Nap Time


Mendoza – the city I hadn’t planned to visit but am so glad I did. The picture above pretty much sums my time there. At
the heart of Argentine wine country, Mendoza is a quieter, nicer, and
smaller version of Buenos Aires. The pace of life reminded me a lot of
home. We arrived in Mendoza from Bariloche after a 17-hour overnight
bus ride. To most of you, the thought of that kind of travel probably
sounds like hell – I know it did to me when I first thought of the
prospect. But buses in South America (outside of Patagonia) aren’t
like buses in North America. The comfort level has more in common with
a first class airline ticket than a Greyhound bus. The seats are quite
comfortable and bend down about 145 degrees allowing you to almost lie
flat.

About halfway through the journey, the person sitting next to me got
off and a man named Julio got on. Over the next hour before falling
asleep, I had my most genuine interaction with a local South American
to date. Julio, who later told me that our conversation was the most
English he’d ever spoken in one sitting, is a native of Mendoza and
has lived in the area his whole life. He works in a town called
Neuquen, about 9 hours south of Mendoza by bus, as an electrician in
the oil fields, 7 days on, 3 days off and so on. I asked him why he
didn’t work in Mendoza and he explained to me that it was all about
the money – he would make significantly less in Mendoza. But the
downside is that the job has cost him a lot of personal relationships,
as he spends so much time away from home. All in all, we spent over an
hour discussing life in Argentina, life in Canada and other topics.
Julio got particularly excited when he showed me his cell phone. I
think it was really special for him to be able to have that kind of
technology. A North American would look at it as just any old cell
phone, but I believe to him, it was a bit of a status symbol, or a
sign of his achievements. He spent 10 minutes showing me different
places in Argentina on his GPS, and showing me pictures he’d taken of
his family, and his other prized possession, his motorbike. I asked
him if he’d ever travelled outside of the greater Mendoza area, and he
said he went to Santiago, Chile once a couple of years ago for a
vacation. In his mid-20’s, it was the first time he’d ever seen the
ocean. He also explained to me about the petty theft problem in some
places like the Mendoza bus station, and about how he loved his
country, but hated what it has done to some of the people. All in all,
it was a really great experience and very enlightening on life in
Argentina.

Arrived in Mendoza, we checked into our hostel and went off to explore
the sights. We found the Parque San Martin, a massive green space
similar in style to High Park in Toronto, just on the edge of what
appeared to be the rich neighbourhood of Mendoza, which bore a
striking resemblance to Palermo in Buenos Aires. The park was
beautiful and filled to the brim with active Mendozians, running,
cycling, rowing, playing soccer, etc. We parked ourselves on a nice
little island in the middle of a lake and relaxed for the afternoon
before grabbing some more amazing Argentine ice cream at a local shop.
If there is one thing I will miss about Argentina, it will be the ice
cream.

The next day, we did what everyone comes to Mendoza to do – cycle
through the wineries. We grabbed a city bus from downtown to the
wineries area. A tout for one of the rental bike agencies (Coco Bikes)
got on with us and gave us the lowdown. One of the rental agencies
(Mr. Hugo – which had been recommended to us by several people) pays
the bus drivers 5 Argentine pesos for every tourist they drop off in
front of the rental agency. As a result, the drivers are extremely
reluctant to drop tourists off at any other agency and give out flyers for
Mr Hugo to tourists as they board. We thought the tout seemed like a
nice guy and he explained to us that his agency was a family
operation, etc. so we agreed to get off with him. On the way out, the
bus driver closed the bus door on the tout as he tried to get off as a
payback shot for losing him some money, and we ran into another couple
later in the day that had to walk back to the agency they wanted
because the driver would only let them off at Mr Hugo. Tricky business!

Anyways, we got our bikes and a map and headed off down the road. The
main road was mostly industrial and unappealing, but the side roads to
the wineries were exactly what I had expected. Tree covered roadways
with old houses and cars, and vineyards on each side. Like a little
bit of France in Argentina. All in all, we visited three wineries, a
liqueur factory, and an olive oil factory. Each visit cost between $3
and $5 CDN and included a tour and sampling of several of their
products. Thankfully, we started by riding to the end of the road and
working our way back, as it became a little harder to get on the bike
after each visit 😉 Lest we not forget that it was St. Patrick’s Day,
which we truly celebrate in Argentine style – wine over beer.

My favorite stop was the liqueur factory, where we sampled such
homemade liqueurs as grapefruit, lemon and chocolate-banana, which I
enjoyed so much that I bought a bottle. We also sampled some homemade
spreads such as their version of Dulce de Leche, and wine jam (which I
also bought a bottle of). For those of you who don’t know what Dulce
de Leche is, it’s an Argentine specialty spread, kind of like a
caramel butter. It’s extremely sweet, and goes great on bread and
crepes (and also makes a yummy ice cream flavour). As someone who
loves his maple, I took to Dulce de Leche pretty quickly.

After three great days in Mendoza, it was time to leave and
unfortunately part ways with my travel buddies Robyn and Tom. I’ve so
enjoyed traveling with these two for the past 19 days that I had a bit
of reluctance leaving them but I must move on to Peru, where I’ll be
meeting my other two travel buddies, Pearl and Nadia. To get there,
I’ll be traversing over 2000 km in 3 days by bus and plane.

Robyn and Tom, thanks again so much for your companionship over the
last 3 weeks! You guys are great and I hope you enjoy the rest of your
trip, and hopefully we’ll run into each other in Bolivia.

Click here to see more pictures

3 thoughts on “Nap Time

  1. Wow Matt !Mendosa sounds like a great place to explore. Have to have a tour of Niagara Falls winery when you get back and compare.

  2. I'm just wondering about the ice cream. You used to always prefer just plain vanilla. Are you finding other flavours in Argentinian ice cream that you like?

  3. Haha, just noticed this comment. There are many wonderful Argentinian flavours. Dulce de Leche is a caramelly flavour that is terrific. And Calafate berry is really good too. Lots of things that you can't get in Canada.

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