Ciao Argentina, Hello again Chile!

10 Nov

Mendoza, Argentina Vineyard

I haven’t realized how long it’s been since posting. In the last week, Stefanie and I have taken one 18 hour bus ride, drank too much red wine, took another 7 hour bus ride, crossed the border into Chile, explored Santiago, met up with some friends from Peru and booked a flight to Northern Chile. I’ll start from the beginning…

Mendoza, Argentina was not the most beautiful or interesting city. Stef and I found a nice hostel that offered a free glass of wine each night. Yipee! We only stayed two nights in Mendoza because we just planned on visiting the surrounding wineries. The city isn’t worth too much exploring. Our first night, we had a private room which felt amazing after over two months of sleeping in bunk beds with strangers. The second night, we had to switch into the dorm. Shucks!

The day after we arrived, Stef and I took the public bus out of the city and rented some bikes from the infamous Mr.Hugo Bikes. This guy is definitely recommended!! As soon as you walk into his shop, he’s pouring you a glass of wine and tells you to sit and relax while he gets the bikes ready. We met two guys who were also doing the tour, one from the USA and the other from Australia. As we’re chatting, Mr. Hugo brings out two tandem bikes and we all looked each other thinking, ‘no way!’ but then we saw the people who ACTUALLY requested the tandem bikes and everyone relaxed. To be honest, I had a rough time riding a regular bike in between the wine tastings! More on that later….

The four of us peddled to what we thought was the best winery. Actually, it wasn’t a winery at all, but an olive, liquor and spreads establishment. We paid 15 pesos (less than $5) and tried a million things! First, we sampled their homemade olive oil and balsamic vinegar on bread, then several types of olive spreads including a garlic one that was to die for!! Next, we tried different types of dulce de leches (caramel spreads) and jams. As if that wasn’t enough, we each had shots of their homemade liquors, including chocolate mint, guapa, and rose petal. And to top it all off, we had a shot of their homemade Absinth! Yup, that’s right…. Absinth with real worm wood! Stef and I both bought a garlic olive spread and then we stumbled off to the next vineyard.

The second winery was quite posh. We sat on comfy deck chairs overlooking the vineyards while tasting three different wines each. And when I say tasted, I mean full glasses, not what they give you at Point PeleeWinery (for all you Ontario folk)! It was nice to sit and relax, but we had a lot more wineries left to check out and only a few hours to go before they closed, so straddled our bikes and hit the pavement.

blurry bike rides

You can imagine how our bike riding skills were at this point. A little swerving action… Oh, I forgot to mention that we gave ourselves a gang name during this whole little journey: The BanVinos! Please, somebody get the reference?!

At the second winery, we each sampled a full glass of wine and passed them around for everyone to try. I was keen on sampling the sparkling wine (look how much of wine connoisseur I’ve become! ha). It was pretty tasty, considering most sparkling wines I’ve had are the cheap New Year’s Eve brands (Bambino, anyone?) yuck…

The fourth winery – yes we made it that far – was also very good. We had three or four different red wines to try. I liked this wine tasting the best (aside from the spread and chocolate one) because the woman was very informative. I mean I was pretty buzzed at this point, but I enjoyed everything she told us.

By this time, all the wineries were closed and it was time to head back to Mr. Hugo’s. Cycling back was pretty funny – our Australian friend fell off his bike twice! ha. I managed to do alright, but I was pretty slow. I had to concentrate a bit more. When we got back to Mr. Hugo’s, he had already poured us a glass of wine and kept pouring and pouring…. It’s safe to say we were all pretty drunk by the time we left his bike shop. Money well spent!

When we got back into the city, we found a cheap steak place and devoured our food. Stefanie was a vicious carnivore! It was hilarious. I can’t believe we spent 6 hours wine tasting – some people call that overboard, but it was so much fun and I’ll never have the same experience again.

The following day, we took a bus to Santiago, Chile‘s capital. We met some ex-housemates of ours from Cusco, Peru and spent that last few days with them. Maria, Michelle and I went out Saturday night to a few bars, but Stefanie stayed at the hostel because she wasn’t feeling too good. It rained all day Sunday and Monday, so we were stuck in the hostel with not much to do. We did crosswords, read, ate too much pizza, listened to music, chatted, etc. I was getting a bit stir crazy, to be honest.

Thankfully, the sun came out Tuesday and the weather was great. The four of us went on a walking tour of the city and took the funicular up to a viewpoint. Santiago is such a strange city – so much smog and traffic, but then you have these amazing snow-capped mountains bordering the city. It felt good to be above all the chaos and look out to the mountains – even though the hazy smog was slowly creeping up.

View of Santiago, Chile

Maria and Michelle left for Mendoza last night and (yet again!) it was sad to say goodbye, but we will see them again someday I’m sure! Stefanie and I booked a flight booked to Arica tonight, in northern Chile. There has been this whole debacle about how to get from Santiago to Lima for my flight home. I really wanted to fly and when I saw a $260 flight, I was ready to book but Stef was reluctant due to her stricter budget.

The alternative to flying is a 50 hour bus ride that costs $150… do you see what I mean? By the time Stefanie had somewhat agreed to flying, the price skyrocketed. Luckily, I found a flight to Arica for $145. We’ll spend the night there and then leave on a 19 bus the following morning to Lima. The whole journey is only $50 cheaper than the flight to Lima would have been, but we cut the bus ride in half so we’re both happy.

We should get into Lima Thursday morning and have two days before my flight. I plan on doing some last minute shopping and we might even go paragliding, but we’ll see. I can’t believe I’m going home in FOUR DAYS! Jeeze! Hopefully, I can update one last time before my flight.

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