Bed bug nightmares, Part II

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, January 11, 2009

A visit to Mendoza should fondly be remembered by its great malbec, endless rows of memorising vineyards, stunning views of the snow capped Andes and great food. When we look back at our visit to Mendoza there will be one more 'little' memory that will haunt us for many years to come. 
After dropping off our rental car in Santiago we hopped onto the metro and made our way to the bus station to catch a five hour bus ride over the Andes and into Argentina. Initially I was not sure whether there was a road winding its way up and over this enormous mountain range or if there were tunnels which cut clean through to the other side. 
We soon found out that it was a combination of both the as the road snaked higher and higher via a set of countless tight hairpin bends. Sitting next to the window gave me a perfect and scary view of the switchbacks below as we climbed up to Paso Libertadores where the boarder was between Chile and Argentina. The views were naturally spectacular and we passed what looked like remains of glaciers creeping down the mountain, gushing waterfalls and beautiful views of snow capped mountains. 
The procedures at the boarder were relatively straight forward as the bus drove into a huge hanger we had to get out and walk from one passport control cabin to the next. Bags were randomly inspected and we were soon on our way. The decent into Argentina was a lot more gentle that then steep climb up the Chilean side but the view were no less spectacular. 
I couldn't help but think this would be an amazing trip to do in your own car as there were countless places I would have pulled over to take photos. The most spectacular of these views was when we got a quick glimpse of Aconcagua in the distance which is the highest peak in the Andes and South America.  
We arrived in Mendoza shortly after 8pm after getting caught-up in the Sunday afternoon traffic and my first thoughts were that this was no little town, but a rather large city. The bus station alone was the size of some of the smaller towns we'd visited on this trip and was heaving with people and traffic. Not being exactly sure how far our hostel was from the bus station we grabbed a taxi and made our way to the hostel where we'd made a reservation for a few nights. The hostel turned out to be only a few blocks away and we probable could have walked the distance in about 15 minutes.
We checked in and were shown to a double room on the ground floor and were given a tour of the property which included a full equipped kitchen, outdoor living area, swimming pool and even a little gym. The hostel also offered many tour and outings in the area and we wasted no time booking a cycle trip through the famous Maipu wine region. After a quick dinner at the local corner restaurant and a full days travelling we were looking forward to a hot shower and a good nights rest, or so we thought anyway.
We only had a ceiling fan in the room so to get a little extra ventilation I opened the windows but kept the shutters closed to allow a little airflow, so the following morning when I woke with an itchy bite on my shoulder I thought I might have let in a few mosquitoes. Still groggy I shuffled to the bathroom to inspect the damage in the mirror and to my horror discovered not one bite but several bite all over my shoulder. I knew immediately that these were not the patterns left by the winged pest but rather something a little creepier.
I went straight back the single bed and searched around hoping I would not find what I was looking for. It didn't take long to confirm my suspicions when I a little critter trying to make a run for it! He was obviously one of the greedier buggers as he was so gorged on my blood that we could hardly move and when I picked him up, he burst into a bloody mess between my fingers. By this time all the commotion had woken Inge-Marie in the other bed and I asked her to pass me a ZipLock bag as I caught the second little bastard trying to get away. With two of the culprits in custody I calmly, even though extremely agitated, left the room to find the manager of the hostel!
The same chap who checked us in the night before, who turned out to be the son of the owners, was still on duty so I tried to explain to him that he had a serious problem on his hands. He did not seem overly concerned or surprised even when I handed him the evidence, exhibit A. He did not apologise but said that they would have the room cleaned and resolve the problem. We packed up our luggage and moved our stuff out of the room as he and I'm guessing his mom started wiping down the room.
Shortly after, the chap brought out a big orange bug spray canister usually used in the garden and a small bottle of poison which is usually mixed with water before being used. When I took looked at the bottle of poison I realised he had not idea of what he was up against. These weren't ants or cockroaches and from the research I'd done after our previous experience in Canada I knew that not just any pesticide will solve this problem. I tried explaining this to him even showing him a web-site describing how to get rid of bedbugs but I could see this was not registering. For his sake I just hoped he had the problem resolved by the time we got back.
We didn't hang around the hostel much longer as we had planned a cycle trip through the wine region south of Mendoza and we hoped this would take our minds of the horror of the previous evening. At this stage Inge-Marie seemed to have no bites on her, further proof that my blood is highly sought-after on the bed bug market. By the time we had left the hostel we started discovering bites popping up every where all accompanied with the worst itch imaginable. It was like I didn't have enough fingers to scratch all the itches and the more you scratched the worse the itching became.
We caught a local bus out to Maipu which was a good few kilometres out of town where we picked up the bicycles we'd rented for the day. We were given a map of the area and shown were the recommended stops were along the route. Due to all the drama at the hostel we got a slightly late start and only really got cycling around lunch time. Therefore our first stop was for lunch and we found a great little place just off the main road which had tables setup under the trees. The restaurant had an award winning tapas platter on offer which was outrageously expensive so we opted for the cyclers menu. Sadly service was slow and the food nothing special and probably would have worked out better if we just spent the extra money on the tapas platter.
Back on our bikes we decided to start with the furthest wine estate and then wind our make our way back to the cycle rental shop. We somehow misjudged the distance on the map and ended up taking a wrong turn and cycling an extra few hours in the wrong direction. As in Chile the maps were not great and road signs not much better or the problem might have been between the saddle and the map.
After correcting our little map misjudgement we changed the plan an set our course for the closest bodega as it was already mid day we need some wine. Our first stop was at a family owned winery called Bodega Familia Di Tommaso which was also one of the oldest in the area. Unlike in Chile many of the wineries in Argentina cater for walk in tourism so we didn't need an appointment and simply waited to join the next tour which of course this came at a small fee of $3, which was about the average.
The tour took us through their antique brick maturation cellars which were had their insides coated in bee's wax to prevent evaporation. The tanks were no longer used and were now kept as a monument to traditional methods used. Some of the tanks were converted into bottle maturation cellars which provided the perfect temperature to age their wines. We concluded the tour with a tasting of a range of their wines and we especially enjoyed a few of their Malbec's.
Sadly due to our late start, long lunch and getting lost we ran out of time as many of the wineries close around 5pm. We headed back to the bicycle shop where the owner of Hugo's Bikes poured us each a few glasses of wine and didn't stop till we told him we had to catch the bus back to town. We had a great afternoon cycling in the wine country and for a few hours it took my mind off the banquette that was happening in the hostel last night. We also realised that one day would not do this massive wine region any justice and we needed to do a little more exploring.

By the time we got back to the hostel bites had appeared all over my body but mostly on my feet, hand and arms. Back at the hostel our room had been washed down and presumably sprayed with pesticide. I was not keen on moving back into the room but we hoped that changing the mattresses and the cleaning was enough to eliminate the culprits, so we'd be able to get a peaceful nights rest.
We prepared ourselves dinner at the hostel, enjoyed a great bottle of wine we'd bought earlier the afternoon and then turned in for the night. Before we got too comfortable I did a quick inspection of the bed and its wooden frame only to discover the blood sucker gang's secret hideout and that they were not surprisingly ALIVE! It seemed that the bugs had nested in holes drilled into the wooden bed frame where the screws held the bed together and each one of the eight holes was filled with bugs.
After spending a day wanting to tear my skin off there was no way I was going spend another night in a room infested with bed bugs. By now it was already 11pm and I wanted a new room! I set off to find whoever was working at the hostel and ran into the guy we spoke to about the problem in the first place.
As calmly as I could I tried showing him the bed frame riddled with bugs and even had a flashlight to point them out. After telling me three times he could not see them I grabbed the bed, flipped it on its side so he could see directly into the holes. His eyes grew to the size of saucers when I flipped the bed over and he was clearly shocked. When he eventually saw what I was pointing out he said he would try and find us another room somewhere else when insisted we would not spend another night in the room!
He went on about how they did the best they could to clean the room and I had no right to be rude to him. When I asked how I was rude to him he picked up the sheets which were lying on the floor and threw a little tantrum and screaming said I should not have flipped the bed and that we should leave immediately all the time shaking like a leaf.
He started insinuation that the bugs might have come from our bags so for his safety we decided to pack our bags and just get out! Only problem was we still had not received our washing that we handed in earlier in the day which was apparently still at his mother house. Our amigo then had no choice but to go to his mother's house wake her up and fetch our washing. While he was away were fortunately able to find a hotel that had a room available and bearing in mind it was now 11:30pm it was not the easiest thing to do.
By the time he arrived back we had already packed up and were waiting outside, ready to leave. By now I'd cooled off and started seeing the humour in his behaviour and when he screeched to a halt outside the hostel and handed Inge-Marie the washing he refused to acknowledge me and idiotically only greeted Inge-Marie. At the end of the day the whole situation was handled badly, if you have a bed bug problem in a hotel or hostel you better be prepared for some hostility. Throwing a tantrum, shaking like a leaf and saying 'its not my fault I only work here' is not going to solve the problem!
What we did not realise was that getting a taxi at that time of the night was not so easy and so decided to walk to the bas station where there would be many taxi's. As we started walking a family also waiting for a taxi warned us not to walk anywhere in the area after dark as armed robberies were common, oh boy! Fortunately two guys from the restaurant across the road kindly walked us the hotel which was only a few blocks away.
We had not seen much of Mendoza but the little we did see we did not like so decided to get out into the country where we would be closer to the vineyards and hopefully forget about our first two disastrous night in town. We managed to find suitably priced cabanas in the Lulunta which was in the southern part of the Maipo region and close to many good wineries. Inge-Marie had a hard time making the booking as the manager spoke very little English and our Spanish was shaky at the best of times, but we did manage to get a cabana and mentioned that we would be arriving by bus so did not need a pick-up.
Just to re-confirm it all we decided to give them a courteous call the following morning and just re-confirm that we didn't need a pick-up and that we'd make our own way there. We found out from the info desk which bus we need to take and were soon on our way. The bus ride was a little over an hour long at took us past some beautiful vineyards before stopping right outside the Cabanas Valle Lunlunta. The resort if I can call it that had about 10 separate cabanas set in a large garden with pool and surrounded by vineyard and olive groves, just were we wanted to be.
We looked around and eventually found the manager who looked a little surprised to see us. He was trying to tell us something in Spanish and we started gathering that he thought, we'd called earlier, to cancel the reservation! We tried telling him that we only called to re-confirm and that we didn't need a pick-up. To cut a long story short it turned out that from the time we left the bus station till we arrived an hour later our cabana was given to someone else. It seemed that the cabana was available the following three night but just not tonight. He was very apologetic and even offered to arrange us some accommodation in town that evening, or that's what we though he was saying and that we could still use all the facilities for the day.
Inge-Marie felt terrible about the mix up and it seemed like everything was going wrong! We hung around the pool for a while, had some lunch and then decided to cancel the reservation, head back to town and start over. We waited at the roadside with all our bags chuckling at our misfortune but upbeat about a fresh start!
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