Cattle, wine & getting high on a train

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Flag of Argentina  , Northern Argentina,
Sunday, April 18, 2010

We left the vicious street dogs of Santiago (read last blog entry if this makes no sense) and drove through the Andes towards the Argentinian town of Mendoza. The drive on this day was one of those special ones where the roads wind and the scenery is stunning. Climbing high into the Andes, we went through one of the busiest border crossings in South America then drove through the red stone mountains with the sun sinking slowly behind the peaks, arriving into Mendoza in darkness. Mendoza is in prime wine making country and we would be sampling some of the best on offer. Argentinian wine is known the world over for the Malbec grape which grows so well here.

A wine tour later and a few trips to one of the best ice creameries ever (Helados Ferruccio Soppelsa), we were ready to leave Mendoza for our stay at a working Argentinian ranch (an Estancia).

We drove to an estancia near the town of La Falda, Cordoba where we set up camp and got stuck into some wine tasting. The wine tasting then gave way to the copious consumption of more wine and a late dinner, the combination of which ensured that we were all well and truly leathered come bedtime.

We awoke the next day to go horse riding and we explored the vastness of the estancia by riding to a cool little waterfall for a picnic lunch and riding back. The afternoon was spent in the sun playing poker and drinking beer followed by some dinner and time by the campfire.

Another day of riding where we saw more lovely countryside and we were allowed to unleash our horses and get them into a gallop. It is truly an awesome feeling to have a horse shifting gears and hitting its top speed. The smoothness and turn of pace is just something that has to be experienced. The afternoon was spent with a lassoing lesson where I managed to catch a calf by the legs but Nic was whipped on the arse by a stray leather lasso. They have these metal rings on the end which give them their weight and one hit her square in the butt cheek and she was not impressed. Lars (the unlucky lasso-er) felt terrible about the mishap. All was soon forgotten when we had a massive Argentinian gaucho style barbeque which put the world to rights once again.

The next few days were spent driving through more wine country. One of our stops was in some natural amphitheatres carved out of the hills where our leaders Juan and Sam busted out their guitars and played us a few tunes. The sounds were good and the pictures weren't bad either.

We drove through towns like Cafayate and tasted more wine. Our truck was having some problems starting so we had a few instances where we all had to climb out of the truck and give her a little push start. Imagine being a local chilling out in the town square when some 15 gringos enter a bright orange truck, promptly exit said truck and start pushing. Safe to say that was not our coolest moment.

We got to the town of Salta and checked into a hostel before exploring the city and cooked dinner for the group. The next day we booked a ticket on the "Tren a las Nubes" (Train to the Clouds), a day long trip that would see us travelling through the multi coloured Lerma Valley to the desolate desert of La Puna. The train climbs to a height of 4220m and takes you through plenty of tunnels, switchbacks and bridges. For anyone who has been to altitude, over 4000m is high and you need to beware of altitude sickness. The views were stunning, the guides in each cabin were informative and professional and the train company ensured that the health and safety of all passengers were catered for. There was an ambulance and two security vehicles that were following alongside the train the entire trip.

When the sun went down and the views descended into darkness, the guides put on a karaoke machine (karaoke in English is bad, karaoke in Spanish is worse). The karaoke only ended when a live band turned up playing folkloric music. Then the folkloric music only ended when a magician turned up to take us through his tricks. The whole weird evening culminated in an awards ceremony as they called out every individual’s name in the carriage to award them their certificates of achievement, complete with corny music. I’ve never heard Queen’s “We are the Champions” or Europe’s “Final Countdown” played so many times in succession. A nice train ride to one of the highest train stations in the world followed by a weird end. Still you couldn’t fault their effort.

We got back too late for dinner so we stopped by a burger stand and had a cheap delicious feast before heading to bed.

In our next blog, we head to the small town of Purmamarca where we chill out in a quaint little town, acclimatise to the altitude and have an Argentinian barbeque cooked by our resident Argy. He’s one of our tour leaders and he even has a legit Spanish name like Juan.
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Jimmy on

Another awesome blog...keep them coming!

philip davies on

Hiya U2 sounds like your'e still having a great time keep the blogs coming.....
Cheers Phil

Kylie on

Oh Dear...Poor Lars! I hope Nik went easy on him :) Hahahaha!!

travellingtans on

Thanks for the comments everyone. We're having a great time writing and eating our way through South America. Hope to post more in the next few weeks.

travellingtans on

Yeah, I forgave him Kylie....even though the massive red lasso mark on my bum was there for days!

Kylie on

OWCH!!! You poor thing!

travellingtans on

Yeah....quite sore!!

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