Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wine, Llama Spit, and Police Escorts: Living it up in Mendoza

Mendoza, Argentina

Main Plaza in Mendoza City
Besides the month we spent in Buenos Aires where we rented an apartment, P and I have been roughing it in hostels.  Hostels run about $30-50/night.  To me, a hostel is basically a hotel with a couple of differences. 

Hostels have....
1. No TV in your room
2. No A/C
3. Thin Walls so you can hear what is happening in every room in the building
4. 21 year olds who make you mad because they are loud and because they are young
5. A floor
6. A ceiling
7. 4 walls
8. Wireless Internet access

We've had good luck with hostels.  P's done all the bookings, and she researches every place very thoroughly.  "Hey P, you haven't booked us a shitty hostel yet, " says I. 

You know when a TV announcer says during a football game, "......and the field goal kicker is a perfect 17 for his last 17 attempts.  He just doesn't miss!"  Yeah, you know where this is going.  Pauline shanked it...

The next hostel we stayed at was miserable.  Our room literally smelled like open ass.  Our kitchen was, in my estimation, the "place to see and be seen" if you were a fruit fly.  After 2 nights, we had to get out.  Our marriage was at stake. 

Sosahaus - Hell on Earth (the little black specks in right hand picture are fruit flys)

To help us forget, we decided to splurge on the next place.

It was about 20 kilometers outside the city, located in a vineyard.  A vineyard is basically a magical place where everything is pretty and the people that work there pretend that drinking lots of free wine is an art form and is not a sign of alcoholism.
Club Tapiz - Heaven on Earth

My favorite day went like this:

  • Woke up and immediately went to a wine tour
We helped harvest grapes first
  • Drank lots of free wine at wine tour
We tasted wine at every stage in the fermentation process
  • Took a nap
Lounging by the grape vines

  • Woke up to the sound of the maid bringing us a free bottle of wine
  • Swam with llamas
  • Fed llamas.  Seconds later a llama spits in Pauline's face (llama's barfing on people's faces is pretty sweet)
We took way too many pictures of the llamas (middle bottom shows llama spit on Pauline)

  • Went to a free wine tasting
  • Went to dinner in the winery (guidebook said it was the best restaurant in Mendoza), and ate the best steak of my life

Mendoza is either not safe at all, or it is safe and they really, really, really want to keep it that way.  The first day we arrived, we asked the concierge which other wineries were close by.  Most wineries were closed, because it was Sunday.  One was open, about a 25 minute bike ride away.  Our hotel provided us bikes and off we went.  As we rode by the guards stationed at the exit, they waved us over.  They inquired to the whereabouts of our little adventure.

"We are going to bike to the winery down the road!," P and I exclaimed in unison.

"Sounds like fun," said the guard.  "I'll just call the tourist police and tell them you are leaving.  Have fun you two!"  Note: All of this was in Spanish so this is only what we think he said. 

Within roughly 2 minutes of biking down the road, a cop car going the opposite direction passes us, and does a U-town.  The cops are tailing us (although at a distance).  P and I come to the intersection where we need to turn.  We do so, and find ourselves in a very not so urban part of Argentina.  After a while, it appeared that we might have made a wrong turn so we stopped and consulted our map. The cops flashed their lights and pulled up next to us.  Both of them got out of the car, walked purposely up to us with disdain on their faces, and proceeded to show us very politely where we made the wrong turn and showed us which streets to take to get to the winery.

I didn't remember at all where the cops said to go because even though I wasn't doing anything wrong, I'm always nervous around cops, so I wasn't listening to what they were saying, I was just concentrating on not being arrested.  Also they were speaking in Spanish.  So P and I are constantly turning and we'll hear a BEEPBEEP.  We stop, look back, and the cops are pointing which direction we should go.  Oh yeah, this entire time, the locals are sitting on their porch looking at us, probably thinking, "so this is where my tax dollars go."  Finally, fed up with the stupid Americanos, they pull ahead of us so we could follow them the remainder of the way.

Our police escort

So we get to the winery, take the tour and drink some free wine.

The tour concludes.  We get on our bikes, exit the winery, and lo and behold, a different cop car is waiting for us, following us all the way back to our winery. Needless to say, we didn't take any more wine tours by bike...

Images of Mendoza

Money Can't Buy Me Fish

 Bariloche, Argentina

They say money can buy you anything you want...I have single-handedly proven them wrong

After completing some world class hiking it was time to take it easy and do some world class fishing.  Some of the best fly fishing in the world was just a stone's throw's away from our current location in El Chalten...and when i say a stone's throw, the thrower of said stone is either Superman or the Thing.  It was a freaking 30 hour bus ride to get to Bariloche. I was not looking forward to this. Suprisingly, it turned out to be a pretty painless trip (thanks wine!)
Our home for 30 hours

The seats were wide and comfy

We arrive...

Bariloche - the land of lakes and supposedly fish
P and I have fished about 80 times in our lives.  Between the two of us, we have never caught a REAL fish.  We have caught roughly 50 baby blue gill, weighing approximately 8 grams combined (yes I have converted to the metric system).

I wanted this streak to end so we hired a guide named Juan.  Juan has been fishing since he was a zygote.  Juan knows all the best fishing spots in northern Patagonia.  Juan is a native to this great land of fishing.  Juan told stories of the tours that he had run in the past; a 10 year old boys catching 15 pound fish within minutes, skillless fishermen like Pauline and I catching 20, even 30 fish in a day.  He further explained that on average, one will catch about ten fish.  He was very nice, professional, and patient, even though I lost about 2 flys per hour.  He taught us all the tricks that the great fisherman of Bariloche have passed down throught the generations. 

We had a guide, a boat, the gear, even the it was time to get the fish!

Putting on my waders

Our fishing outfits

Juan, our guide

We used various flys and a multitude of techniques.

Learning to cast

Casting in the Limay River

Eight hours, and many kilometers of river later, I had caught zero fish.  Juan looked truly sad and disheartend for me, as I handed him a large sum of money.

This story does have a happy ending however.  Although I have now been on planet earth for over 30 years and never caught a proper fish, P, in her 30 years, did manage to catch a beauty!!!  The fish was way bigger than this.  I had to demagnify it in photo shop so it would show up nicely.  It was no less than 35 kilograms.

At least the view was nice...