A holiday within a holiday.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, May 29, 2005

"Well Esteve, where's all the juicy stories? We are dead tired of volcanoes and waterfalls. After all my friend, you are in steamy Latin America".

"To tell you the truth Esteve, "About a girl, the most gorgeous girl" had a promising start, but then it turned out to be about another backpacker, and not you. So Esteve, when will you serve us the real thing, ...the real stuff, ...the real McCoy?".

I often get similar questions in e-mails from friends around the world. Usually from the male species. Wonder, wonder...

I am sitting on a bus in one of Santiago's many bus terminals. I am waiting for our departure to Mendoza, in the Argentina vine district. Ahead of me is another long-haul. Nine hours or so crossing the Andes mountains. The window seat next to me is empty. There's only a few empty seats left on the whole bus. Enter gorgeous girl... I am almost at the back of the bus, and suddenly a scene from Forrest Gump pops into my head. "This seat is taken..., taken..., you can't sit here..." The roles are reversed, and probably as far as you can get from Jenny Curran's sweet voice, I manage the following "You can sit here if you want". "Gracias". And then silence... Once again Esteve, why don't you speak any Spanish? Would have made life easier don't ya think?

We are starting to climb into the Andes. The plan is to cross the Uspallata Pass, one of the main transportation routes between Chile and Argentina, close to where Aconcagua (6959m) is located. The highest mountain outside the Himalaya range. The gorgeous girl sitting next to me, starts to talk to me in Spanish. I believe she is commenting on the funny and curious kids sitting across from us. I don't know what to respond with, so I only manage a "Si". I guess my response didn't make much sense to her, as she is switching to English. Her name is Magali, she lives and works in Mendoza. In addition to being gorgeous, she is also super friendly, funny and very easy to talk to. She used to live in London, and is probably the first person I know who has been to Greenland. We continue to talk for hours, until we both fall asleep just outside Mendoza.

The first days in Mendoza I spend together with James from Calgary. He is on a one month trip around Chile and Argentina. He does similar journeys every year, as he usually only works six months of the year, as a geologist in diamond exploration, in remote Yukon. James and I visit several wineries as well as going on trips to the mountains. We visit Puente del Inca (the Inca Bridge) as well as Acongagua, unfortunately hidden in clouds that day. We drive through the beautiful Uspallata Valley, where they filmed "Seven Years in Tibet" with Brad Pitt and company, and we go bar hopping at night in Mendoza.

After a few days, James leave Mendoza and return to Chile, but I decide to stay a bit longer. I really like Mendoza, with it's many plazas, parks, broad sidewalks, constant sunny weather and friendly people. I have been travelling a lot lately, and feel like having a "holiday within a holiday". After almost eight months on the road, for me a "holiday within a holiday" is equal to living a "normal life". I stay in a rented apartment smack in the center of town. I have a balcony, my own kitchen and 57 channels with nothing on. I go to Spanish school for a few hours during the day, and in the afternoon I get to know the city, for real. It's sometimes frustrating to arrive in a new city, and then have to leave the place again within a couple of days. You never really get to know the city and it's people. After a few days here, I decide that Mendoza is a place I could easily live. The city center is really pleasant, but in my opinion also in desperate need for a restaurant that doesn't just serve pizza, burgers, four types of pasta, sandwiches, lomo, milanesa and bife de chorizo. It could really do with a Mexican, Thai or Curry place, or at least a Chinese restaurant. I am sure it would be a hit, as I don't think I am the only one here who are tired of the current selection. I am sure there's some good restaurants in town, but after walking up and down the main avenues for days, I still haven't found many places with a hip scene and inventive menu. The nightlife is however great most days of the week. They have many good pubs and microbreweries, as well as tons of fancy bars and clubs.

I have been in Mendoza for three weeks now, and in a couple of days it's time for me to move on to Buenos Aires. I didn't plan to stay more than a week or so, but then I liked the place, got to know some locals and hence decided to stay and study a bit of Spanish. Three weeks here have done me good, as I feel like continuing my journey and start exploring again.

So what happened to Magali you say? Are you going to give us "The most gorgeous girl, my version"...?

I have spent most of my time here in Mendoza with Magali and her girlfriends. And we have had a really good time together. At least I have (I don't really remember the last time I went to dinner with four girls on my own). Every Friday and Saturday we have gone drinking and dancing to six or seven in the morning, to places I would have never found on my own without knowing any locals. We have gone to restaurants, bars, the cinema or just walked around town. Strolled in the park or just talked. Had lunch or watched TV. Practiced the local lingo or cheated on my Spanish homework. And she is the most gorgeous girl, but to be honest she is just a good friend (the story of my life...).

And when it comes to any juicy stories or the real McCoy, I tell you what happened one day in Colombia...... (hmm, looks like I have reached the maximum length of a travelogue entry, too bad, maybe next time guys).
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