- Published on Friday, 29 June 2012 20:58
Getting to Mendoza should not have been as trying as it was. Julie and I made plans to take the 11:30pm bus out of Cordoba putting us into Mendoza at 9:30am the following day. We went to the bus terminal and bought tickets. Julie took over (she speaks fluent Spanish) at the ticket counter and apparently the agent said to get on an Andesmar Company bus even though we purchased tickets from MercedSur Bus company. Makes perfect sense, right? This was a slight detail that slipped her mind when 11:45pm arrived and I was still looking for a MercedSur bus wondering where our ride was at. Needless to say we missed our bus. Fortunately we were able to exchange our tickets for the next ride out of town at 6:30am. With seven hours to kill it was another sleepless night in a bus terminal. It wasn't the first time, and it won't be the last time. Eighteen hours after originally trying to leave Cordoba we had arrived. My first full day in Mendoza what I did learn was that it is not all about the wine here.
After finally arriving and getting our accommodation (sweet deal at $36 pesos a night, or $6 USD) we just set out to walk the main square and score some food. Typical of this region we had a solid parrillada grill with all kinds of freshly cooked meats, a basket of bread, and a nice full bodied bottle of Malbec to wash it down with; all for the cost of about $11 a piece. Really my red meat intake is sky high right now, but when living the good life why tone it down?
After dinner we received some good information from the guy working at the hostal. The next morning we set out at an ungodly hour of 5am for a four hour bus ride to the little mountain village of Puente del Inca high in the mighty Andes Mountains. We were dropped off in town to a stunning backdrop of towering peaks all around. We were sitting at about 9,000 ft. of elevation and my body felt good. I was home again, high in the sky. Our real destination was a 3km hike up the road to Parque National Aconcagua where we would then hike an hour further into the mountains. Here rising from the valley cut by prehistoric glaciers the dominating Aconcagua Mountain reigns supreme. At a height of 6962m or 22,841 feet Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the western hemisphere. Only the mountains of the Himalaya are higher. My mind could not make sense of the fact that here I was in June in the high Andes and it was winter, a shock to the system for sure. Fortunately the weather was spectacular as the photos will show. What the photos will not show is just how massive this mountain really is. I've never seen anything like it.
What an awesome hike and an incredible day. I was and still am riding this high. Next on the agenda was an official wine tour. Mendoza is home to Argentina's massive and lucrative wine industry producing some of the finest wines on the planet, namely my favorite the Malbecs. It would be a crime to come here and not book some kind of tour. A crime people. So through the hostal (which I normally would never do) Julie and I arranged to visit several wineries of the region via bicycle with about eight other people from the hostal. The weather in Mendoza down from the mountains was a nice 65 degrees which made the riding very pleasant. The vineyards and scenery were really a sight to behold and the tours were quite informative. I had a really good time cruising the fields and sampling some fine wines. Being winter the grape vines were dormant, but this did not take any beauty away from the experience. By the last winery the bike riding became a little sketchy, but still I escaped without calamity. Nothing but smiles all around.
Mendoza was a really awesome place and it is an experience I will not forget. I was very happy to have had a friend to share it with. However the time had come for Julie and I to split ways. She was headed back to Lima, Peru and I was headed, well I still do not know where. All I know is I have to be in Ecuador by the 9th of August for my flight to New Zealand. Until then I think I'll head west to Chile and then north from there into Bolivia, Peru, and so on. It will and always does work out.
Puente del Inca
A perspective shot at the size of the Andes
The road to Aconcagua from the bus in the lowlands
I bought the finest Malbec money could buy from one of the vineyards. It cost me $17 USD. Back home the guide said this bottle would sell for $90-$120 USD.