Location: Mendoza and Santiago, Chile
We returned to our favourite spot in Argentina for two days to drink more wine and eat more meat before making our way to Chile and our flight home!
Mendoza turned the weather on again, and we were lucky to tiume our return with the annual harvest festival and to meet some great people in our hostel. The festival is held every year to celebrate a successful harvest of the grapes and other produce grown in the fertil desert lands.
The highlight of the festival is the selection of the Harvest Queen an event that is treated as seriously as in Mendoza as Miss World. All the local towns and areas of the city select their best looking young lady to go for the prize! As some of the towns are quite small, not all the so-called beauty queens deserve much of a second glance!
On our first night back in Mendoza their was a street parade including a float with each of the 18 beauty queens on it. Each queen was sponsored and her float decked out by the sponsor. There was the funny sight of one queen been sponsored by a company called 'Easy' and all the girls on the float wore sashes with the companys name emblazoned accross! Got a few of the english speaking lads watching excited! Another was sponsered by a meat company and had a massive meat BBQ been conducted on board the float and been handed to the crowd while the queen smiled at the back!
All the floats handed out flyers and threw presents into the crowd to try and get them to vote for their girl! The handouts ranged from meat, lollies, and grapes to more dangerous fare incl apples, melons and wine bottles! A friend we met called Al was sconed an inch above his groin by one of the heaved melons! He was a very relieved man that it hadnt been an inch lower (fruit related concussions were not uncommon)!
That night we hit a local club which was heaving and good fun! Unfortunately the parade from the night before was repeated at 10am and ran straight past our hostel! With no hope for a sleep in tired and hung over I dragged myself to the footpath and yelled my undying love to all the beauty queens in Spanish, much to the amusement and encouragement of the Argentinian hostel owners and workers!
I proved that my picking skills were impeccable when I selected the girl I thought would win (she was by far the hottest). I was told that she wouldn't make the top 5 by some of the locals as the contest was rigged (it is Sth America after all). But true to form my wee beauty won hands down.
After another great day spent eating, drinking and playing table tennis we unfortrunately had to leave for Santiago on the Sunday.
We had a day to look around in Satiago before our flight and it was a much prettier city that I imagined! There is a hill in the middle of the city that has a great panoramic view, cable cars, vehniculars, swimming pools and an open air cathedral. The cathedral was very cool and I could even imagine heading to Church regularily if I could sit there and daydream with that view behind the alter!
There were also some other cool parks in the city, some grand buildings and we found a sensational lunch spot!
But alas it was time to head to the airport and for our trip to end! So now 4 weeks later I am back in NZ writing this final entry!
Chow Sth America!
Location: Bariloche, Argentina
Bariloche is said to be the Cusco of Argentina (gringo capital), and it is very much like Queenstown with lakes (being in the Argentinian lakes district) and many outdoor adventure sports.
Again we were slightly unfortunate with the weather, the day we arrived to 30mph winds (no rain though) and it was absolutely freezing, as per usual the days before we arrived had been up near the 30´s! We were assured by the hostel owner that this was the "real Bariloche".
The next day was slightly less windy so we rugged up and climbed up the the refuge at the top of Cerro Catedral which is their ski fields in winter, this was 20km return walk around the base of a mountain and then up to the pass through a burn out forrest. The top had snow and good views of Bariloche but unfortunately I had been wearing jandals for the past month and got a massive blister that covered my whole heel to contend with on the way back.
The next day we went on a day trip to the national park and the black glacier at the base of the peak of one of the mountains, the guide only spoke spanish so it really tested Mark and I´s skills so far in the language. The lakes were very beautiful in colour from the glacier water and the depth from the glacier carving out the basins. We stopped at many spots along the way to take photos and learned the glacier at the top is black because of the layers of snow then landslide dirt that comes down giving it a black layer on top of the white.
That night we took ourselves out to a big steak dinner (again!), we found Bariloche very expensive in Argentinian terms compared to the other places we have been for dining but still managed to down a few bottles of wine and head out to the local irish pub for a few beers and to listen to some live music by three skinny boys on guitars parroting the english words!
The next at much of a push with a wee hangover we decided to do the chico circuit around the lake which covered 60km, 17km of which were shear hills! It started off a bit dodgy (for me anyway) but after a few empanadas (the Argentinian version of pies but smaller) we were on our way. It was a beautiful day and we stopped along the way at the miradors to admire the views and have lunch. It took about 5 hours with stops (admittedly a few involving me pushing my bike up the hills!) but we both enjoyed it and retired to our hostel knackered.
We are now back in Mendoza for the wine festival which kicks off tonight with parades and free wine being handed out by the bodegas in baskets, the parade continues tomorrow culminating in a beauty pagent tomorrow night. Our hostel owner advised us most the girls are pretty rough out of the 15 in the running, only 5 are decent from Mendoza and the others are from hick towns.
Location: Villa Gesell, Argentina
We had the great idea we would go to the coast for a bit of sun before we got back to NZ so we wouldnt be too white after spending so much time up at altitude in the cold, boy were we wrong!
The three nights we spent at Villa Gesell pretty much entailed constant rain! We occupied ourselves by looking at the shops, playing a small version of tenpin bowling and eating the usual meatorama.
The last day we managed to get out onto the beach, be it in gail force winds, to walk along to the next two small beach villages, the only tan gained there was wind burn!
Not to discredit the place it would be absolutely beautiful in nice weather like a beach on the coromandel with pine trees on the back dunes and many batches.
The day we departed to Bariloche we had to go via Mar del Plata which is the premium beach resort in Argentina alot like surfers paradise. We walked along the beach in the time we had between buses and couldnt believe the shear volume of bodies packed into the beach and the network of wooden plank roads and such to divide it up along with very very brown Argentinians.
The bus ride to Bariloche was absolutely superb very much like first class on a plane with hot meals, whisky and champagne and movies and full reclining seats - the buses in Argentina are pretty unbelievable for travelling which is great as alot of our journeys are over 20 hours.
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Well after plenty of time in wine country and the Andes we headed to Buenos Aires to get back into big city living. Buenos Aires is a big city with 12 million people living in the greater city, and maybe almost as many dogs!
The weather while we were in Buenois Aires was in the high 30´s each day dropping down to a barmy 28-29 overnight, so some hot long days were followed by sweaty nights trying to sleep with no air conditioning in the hostel !
Anyway all I really wanted to do in Buenos Aires was see a Boca Juniors football game (the fans are the maddest and most violent in the world), and I thought I was in luck as they were playing on Sunday in a local derby against San Lorenzo. So I dragged Jules on the bus to La Boca (the so-called most dangerous suburb of Buenos Aires) on Sat afternoon to try and get tickets from the stadium, as we were ensured it would be no problem as long as we went on Sat.
Well unfrotunately the game was already sold out, so we missed out on seeing them play, but given that they lost 2-1 and it basically knocked them out of the cup competition they are in, It was probably best that we didnt have to try and leave La Boca after the game in a near riot on Sunday night!
Anyway in La Boca (the area the Italians emigrated too, and hence the home of Argentine football, also where the Tango originated from) we were pleasently surprised to find an area of regenerated original housing, restaurants, bars and shops all painted in bright colours and with a very lively daytime atmosphere. Tango bands were cruising the streets playing, tango dancers were dancing in the restaurants and on the street and the whole place was great fun to be in for a few hours. Diego Maradona pictures and statues adorned just about every building in the area, they worship the man here!
We had heard about the legendary Buenos Aires clubbing scene so despite a long day in the heat following the overnight bus from Salta we headed to Pacha, that was having its 2006 opening 24hr party. Unfortunately the crowd was very young and the club didnt quite deliver as we hoped, as everyone was more interested in looking pretty (and there were some damn fine specimans on show) than partying on the dance floor in true Latino style. The fact that I was dressed in shorts, jandals and a T-shirt didnt really fit with the image of the youngsters there.
Anyway Sunday afternoon we dragged ourselves out of bed and headed to Recoleta. The area contains the amasing Recoleta cemetary which is basically a small city of monsoleoums (sp?) (family crypts) in which all the famous and wealthy Argentines had been buried. The effort, design, art and expense that had gone into the crypts originally and in maintenance was trully amasing. The park next to the cemetary had a big Sunday Hippies market and had bands playing so time was spent trawling the stalls and relaxing in the sun.
The quality of meat, wine and empanadas continued in BA so we saw no reason to stop the meatorama!
On Monday it was shopping day in BA, I think the day Julia had looked forward to most of the trip! In Buenos Aires there is a lot of very cheap leather goods (all the meat eaten has to produce a tonne of left over skin!) and cheap clothing. So after a stinkinglky hot day spent in and out of shops we ended up with a pair each of leather shoes, a leather handbag, 3 pairs of earrings, a top, a pair of jeans, sunglasses and 2 pairs of Haviannna jandals for a rediculously small amount of money! We were also surprised by the number of Argentinians out shopping on a Monday, do any of these people seem to work?? There was also alot of fine surgical work on display as BA along with Rio are apparently the plastic surgery capitals of the world.
Now as I mentioned in Buenos Aires there are dogs everywhere, many stray but the mainly apartment dwelling Argentines also love to keep their own big pet dogs. With the Argentines living in apartments, getting up late, going to work late (10ish start), having long lunches, finishing late and eating and drinking at dinner starting around 10pm there is little room and time to exercise a dog. Hence a booming profession in the city is dog walkers, and as the walkers have up to 14 (the most we saw, and they were mainly large dogs!) they dont bother picking up the dogs shite so the parks around Palermo are a mine field to navigate! It is also a very funny site seeing a guy half walking half been dragged by 12 dogs, getting tangled up in their leads and tripping up!
Anyway we have left BA to head down the coast to a beautiful beach town called Villa Gesell. And our rather strange weather luck has continued and it is miserable and hosing down!! It is sttrange that whenever we get near a beach the weather packs in, but everywhere else we have been where it is meant to be hosing down because of the raing season has been hot and sunny! Go figure!
Location: Salta, Argentina
Well Salta has been another lovely colonial city with copious amounts of meat and wine along with the added bonus of the engagement!
The first two days were spent looking around the city and taking a gondala ride to the top of the hill that rises above. The evening of valentines day we went out to a very posh restaurant in our daggy travelling clothes, loads of wine and champagne was consumed and Mr Ryall got down on one knee to ask me to marry him, lots of crying, leaping about and clapping from other diners (cringe) but we are both happy, just need to bling now!!
The next day with pretty bad hangovers we went "white water rafting", I put that in italics as it was only grade 2-3 and was more of a slow jaunt down a stream. It is down a river that is fed by a dam so we had to wait for the gates to open before we could go down with the water released. That evening we were in bed pretty early, we are both convinced we are getting too old for this drinking thing!
Yesterday we went on a day trip to Cafayate to visit two wineries and also the canyon along the way which had many rock formations and natural amphitheatres. The wines were not as good as the Mendoza malbecs, but then again they specialise in torrentes (think that is how you spell it) in Salta which is a very sweet wine that neither of us really like. There was a quizz on the way back as to what we had learned from the guide and I think Mark and I did exceptionally well considering most of it was in Spanish, we won a bottle of wine which naturally had to be consumed!
Off to Buenos Aires today, I cant wait as it is going to be shopping heaven, think Mark is a bit scared though as I am already planning to buy an extra bag and make a list of what I want to buy!
Location: Mendoza, Argentina
After the trials and tribulations of our travel to Argentina we couldnt of picked a better place to recuperate than Mendoza.
Mendoza is a beautiful town at the foot of the Andes, it is very European and a wealthy city in Argentian terms due to the hundreds of vineyards surrounding the city. It is basically the Yarra Valley of Argentina wine producing and they make exceptional red wines, particularily malbec, and cab sav. The climate is excellent and the city is also full of amasing bbq restaurants serving up massive fillet and rump steaks for as little as 2 pound or 4.50NZ. And another 60% for a 500g steak!
Just to make the place even better a 1 litre bottle of beer costs 30p in the supermarket or 65p at the hostel bar and baked empanadas (delicious little meat pastries, like cornish pasties but much better) are a specialty! I had 5 and a half empanandas one day and could of eaten twice as many!
So to cut a long story short for 4 days we have eaten meat and drunk wine, vistited wineries, drunk beer and sat by the pool with a cool group of people we met at the hostel! One winery we visited was the oldest in the area and it produces the top Argentinian wine label ´Rutini´ the wine was delicious!
So It has been highly relaxing and we are off tonight to Salta, back on the andes, and will get into some more trekking and rafting along with eating more steak and drinking more wine!