrounding lands were beautiful. The group split here so that only eight of us went in. It was meant to cost 30 pesos each for a tour and tasting, but we weren't too fussed by an hours tour, so instead we were offered a free bottle of bubbly whilst we sat on the terrace and waited for the tasting. It would have obviously been very rude to refuse such an offer and so we made our way to the terrace. The bubbly was gorgeous and the view in the sunshine over the orchard stunning. At this point we all took a little time out to reflect what a tough life us travellers lead. After this the day seemed to level out at a steady state of awesomeness. The wine that we tasted was again delicious and we followed this up with a trip to The Beer Garden, which was basically a little shack amongst the vineyards selling home brew, and good home brew at that. The outfits here worked a treat too and we managed to get a local policeman to pose with Sonya and Emma as it was their birthdays today too.
After the beer garden we were running short on time before we needed to be back at the bike hire place. We were about to attempt another vineyard but Emilie's chain kept coming off after about 30 seconds of riding. Dave chivalrously took over the bike and in turn I ended up giving him a tow all the way home. This was fine on te downhill but I needed my inner caveman for the uphill gradients. As we passed the hire shop we figured we had just enough time to fit in one more liqueur and olive place in. The savouries were delicious and the liqueur shots strong. It was definitely time to hand the bikes back.
The bus journey back to the hostel was much less amusing as the first because most people had removed their costumes and now looked relatively normal. That was for Ali, who was still and devil, and Lachi, who was still looking incredible. Once back at the hostel we had a pretty chilled evening, the wine and sun had clearly drained us all and all we could manage was a few beers/wines in the garden whilst playing killer darts, simple fun.

Wednesday morning started slowly, but nevertheless we were up and out before lunchtime. The girls started with a little shopping before all the shops shut for siesta, Alex, Ali and Sonya all bought the same dress (one each of course). Once the city shut up, around 1ish we went for a very forgettable coffee and snack somewhere on the main street. Things came out that we didn't order, the bloke was rude and we ended up paying to the penny (no tip) and leaving. The day got a lot better from there though as we went to the supermarket to pick up some picnic stuff and we headed for the park. Here our little group of me, Alex, Ali, Jill, Sonya, Emilie and Bridget, found some grass in the shade and tucked into our cakes, crisps, strawberries, and most importantly, cold beer and bubbly. We stayed here for a couple of hours feasting and drinking, watching the world pass by and feeling very chuffed with ourselves for coming up with such a great idea. 
Once we were all suitably full and tipsy we took a stroll around the rest of the park. After the gardens the girls all headed off back to the hostel and me and Alex continued on and had a very enjoyable walk around the lake in the sunshine before heading back. Once home we played a little more killer darts before getting ready and heading out for one last meal in Argentina. We spoke to the locals that worked at the hostel and they recommended a little place round the corner. We headed there and got a table on the street and a waiter that looked like Harold Bishop (from Neighbours). The service was good, the wine excellent and my steak was again awesome. We all left very full and very happy. We like Argentina! But alas, it's time to leave. Tomorrow we have to endure the long process that is the Chilean boarder crossing, joy!

Argentina was an excellent country. The landscape is stunning and varied, the wine is extremely tasty and cheap, and the food can be outstanding when done properly. We would thoroughly recommend Argentina as a destination to anyone weary of travelling to South America. 
Sorry for the absence in posts recently, we've been rather busy of late but hopefully more will be on their way soon, they're being written slowly. 

Hope you are all well and we miss you all loads. 
Paul and Alex
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Mum n Dad K on

This is a great blog. I can't believe how much you are packing in. There is defiantly a trend to it, eating and drinking seem to crop up quite a lot! Continue having fun. Love n miss you both loads xxx

Alex McMillan on

Sounds like a good few stop offs here! The halloween bike ride sounds amazing though, fancy dress, booze and chocolate! Very jealous as the weather starts to get worse around here.

Hope you guys are doing well (sounds like it!), and need more frequent updates! ha! x

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