A Travellerspoint blog

Wine, wine, wine- Mendoza


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Day 29- Monday 1.4.13
Mendoza
It rained most of the night. Heavy thunder storms.
Arrive in Mendoza at 7.30 am, have a coffee at the station. Head to our first true hostel! Chilling out in the breakfast room until our room is ready. The longer we wait the more tired we are getting! I need a bed!
Our room is ready within a couple of hours which is good. We go for a snooze. 4 hours later we wake up. Must have got no sleep on that bus at all.
Head out for dinner and wander round town. It feels very busy in comparison to where we have come from, almost too touristy. Nice local market in main square. Has started to feel cold- autumn is in the air!

Day 30- Tuesday 2.4.13
Mendoza
A chilly day in Mendoza. We were going to do bike tour but it is pretty overcast and rainy today so put it off til Thursday.
Put in another load of washing for collection tomorrow- could get used to this!
Head to museums in town, but as it is national holiday today a lot of things are shut! Have done lunch and a siesta. Now heading back to museum, nice small museum with local artist Maria Fraxedas.
Dinner and bed.
We feel like we have walked round and round Mendoza city! Looking forward to getting out in the mountains tomorrow.

Day 31- Wednesday 3.4.13
Mendoza
Heading out of town to see the mountains today.

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Got picked up early and a long drive to first stop, a small town outside Mendoza, Uspallata, for a tea stop. Then head further into the mountains. Past an artificial lake with a dam that controls Mendoza's water supply and on to Pellchata river (clear water) which has an ancient bridge over the river.

Pellchata river

Pellchata river

We see the entrance of Parque Provencial Aconcagua and the top of Alta Montana- highest peak in the Andes. On to Puente del Inca- a natural phenomenon- a bridge created from mineral deposits in a petrification process. Never seen anything like it.

Puente del Inca

Puente del Inca

Then on to see the statue of Christ the Redeemer of the Andes. A monument on the border of Agentina and Chile up in the Andes. We drive up this very steep hill and the bus we were in stalled at one point. Weren't sure we were going to make it too the top or back to Mendoza. Lovely scenery of the Andes great weather again. Long drive back to Mendoza, great to see the scenery outside the city.

crazy road

crazy road

Back to the hostel and go to the Mercardo Central where there are lots of good quality value for money food. It has been shut the last few nights for holidays. Laurence had his first Chori Pan- sausage in a bun!!! We have been trying to get one for the last week. Apparently it was worth the wait! Back to the hostel to chill with a beer.

Day 32- Thursday 4.4.13
Mendoza
Bike and wine tour!
Got picked up and taken to Maipu, just outside Mendoza. Bikes and Wine waiting for our arrival with a map. We head off into the vineyards on a blazing hot day.

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First vineyard was shut, then headed to a lovely one for lunch. Mavi, beautiful setting, lunch and wine tasting.
Then to the next one up the road where there was a self tour, again lovely setting. Then head back to where the bikes were hired for a few vineyards nearer there before we had to hand the bike back in.

Wine tasting

Wine tasting


Wine tasting

Wine tasting



The wine museum we decided to go to didn't have a tour and the people where quite rude there not serving us at all, headed to the one next door which was shut! Then went to a brandy/ grappa distiller and had some great tasting brandy- usually I do not like it at all, but very nice.
Head back to hand in the bikes as running late to discover we missed the bus! Waited around for 10 mins and then saw a couple of guys who where on our bus in the morning - they had missed the bus too. Then realised that all the people on our bus were still around and everyone had missed the bus! Had to wait another 15 mins before one turned up. Got back ok. Some of the people on the wine tour were in a rather bad state getting back on the bus, Laurence and I felt pretty good.
Headed to local market for dinner again and back to pack for Santiago tomorrow!

We have loved our time in Argentina and sad to say goodbye to our first country. We have met some amazing people and had great experiences, and will hopefully be back in the north on our way back round to Brazil later on in our travels.

Posted by Ford and Bates 17:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Our favourite place- Alta Gracia


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Day 26- Friday 29.3.13
Cordoba/ Alta Gracia
A bit worried as to whether or not we can get to Alta Gracia (which was recommended by Hugo). Guide books are saying different things of where to get buses from. We make it to the local bus station ok. Lots of people all a bit confusing. Find the company that goes to Alta Gracia and buy 2 tickets. No problem. Bus time was 10.12 and it was 10.15- learning that times are a bit more flexible here. Find the stand and about 2 mins later bus arrives. Bus took about 45 mins and cost £1!!! (That will help with the budget)
Arrive in very hot Alta Gracia.
First time carrying everything for longer than 10 mins walk. Need to ditch some stuff, way too heavy!

still too much stuff

still too much stuff

Find a nice cafe for refreshments and look at tourist information.
Head to our b&b. It is lovely, really lucked out on this one. Then out to the museums in town for the afternoon.
Che house
Manueline de Fallen- composer
Gabriel Dubois- sculptor/ artist
All lived in Alta Gracia at some point of their lives.
Very interesting places.

Che's former home

Che's former home

Now it is later in the day the place is really busy. All the kids are out sitting on the central reservations of streets (all are grass, a nice place to sit) drinking mate. Park is heaving with people, families having picnics.
Alta Gracia is our new favourite place :-) We want to live here!
Popped back to b&b, went out for dinner 9pm starting to finally get into the times here. Best food ever- seriously the second best meal we have ever had £30 for 5 courses with wine for both of us! Recommended by Silvia and if anyone ever comes to Alta Gracia you need to go to Alquimia restaurant and meet Chef Maximiliano Buchielle. Amazing!

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Day 27- Saturday 30.3.13
Another hot day in Alta Gracia.
We do a trip with Turismo Aventura run by a brother and sister (again recommended by Silvia), to the observatory near Alta Gracia in Falda del Carmen. Lovely country side, amazing views up to into the hills. Great observatory. Back for lunchtime.
Head out to try and get tickets for the theatre that is happening tonight. Box office shut, restaurant where you can also get tickets shut- will have to try again later.
Back to b&b for Silvia to take photos of us for her web page. Ilovealtagracia.com.ar
There are lots of painted donkeys in town to celebrate the 425th anniversary of Estancia Jesuitica. Visit the web page and try and find which burro we are next to.

The burros (donkeys) are in town

The burros (donkeys) are in town

Spent a lovely couple of hours with the other guests at the b&b Silvina and Raul, drinking mate in the courtyard and chatting away. Could get used to this.
Managed to buy tickets for the opera at the Mexican restaurant.
Back to the b&b where Silvia has some friends round. She invites us to join her for a lovely home made mojito.
Opera due to start at 9.30 pm- arrive and settle into our seats. Great show. A medley of different songs from different operas. Very good standard, and at the end some traditional Spanish songs and the whole audience joins in. Finishing with a rendition of 'my way' (Frank Sinatra) in Spanish. A great night.
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Day 28- Sunday 31.3.13
Alta Gracia/ Cordoba
Checking out today :-( we want to stay!
Say our goodbyes. Luckily Silvia has said we can leave our bags at the b&b. Get our picture with Silvina and Raul and Indiana Jones (Silvia's lovely dog) for her internet page. Then head to Internet cafe to get our bus tickets printed off. On to the bus station to find out busses for the day to Cordoba as it is Easter. Buy our ticket for 6pm bus and then head to Guta Virgin de Loudes. A small chapel that has had a miracle occur- the stature of the Virgin Mary was moved for cleaning and a figure has appeared on the wall. Very interesting to see, but I am a bit sceptical about these things.
Pop for lunch and head back to b&b for a cuppa and change of clothes for our bus into Cordoba.
We have a cuppa with Silvia and then start to go for our 6pm bus. Silvia gives us a lift to the bus station in her amazing jeep (1940's USA army jeep) to change our tickets to a later time and head off to friends of hers Bill and Maria, who are having a great family Easter celebration. How lovely. We have a drink and some cake and some mate! Singing and guitar playing- traditional folk tunes, how great to experience such an Argentinian family celebration. We all sing Beatles renditions! And Bill sings a Johnny Cash song '16 tons'. Amazing!

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A family Easter

A family Easter

Then head back to bus station in the jeep. We get the bus with a lovely young couple who say they will make sure we get to bus station ok. Arrive no problem, find where our bus is going from and wait for it to turn up. Much nicer day than hanging out in Cordoba for a day with bags and all.
Feel like a true traveller now, pretty much everyone on the night bus is backpacking!!!
Our bus is better than some business class flights I have been on! (The one that comes to mind was an Air Sri Lanka flight after a crazy India/Sri Lanka trip- those who were on it will know the one I mean- T58!!!) We booked a Cama suite for our first night bus. Fully reclining chair, own tv, snack food (hot), wine, blanket, pillow! Very nice, not a great night sleep but manage to doze off.

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We really like Alta Gracia and don't really want to leave, I am sure we we have many love affairs with places but this definitely has a place in our hearts!
Silva's hospitality has been fantastic and we definitely want to return again.

Posted by Ford and Bates 17:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

On the road- Cordoba


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Apologies in the delay of these blogs- it has been waiting for its guest editor to do day 24, worth the wait :-)

Day 24- Wednesday 27.3.13
BA/ Cordoba
Route 9
We found our bus!!!
Got to the bus station crazy early, found out from bus company that it was going from stand 52-66
Waited, waited, waited! Our bus was due to leave at 7.30.
7.25 came and no sign of it. We are starting to get a bit anxious. At 7.30 on the dot the board states gate 56- no rush at leaving on time- left at 7.45. At least we got it ok.
11 and a half hours later!!! Arrive in Cordoba. Although the bus was a "Cama" the most basic you can get, it was still 10 times better than our Iberia flight. Argentina know how to do buses. Had Lincoln dubbed in Spanish in the afternoon for entertainment which was interesting. But a long day of very flat country- a lot of farm land not much to see. Stopped at lots of small bus stations along the way in very small towns. Lost count of how many!

Laurence asleep

Laurence asleep

one of the many bus stations

one of the many bus stations

I now hand you over to guest editor
Laurence.....
Medical emergency no. 1-

We have embarked on our first long distance bus journey from Buenos Aries to Cordoba. The bus is a large coach and we have booked cama seats. They remind me of lazy boy bachelor apartment chairs that recline.

Two hours into the 10 hour journey I decide to kill the time by chomping some Argentinian "starburst" sweets we have with us. A few seconds into my first one something very hard stops me mid chew. To my horror I discover this object to be a gold cap from one of my teeth. Panicking a little at the now exposed gaping hole in my tooth, we wrap my cap in some tissue and safely tuck it in Helen's purse. For The next 10 hours of the bus journey I do not eat, keep rinsing my mouth by drinking water and have to visit the buses tiny loo on many occasions due to excessive amount of liquid drinking.

We finally make it to the bus station in Cordoba at about 9pm and we quickly find a taxi to take us to the hotel we have pre booked. Arriving at our hotel we discover when checking in that the 2 chaps manning the reception speak no English. Using the translator on my iPhone, google translate on the reception computer and some comedy hand gestures I managed to explain the situation with my tooth to the gents. To my horror we find out that due to Easter the next six days will be bank holidays, Thursday through to Tuesday. During this time none of the dentists in Cordoba will be open. I think the guys could see this was quite a worrying prospect for me and stared to ring up dentists in the local area. It was past 9:30pm by this point and I was not holding much hope of finding a dentist who would still be open. To my surprise the nice reception chap informs me that a dentist will open for me if we can go now. After receiving a map with a nice x on it showing the dentists address we set off out into the streets of Cordoba.
A few blocks away we arrive at the address to find what looks like a residential block of flats complete with an entry intercom. After pressing the buzzer a lady's voice greets us in Spanish. Once I stated my name the electronic door popped open and we stepped into a reception area. A lady appeared from a door in this area and announced her name was Marcela along with a greeting in Spanish. She looked like a dentist as she was dressed in one of those matching sets of blue overalls that doctors wear in hospitals.

Marcela then showed us through another door in the reception which revealed a clean room with medical looking cupboards, bin, sink and a dentistry chair complete with light on an extended arm. It became apparent very quickly that this would be no normal trip to the dentist due to the fact neither party spoke the others native language. Knowing this was potentially the only shot at fixing my dental issues for 6 days I initiated my back up translator plan.

I fished out my iPhone from my rucksack and frantically typed out a message in English which an app I had translated into Spanish and spoke out loud. The iPhone voice that spoke in Spanish sounded like a sat nab giving you directions but to my surprise Marcela looked a bit shocked but understood what I was trying to convey regarding my dilemma. Over the next few minutes my phone went back and forth between myself and Marcela, each typing questions and answers in their respective English or Spanish. This was a very surreal situation. It reminded me of an episode of Star Trek when the crew of enterprise would make first contact with a new intergalactic species and would need their universal translator in order to decipher their language. I was very happy when Marcela asked me to sit in her dentist chair and said she could glue my gold cap back in. As I sat patiently while being treated Helen took up communications duties on my iPhone.

Marcela asked where we were from and when we said London she asked us if we liked the queen. We said we thought she was very nice but we did not know her personally! It then transpired that Marcela was quite a fan of the royal family. She described with great emotion her personal sadness when princess Diana died. She was so touched by this event that she named her first daughter Diana after her. She then started asking about William and Kate the new princess and the up and coming baby! By this point Marcela had reset my filling. Relieved I thanked Marcela for opening up her surgery for me at such short notice and at a very late time of day. At a bargin £30! Before leaving Marcela gave me some tips on keeping my filling in for the next few days. She also chatted to us for another 15 mins about being safe and careful travelling. We exchanged e-mails so Helen could be friends with her on Facebook! Still need to e-mail her.
What a relief to get my tooth sorted. We had to gonfor a celebratory drink.
Thankfully, touch wood my tooth is holding up!

Day 25- Thursday 28.3.13
Cordoba is hot, hot, hot!
hot hot hot!

hot hot hot!



We have a wander to the main square- plaza del San Martine. Lovely buildings and atmosphere, and decide to go on the city bus tour. It was good to see but the lady talked very fast in both Spanish and English and was hard to understand - managed to get a few points of interest.

tour bus

tour bus

Nice veggie lunch from restaurant in 'South America on a shoe string' buffet style. We really need to start budgeting properly!
Then headed to university for a tour of the main building. Which should have had a tour in english at 5 pm, but because it is Easter they have changed the tours and it is now in Spanish, a bit of a mix up we buy tickets only 10 pesos (£1) and think why not (you get too see inside more of the rooms). Great tour. The most we understood was the marble was imported from Italy and some of it was wood painted to look like marble! Better than nothing, but a good way for it to sink in.

Italian marble!!!

Italian marble!!!

We head back to the hotel to change and then head out to bar area that has been highlighted in the guide book. After walking for about 20 mins we decide to go to a different area as the area we were walking in started to look very quiet and a bit dodgy. End up in the right place where there are lots of bars- have drinks and pizza, a nice evening.

Posted by Ford and Bates 17:00 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Back in Buenos Aires


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Day 21- Sunday 24.3.13
Buenos Aires
What a stressful day- booking for Cordoba and Mendoza only just managed Cordoba it took 8 hours - do not go over Easter and if you do, book way in advance. We have had a nightmare sorting it out today. Finally booked somewhere in Cordoba for 2 nights and amazingly a lovely b&b in Alta Gracia just outside Cordoba for 2 nights. Need to do Mendoza tomorrow hopefully it will be easier as now arriving Easter Monday when everyone should be finishing Easter break!!!

Day 22- Monday 25.3.13
Buenos Aires
Another morning at the computer but have booked in record time
Bus from Cordoba to Mendoza
Hotel in Mendoza
Bus from Mendoza to Santiago
Hotel in Santiago
Hooray! Better than yesterday.
Headed into town for a wander.

Now over to Laurence as guest editor.....
Back to exchange money...
So we followed the same advice as before set out by a very nice fellow guest at our hotel called Frank (from Ecuador), to look for a smartly dressed middle aged man at a certain point on Florida street. As our luck would have it he was nowhere to be seen, so we skipped to the lady we met before who seemed to hang out at the entrance of the building of the cambio (money exchange). A few broken words of Spanish decides the denomination of the US dollars we have to exchange and today's appropriate rate for the bills. This turns out to be 8 pesos per dollar, which in turn works out 12 pesos per UK pound. This is far better than the official rate of 7.5 peso per pound that the government sets and the majority of establishments seem to toe the line with.
Once this transaction was agreed the lady ushered us into the foyer of the nearest building. This building looked like a residential block of flats and we were shown to the elevator which was a 2x2 meter old school lift with manual door. We were taken to the top floor where an intimidating metal door faced us. After being buzzed in through the door via an intercom by our chaperone we were surprised to find ourselves in what could be described as a bureau de change, complete with a modern counter and perspex screen which separated us from the two large and intimidating chaps who sat opposite.
Next I approached the counter somewhat sheepishly and counted out my US dollars that I wanted to exchange. I had read about such exchanges on the Internet and knew that all of my American dollars needed to be of the pristine kind with no writing on them! After shuffling these through the tiny slot in the counter that separated us, the other chap that sat to the left of the chap that faced me silently handed him a bundle of pesos for him to slide back to me through the hole in the screen . My instant reaction was to start checking and counting these pesos for their legitimacy! I was quite surprised when both of the chaps spoke in unison and seemed to ask me to leave the establishment, thinking that now was a good time to cut my losses and leave I made for what I found to now be a locked entrance door! Panicking I turned to face the chaps at the counter and realised that they were gesturing us to the seating area 3 meters in front of the counter in order to check my money there. I promptly did as instructed and found all the pesos were correct according to the transaction we had agreed and seemed like legal tender (according to websites I had viewed to establish what the local security methods were in Argentinian currency).
The strangest thing about the process was how the chaps at the counter were happy with the exchange but preferred us to check our money out of sight across the room. This seeming to in force the unofficial nature of this transaction. Once I was ok with with my checks I went to exit via the only door and found we were buzzed out of this by our new aquitences from across the counter. Their reply of "hasta la vista" to my "ciao" was quite interesting!
Feeling relieved we made our way out of the building via the lift. I can only say this now we felt quite unscrupulous but it was very very beneficial, as our pesos would go a lot further :-)

....................

Had a lovely evening with Tessa, meeting at where we stayed the first night of Patagonia trip in town. Hearing her news from Igazu falls and said goodbye. Feels very sad as chapter 1 finishes. Jumped in a cab back to hotel.

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buenos aires colourful subte
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Day 23- Tuesday 26.3.13
Buenos Aires
So how long does it take to post a parcel?
Well by mine and Laurence's standard 4 hours!!!!
Admin day again. We were hoping to chill in Buenos Aires for our last day but no.
Sorted our bags out this morning for tomorrow on the bus and decided to send some things home and a bag my brother leant me which we don't need anymore. So went to the first post office and was told it was too heavy for them to process and had to go to central post office. Got the subte there, found the place, stood in this room for 5 mins and realised it wasn't the right place, found the post area. A lovely lady who spoke no English and on Laurence's phone translator managed to communicate. She then said have I got my passport! Well no I didn't. So we had to go all the way back to the hotel to get my passport and all the way back to post office before it shut at 4pm. We made it there for 3.30- by the time we had filled in everything we needed to it was 7 mins to 4pm, just in the nick of time!!!
Head back to hotel to pick up last of laundry now everything is clean! Checked out as up early tomorrow. Packed our bags, nice local dinner at our favourite place Pan y Arte. We are going to miss Buenos Aires, feel like we could have stayed longer.
All ready for 5.30 start tomorrow! Lets hope we find the bus :-)

Posted by Ford and Bates 10:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Just published Patagonia adventures....

Just published Patagonia adventures and frustratingly the pictures do not have titles, which I have just spent the last hour and half updating!!! Sorry if not clear what pics are, but should be easy to work out from blog!

Posted by Ford and Bates 14:19 Comments (1)

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