|Mendoza: It's pretty tits.|
One of the main reasons I had such a good time there was because of the place I stayed, Hostel Lao. This place is amazing. Everyone who works there are great sorts. The co-owner Mike not only has an excellent name but backs it up by being fun to yarn to and genuinely interested in the wellbeing of his patrons. I would recommend this place to anyone over those ways.
After checking in late in the morning we frittered around for a good while before eventually heading out to the cities park, Parque General San Martin. This place was a little bit on the disappointing side, although there was a little bit of interesting stuff in there. It was good to see some different kinds of trees compared to what we are used to in NZ but there was a pretty serious litter problem. It looked like some riding was on offer in there but none of it much good; we saw some haggard berms and extremely marginal jumps. We walked right through the park, having a look at the big artificial lake and the soccer stadium.
|The monument to the Army of the Andes.|
|The artificial lake.|
We cruised back down and were looking at catching a bus home when we saw a bunch of people on mountain bikes congregating. We had no choice but to roll over and have a yarn (although with my knowledge of Spanish I was purely ornamental). Turns out there are some trails in the area but they aren’t safe to ride alone or in small groups as robberies are common and deaths not unheard of. Our new friends offered us a ride which we took (I know, rides with strangers and all that noise, but mountain bikers are a different breed). On the way it came up that I was after 29er tubes and they said they knew a place that might so took us there even though it was well out of their way. They dropped us there and I got some tubes and we bussed home.
A sidenote on Argentina: there is a severe shortage of coinage. It is extremely difficult to get and should be held onto for as long as humanly possible when acquired (I have lied many times to hold onto precious coinage). The relevance of this is that buses only run on coins and we had fuck all between us (we got some from a supermarket). But yeah, that is one of the many joys and challenges of travelling South America.
Back at the hostel we tucked into some free wines. The night was shaping up to be a big one and didn’t hold back. A good crew of people from the hostel came out and on the way I stopped in at another hostel to collect some English friends I had met in Santiago so we had a big mob of Gringos going large. We hit the place that we had got free pizza from the night before and it was pumping with a good mix of locals and Gringos. The bar was two stories and had several rooms with people crammed into all available space. Long story short, a good time was had. On the way home I got separated from everyone but got walked home by a lovely Argentinian chica and her less than impressed boyfriend. She spoke Englais and worked at another bar in town. She was better to me than I deserved and even gave me a couple of free passes to the club she worked at.
|The solution to most of life's problems can be found in|
If you are ever hungover in Mendoza this is the place to be. We absolutely dominated the art of lounging. The sun was out, the landscape beautiful and there were people to yarn to which made the experience as relaxing as possible. Even the hawks were about and playful. There’s only so long you can lurk in a pool of hot water though and eventually we all reached our limit and went to get the bus home. Again we had missed it resulting in more waiting, this time in the cold in the middle of nowhere. It was grim but we had no choice but to laugh and eat the most atrocious corn-based snacks ever devised. A couple of hours later the bus arrived and we were safely back to Mendoza.
|Not a bad setting to enjoy some|
The next morning when I got up I said goodbye to Dobri, the last of the trailbuilding crew left with me. It was pretty weird to see him go; I had been with these boys constantly for over three months and now they were all elsewhere. It’s a hard feeling to describe, not quite loneliness or anything but not entirely pleasant either.
|My stallion. Charger.|
|Straight from the wall to my mouth.|
After necking as much vino as we could get away with it was on to the third winery which was an absolute mission to find. Eventually we got there and they got straight to the point with some samples. A tour followed, although the place was easily the most run down of the wineries visited and the guide spoke Spanish so my comprehension was zero. The last winery was an organic one and the highlight of the tour. We got to sample wines straight out of the fermentation tanks and directly from the barrel which was choice, it was interesting to taste the different stages and the finished product. The owner was also a pretty talented artist and had some very interesting pieces on the walls. When the tour came to an end it was kind of late so the owner invited us to stay for a while and help drink the opened bottles. We also got into a small barrel of what I thought was wine but which I was later informed was port (I was somewhat marinated at the time). This was good stuff, sweet with a kick. All too soon the bike rental place arrived looking for us so we returned the bikes and went back to the hostel.
|Stupidly good sandwich.|
Inside the bar was pretty spacious and had a two-level stage which was currently being filled by a local Reggae-ish band that I thought were pretty good. My saviour from two nights past was there working and hooked me up free drinks too which was pleasant bonus. We swayed to the music for a while then headed back to the hostel soon after the gig ended where a couple of us ended up falling asleep on the couch.
One of the excellent hostel staff woke me early in the morning and I grabbed a couple hours bunk time before heading back to the couch for some A-grade self-pity time. I was planning on getting a reasonably early bus to Buenos Aires but was too sackish. Late in the afternoon the junior rugby world cup final came on so I hung around to cheer on the junior All Blacks. Of course, we beat English but it was an interesting game and tight at the finish.
I had no more excuses so headed to the bus station, bici in tow. One of the reasons I had put off leaving so long was a worry about getting the Niner onto the bus. In the end it turned out to be simple, mostly because I had my new English friends with me and they provided service as translation and temporary money-lenders. I said goodbye to them and then after an hours wait and a bribe to the bus packer (damn bike) I was on the way to BA.
Mendoza was an awesome time and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone in the area. There’s a whole lot there I’d love to do if I had the time and if I have any spare time at the end it’s likely I’ll be back. Mike the hostel co-owner had told me that he’d ended up there for six odd years now and I could easily see how you could get sidetracked there for that long, between the good wine, relaxed atmosphere and shockingly beautiful women.
|Mendoza from the lookout.|