The flight to Mendoza was uneventful and quick. I was excited to be there as I would get to watch the Avengers with Juan and I felt I was loaded up with tips and knew what I was going to do. Although the whole experience was completely different to what I expected it was enjoyable and painful none the less. Mendoza was my last stop in Argentina and I was sad to leave. It’s actually crazy to think that I’d already coved more distance in Argentina than I will on the rest of the trip if you draw a straight line between Salta and Ushuaia and then north.
When I arrived at the airport I realised I hadn’t researched how to get a bus properly so after a quick Google I opted to take a taxi. It hardly broke the bank but this is the first time I have been scared in a cab. The second would happen in a few days. I think the drivers are just crazy in Mendoza. There were no seatbelts and at one point the driver ran out of fuel and limped into the gas station. It was so close he didn’t quite get to the pump. It was here I wondered if I’d make it but to his credit I received a discount and he helped me with my bags to the hostel.
The hostel staff were really friendly on arrival and couldn’t be more helpful but I took an instant dislike to the room. I went cheap in Mendoza to save cash but also because the hostel had a good raining but I’m a little old for the complete backpacker vibe, everyone seemed so young, the room was cramped and the beds terrible. I even met my first gap year kids. Everyone in the hostel seemed to be English and actually everyone was really nice but I booked a new hostel that night out of town on Juan’s advice.
I arrived late so sorted myself with food and settled down to plan all the things that I wanted to do and ran into problems. In Patagonia all the trees are well walked, marked on maps and blogged about by many people. I knew that the biggest mountain outside of Asia was here and wanted to see it and I was desperate to see the mountains again. The weather would help to conspire against me. I went to bed late confused and tired. I had done a lot that week and hadn’t caught up with the partying in Uruguay, which wasn’t helped by the worlds loudest snorer, did I mention her, int the hostel in Montivideo. I awoke tired and confused and knowing I had to get to the bus station fairly early to achieve and hikes I decided to have a rest day.
After around 11am after speaking to the hostel staff I decided to do the Cerró Arco which is a short hike and once you get to the top of the mountain you are rewarded with views of Mendoza. I was told exactly what bus to get but was still a little nervous. I had a road on the map to follow and when I got off the bus two Argentinians left ahead of me. The driver pointed them in the direction of an unmarked trail and I followed at a safe distance but was glad to have them especially as the not entirely friendly pack of dogs decided to say hello.
After around 1km the road passed through a cat park and there was a cafe so I knew I was on a well walked party. I overtook the couple and saw other hikers. Soon the path tool a steep turn uphill and would remain going uphill for the duration of the trek.
Halfway up the hill the guy from the couple caught up with me and I discovered they were friends. I stopped to take pictures and he carried on. As I stated to reach the top it became more obvious that there was not going to be much of a view today as I hiked into a cloud.
So this is the view from the top. I caught up with my new friend and he shared some food with me. We chatted for a while but it stared to rain so my gutted came in handy again and I headed back down.
I caught the bus fairly easily but for some reason when I got to the hostel I felt really lonely and pretty anxious. I know it takes time to meet people and my rational self told me this but I think the tiredness had me feeling overwhelmed and I missed the new friends I had just made-it is hard moving on all the time. I decided to go have an ice cream to calm down and signed up to the Asado in the hostel that night.
There was a big group of Brits who all seemed to lone each other and I was anxious to join them but was saved when Laura, from my room came down, and took us over to join everyone. She is the the first Spanish person I have meg here and set about teaching me done new things. I know have one Spanish joke that I do not understand. But it’s not rude.
The asado was good fun and I met lots of people, sadly they were all moving on the next day. After the BBQ the raggaton came on and we danced with the hostel staff into the night. I decided to go to bed at 2am because I wanted to be alive for Jaun the next day but I was happy to stay up.
Checkout was at 10 so I met a lot tired and hungover people at breakfast. I was invited on one of the hikes I wanted to do but had to decline. I was really reluctant to go to the next hostel. It was 17km our if town and I thought a taxi would be expensive but Google told me I’d need to get two busses and it would take two hours. Again I was still tired and if lost my confidence and I really didn’t want to go. Mostly because I didn’t want to spend hours on a bus only to end up in the outskirts of Mendoza with no real way of asking anyone where to go. But I forced myself to go and get on the bus. It went smoothly and my second bus shows up but stared taking a different route to what I had been shown so I got off and walked the final 3km to the hostel. I soon found out there was a direct bus that stopped right outside.
There was no one to greet me at the hostel and luckily one of the guests, Camilla spotted me. She is travelling with her friend Line and it turns out I had been on the same boat trip as them in Ushuaia. It also turned out that there was a party in the hostel that night but we will come to that later.
Before the party I was meeting up with Juan to watch the Avengers. We went to a brand new cinema and had the most expensive seats in the house which had electronic foot rests. Luckily for me thy show English films in Argentina with subtitles. It’s kinda funny to think that many countries only see the the dubbed versions as back home if I see a non English language movie it always has subtitles. I won’t go into a massive review of the film but it was enjoyable and afterwards we had icecream.
Back at the hostel I met the American girls who were staying and treated myself to a pizza which I ate as everyone got ready for the party. So the the owner of the hostel has eccentric taste as you will be able to see in the photos below and the most creepy thing is the horror mannequins that are often in the bathrooms but were moved around the hostel at random. So you would open the door to the toilet and behind it would be a mannequin, but you would jump thinking it was a person-especially in the dark. He was not bear pleased when we moved them into his room at 4am as payback. Some people can’t take their own jokes. Also at the hostel is a pool and a big area for people to socialise. I suspect in high season it is great because it is so far from town and other than a scattering of restaurants along the main road there is really nowhere for people to go. Lastly he has a clutch of animals including a dog, cat, sheep, horse, llama, goose and two rabbits. All of which are chased by the friendly but huge Alsatian.
The party was good fun and I mostly hung out with the English speakers until 5am. Somehow I was awake enough to have breakfast at 10am and so say goodbye to everyone and found myself in the hostel alone. My bed was really comfy and quite private in the dorm so I decided to have a quite day and watch Netflix. I also decided to challenge myself with Spanish so said yes to everyone on Tinder to see what conservations I could have. 14 matches later and a lot of Google translating I ended up having a long conservation with Ximena who suggested meeting up. I agreed as I have to say yes and I met her and a friend in the centre of Mendoza, which meant I had to get a taxi in and out again. I arrived 10minutes early and true to Latin America they arrived around 25 minutes late. The language barrier was difficult at first but we found a happy medium with them mostly speaking English and I had my first Lomo. After dinner they took me on a tour of town which was interesting as it was midnight by this point and everything was dark and closed.
They got me a taxi around 2am and he drove like a crazy man back to the hostel. About halfway along the freeway there was a huge bang. I looked up confused and the car bonnet had flipped up and was now against the windscreen. This was the second time I was scared to be in a taxi but at 2am on a motorway there was little I could do. I watched the driver force it closed and we continued. I went to bed straight away and didn’t think about it again.
I woke up the next day to the worlds worst breakfast and a deserted hostel. I got the sense that they were desperate for me to leave. I had been trying to decide if I should switch hostels back to town or stay here where it was at least quiet and really comfortable but after the state of breakfast I decided to leave. They really couldn’t care less after the girls had left. I asked to leave my bags as I was due to visit Lamadrid which is the winery where Juan’s father worked. I enquiries about a bike and turned it down after the rental price and decided to walk instead.
Promptly I walked the wrong way out of the hostel and only realised after I felt I was marking good progress after I had walked more than a kilometre. After 30minutes I’d walking I was back at my starting point. This time I walked the right way and I was treated to blue skies which allowed me to see the mountains for the first time, but only briefly.
I followed Google’s suggestion alone a small road which is where I took all the photos below. It was a nice picturesque walk until I turned a corner and saw a dog sleeping. The dogs in Mendoza are very barky and had already freaked me out so I took a wide birth hoping he wouldn’t wake up. He did and soon I had three dogs aggressively barking and growling at me. It wasn’t possible to turn around so I avoided looking at them and kept walking slowly. Eventually they retreated and I think I was lucky not to have been bitten. It was now that I realised I was in the middle of. An orchard. I looked at the map and Google confirmed I was off the road. I wondered how I had been so stupid as to leave the road and end up in a farm. No wonder the dogs were aggressive. I didn’t want to walk back past them so I climbed over fences and walked through fields until I found the road again. On the way back I would find out I didn’t make a mistake and that the roads on Google Maps are wrong.
I arrived at lamadrid safe and sound for the wine tour. I asked for Gustavo, Juan’s father, and we Las led into a really grand room. He came to meet me and brought along my guide, I forget his name, and I was given a personal tour of the facility. After I was given the opportunity to taste some wines. It was really nice of them to give me this tour and the wines were delicious but drinking is always more fun with others and I kicked myself for not sorting a proper wine tour-on the way to Santigo and in Santiago I met people who would give me advice on how to do this so maybe I’ll go back and try Mendoza wine again.
I decided to walk back the same way. A few more wineries had been suggested for me to visit but on foot it was a challenge and I wanted to get into town and get some lunch. The dogs barking in the farms did freak me out a little bit other than dark clouds appearing it was uneventful.
I arrived back at the hostel to get my bags and take some photos that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do in previous days but it was obvious they wanted me to leave so I took what I could and headed to the busy stop.
The journey into town was easy and after I had left I had a message from my friend Louise that she had an accident on her bike and was staying in Mendoza for a night. And this is where confidences happen. As soon as I got to the hostel I was trying to set up WIFI and as I was taken to the dorm guess who was sitting on the bed opposite. So it turns out she was leaving town and a woman walked in front of her bike as she was not looking. The back wheel of the bike broke the ladies ankle and Louise, from Scotland, was thrown off the bike. Luckily she was okay but the shock of the incident as well as having to deal with all the witnesses and police speaking Spanish was a challenge. We talked a long time and then asked reception for recommendations so went to a local restaurant and had a bottle of wine for 80pesos. I ordered my first Milanesas.
On the way back to the hostel we decided to stop for ice cream and both went for three scoops over my usual two. It was nearly closing time and guy serving delighted in giving us the biggest ice-cream he could fit on to a cone. There were about as big as our heads, it was ridiculous but we stood up to the challenge and ate the lot!
The following day Louise continued her journey and I had a date with Potrerillos, as suggested by Camila. I arrived at the bus station, brought my ticket. Killed an hour waiting in the wrong place and nearly missed the bus. I was happy to see lots of other tourists on the bus and thought they were all going where I was about to. I was very wrong. Now normally if you are a little unsure what to do the best thing is to follow everyone else. Mum will testify to that won’t you? Anyways I got off the bus 10km early and found myself in the wrong place. I found out later it was a town with hot springs I didn’t know about but unless I was planning on going in naked then it wouldn’t have been any us and I don’t like putting people through that. I very quickly realised it was wrong and I ran back to the bus which had already left. The next bust was another 2 1/2 hours away and I grumpily explores the town, but not enough as again later I found out there were some short hikes I could have tried to kill the time. Instead I decided to hike up the road, getting many strange looks from cars until I hit a point of no return.
You can see in one of the photos below the steep climb and I decided it wasn’t safe to hike that so walked back to town, brought a coke and banged out the Uruguay blog post.
The bus did in fact arrive on time. I got on and somehow explained to The the bus driver my little issue and on I went. The driver then stopped at a place that didn’t look like a bus stop and told me we had arrived. I got out and was in a very small town with no other tourists, or in fact, anything all being open. I headed down to the lake which was beautiful but annoyingly the mountainsides in cloud cover. However as you can see below the colours of the trees made up for this spectacularly.
I wondered around the lake for a few I’m until I realised that there were no other human sounds. I was completely alone, not even any scary dogs. And as this was not a trail that many people seemed to walk at this time of year I was a little concerned. I continued for a while but then for safety’s sake I headed bank into town.
I arrived in the centre of town and found a path on the map that I could do but after yesterday’s adventures I decided that the map might be wrong so decided to explore it form the end. This wouldn’t give me enough time to walk the whole thing but at least I would make the bus. Luckily I couldn’t access the path from the side I tried which means I would have been stuck on the other side and missed the bus back. See kids I am learning! Instead I walked around and read my book.
I asked a man about the bus stop and it turns out he lived in Florida for years so we had a nice conservation. The bus came, I got on and the sun started clearing the cloud. I snapped these in the way back.
It was now time for my final dinner in Argentina and I had 200 pesos to spend. I headed back to the local place from the night before and ordered Lomo but I played around wit the ingredients and had chicken instead of beef. It was massive and delicious and I didn’t need that much food. I went back to the hostel to have an early night as I left for Santigo early the next morning.