Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Nov 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
Portico del Valle - $120 pesos, private bath, breakfast, clean,

Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, February 29, 2008

Early morning again 6.30am to get the 8am bus to Uspallata from central bus station.

There was a bit of a show last night at the Hostal Lagares in Mendoza when a Chilean girl claimed that her wallet had been taken from the dorm (not in ours as we took a private room). She was accusing the workers that were installing the air conditioning, but no one in the hostel believed her and she was doing a big drama. However she refused to go to the police and just did a big show of waving her arms, sporadic crying and saying that the hostel should do something. There were lockers in all rooms and she didnt put it in, but it looks like it was a bit of a show as even her friend was not getting involved and staying away from her.

There was also an american guy trying to get money back as he had made a change in the reservation and did not want to pay the cancellation fee.

The best part was the receptionist who was not having anything of any of the above and just took his guitar and kept escaping to the garden not giving a turd about what was going on. In any case the hostel is a good place, mostly clean and friendly staff (just dont leave valuables around...isnt that the rule everywhere anyway!)

No problem getting on the bus given we bought the tickets the day before, but the early one did drop all the workers of the different campings, hotels, and rafting places along 100 kilometres so was fairly packed.

The bus is the anti-massage. No suspension and small seats. Luckily it was only 2 hours, and the views are magnificient going up towards the Andes. Well worth the early trip.

Uspallata is a small relaxed town which probably lives exclusively for tourism and agriculture, but it doesnt have a tourist feeling about it. There are a few restaurants and hotels. We decided for the one in front of the bus station (the first one we saw even though we were planning to go to a guide recommended one). It turned out to be very clean and comfortable.

There are quite a few treks to do from Uspallata to different parks and old jesuit remains. We decided on 2 activities to see a bit of the area and move our "bus-bodies": horse riding and water rafting (which we never tried before).

After a "hotel room made" lunch (plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable shops here!) we started our 3 hour horse ride. We initially expected it to be more of a slow ride given it is close to the mountains, but were very happy to find out its all sand paths along forrests and farms. Even though we were in a group of 6 (including 2 children) the guide was happy to allow us to gallop alone and follow our own speeds.

We had a "close miss" experience of the "photographic" type. As we were galloping along one of the first paths testing our horses, the camera slipped out of Marcos hip carrier. We only noticed about 10 minutes later. The guide told us to take our time to look for it and he would continue with the rest of the group.

We looked around for about 15 minutes and "allas" it appeared in a grass patch. It was working perfectly just a close miss...

Obviously the above meant that we spent the rest of the 2 hours riding on our own along different paths. A great time.

Prices also make it good:
- 3 hours riding for $55 pesos (11 euro) per person
- 16 kms rafting for $55 pesos per person

Tonight we are doing another of our experimental "hotel cooking" experiences. We are aiming at "Pasta alle Andes" with Menoza wine (Los Haroldos 2006 red Cabernet S).

Later we will probably pop over to the bar called "Tibet" which is covered in photographs of "7 years in Tibet"  with Brad Pitt as Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China's takeover of Tibet. We dont recommend the film, but we do where it was filmed!

That depends on the film schedule on the Satellite channel tonight (given we have "el vino") at the room restaurant.

On the Local News
A couple of interesting points in the Argentinian press

- The government is getting very bad press for changing they way they are going to measure the Increase of Prices Index. Up to now all basic foods were included independently of how much they increased. But the new index eliminates any product that increases more than 15 its price. The government has stated that if a product increases more than 15% then consumers stop buying it an buy another. So they will then select a cheaper one for the index.

As a result the Price Index for Argentina in January has passed from 0,9% increase (old method) to 0,4% with the new one.

All the experts are stating that its going to destroy confidence in Argentinian statistics (if there ever was) and that the market is going to increase its prices in any case to make sure they keep up with the real prices and not the government ones.

A direct effect will be on salary increases which are mainly based on the Price Index. If the government states that the prices have only increased 0,4% then that will be the salary increase in most cases, when in reality the shopping basket costs 0,9% more.

As a cartoon strip stated in "Clarin" (Prices are going up in the lift, salaries up the stairs)

- A big fire today in Buenos Aires has affected the restaurant "La Chacra". If you read our travelpod for the first night in Buenos Aires...that is where we had our dinner! It was a classic. Apparently there was a large explosion.

- Bolivia has informed Argentina that they will not be able to comply with the Argentinian gas needs this coming winter. This will affect industries in Argentina who are planning to buy their own petrol run equipment or similar machinery to be able to continue production. Apparently there was already a shortage last year which affected production considerably. Cristina Fernandez (the Presdient) said no one should exaggerate and that everything will be OK.

The cartoon on the Clarin was quite good. A guy was laughing and saying "Bolivia and Brasil are not going to give us the gas we need". The other guy says "so why are you laughing?". He replies "because we wont give Chile the gas that they need"!

Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile all need more energy sources (gas, oil, whatever). This had lead Argentina to reach agreements with Mr Evil himself , Chavez of Venezuela for oil. Argentina will send food and Venezuela oil.

Notes for other travellers

- Bus to Uspallata leaves central station every 2 hours approx and is $16 pesos
- Hotel Portico del Valle: $120 pesos per night with bath and breakfast. They were supposed to charge $150 due to high season but they seem to be struggling with end of season
- Horse rides are good for scenery but take pading for your backside! Their seats are very, very basic. Cant imagine how painful the 6 hour ride can be!
- Rafting and riding (and bikes) good prices at Pizarro Expediciones. In front of the bus station and next to camping.
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