It was a rude shock when the bus driver woke us up at 7am upon arrival in Mendoza. On the overnight bus rides it seems as soon as you are finally in a deep sleep, it is time to wake up! We stumbled out of the bus and caught a taxi to Hostel Lao, where at 8am we could not check in to our room so dreary–eyed, we decided to go and explore Mendoza city.
Mendoza is considered a desert town however you wouldn’t guess it with the many leafy green trees that surround the city spaces. The streets are lined by irrigation ditches and you really need to keep an eye out because they are not covered and falling into one could be quite disastrous!
We walked to Parque General San Martin Mendoza’s 420-hectare urban recreational park, which was abuzz with locals cycling, running, picnicking and relaxing. We admired the grand entry gates, walked around the lake, through various gardens and past a BMX competition before arriving at Mendoza Zoo, which really was a sad, timeworn place. It is over 100 years old and I have no doubt it was quite amazing many years ago however now it is home to a handful of animals, all looking incredibly miserable in their tiny cages. We left rather depressed and continued through the park, realising rather quickly that we were completely lost and proceeding to spend the next two and a half hours finding our way back, which in the 30+ degree heat after already walking five hours, was far from amusing.
After taking it easy in Bariloche, we were determined to get active in Mendoza and the next afternoon we were picked up Diego, our modern-aged gaucho who was taking us sunset horseback riding through the mountains. We joined around 15 others and took to the saddle, trying our best to look natural and not panic when Diego asked if we’d like to go faster.
Our reward at the end was an asado (Argentinian BBQ) accompanied by some of Mendoza’s famous Malbec. Diego pulled out his guitar and sang to us by the fire, winning over the hearts of many of the girls and we sat around drinking and singing until it was time to return to Mendoza.
Unfortunately, for our poor return driver, the fun didn’t stop and the bus ride back consisted of us drunkenly belting out all of the classics – Bohemian Rhapsody, American Pie, any song we could remember half the words to! I am sure our gaucho friends struggled to shake the sounds of us singing before bed that night.
Starting our next day with slight headaches we decided to take a bus to Cacheuta, a short trip from Mendoza and home to various thermal springs. We visited Termas Cacheuta Water Park, an open-air thermal baths complex located high on the edge of a valley. We spent the afternoon moving amongst the different baths with various temperatures, the perfect recovery from our horse riding adventure.
Lastly, we could not leave Mendoza without a trip to a winery or two! The most popular area for day winery tours is Maipu however we opted to head towards the small sleepy town of Chacras de Coria where we hired bikes and after a short orientation set off on our own to a number of different wineries in the area. We started at Clos de Chacras, a picturesque small winery where we enjoyed some delicious ceviche while tasting some of their wines.
Continuing on, we arrived at a small family owned organic winery where we had lunch and walked through their cellars – some hundreds of years old with wine stains running down the walls. We chatted with the owners and corked our own wine.
A little tipsy we continued riding to Alta Vista, one of the largest wineries in the area. We toured the winery and learnt about their various wine making processes which was very interesting – in particular that they only have women select the grapes for their top wine as apparently it is less likely for women to be colour blind (I thought perhaps it was due to attention to detail)!
Continuing on, we road along a quiet dirt road lined with large trees and with vineyards as far as the eye could see before arriving at a small family-owned business that specialised in sweet and savoury spreads, oils and liqueurs. We slowly made our way through the different spreads and oils, dipping our small pieces of bread while discussing whether we liked coffee flavoured dulce de leche more than almond flavoured. We then picked a couple of liqueurs to try – we both started with a sweet liqueur and then Will went for Tabaco while I picked Green Pepper – strong, spicy goodness! Sadly our bike tour had come to an end however it was probably good timing as any more wines or liqueurs and we may not have made it back!