All roads lead to Mendoza

It’s 4am, I’m in Rosario, Argentina and I have a giant cup of coffee in hand. Fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, I head to the tiny airport, arriving 1.5 hours early and there is no one in sight. Finally, workers start to arrive, I check in and then climb into a tiny, freezing little turbo-prop plane that is supposed to take me to Mendoza. We take off and have a sleep ride to Cordoba to pick up more passengers and watch the beautiful sunset while on the runway. Then, after about 2 hours dozing in and out of sleep, I realize we are still on the runway and are now being asked to deplane. In the airport lounge I warm-up with coffee and a sandwich and two more hours pass. A little strange, I thought, but I’m on vacation and really have nowhere to be at any specific time. Finally, we re-board the plane, I fall asleep again (still paying for dancing until 5am a few nights earlier) and this time wake up to the worst turbulence of my life which was so extremely nauseating that it kept me from sleeping. Suddenly, my thoughts were “how am I supposed to stay incognito if I am going  to vomit on this tiny plane that is now filled to capacity?” I also realized that I had been sleeping for about two hours even though the flight was only supposed to last for one. Hmm, where am I? Apparently, we had been rerouted due to snow in Mendoza that closed their airport, then rerouted again when the airport reopened. Finally, when we arrived alive and vomit-less, there was no snow to be seen except on the Andes in the distance.

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In Medoza, breathing in the fresh, cool air and thankful to be alive and on sturdy ground, I stubbornly refused an expensive taxi and waited for the cheap, rickety bus into town (which only comes once an hour, if you’re lucky). At last I arrived at the relaxed and clean Hostal Alamo and was thankful for its unpretentious atmosphere, cute cat, pristine gardens and helpful front desk staff. I reserved a bike for a wine tour the next day and then set off for a run through the city. My first impression was that it must be low season (winter) and that everything was closed, bummer, but I then realized that I had arrived during siesta (nap) time. After my run, I returned to Alamo to find it full with even more positive energy however I was too excited and hungry to mingle at that moment so I quickly showered and went back out to explore the Mercado Central, a standard since 1883. My shopping included: prosciutto, cheese, dates, avocado, cherry tomatoes, bananas, carrots, and ruby red grapefruit – supplies for the next few days. For dinner, I ordered from the Italian restaurant in the mercado and received a giant lasagna and glass of wine that would put me in a foma for the rest of the night.

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On Wednesday morning, breakfast included endless bread (a common theme) and little dishes of manjar de leche (similar to dulce de leche, arequipa, caramel… sugar + milk). I met John and Jared from Perth and we joined four other girls for bike rentals at Maipu Bikes in WINE COUNTRY. First stop was lunch at La Melesca, more Italian food and lots of wine (Cabernet Sauvignon and local Malbec).

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Already a bit  tipsy, we rode to DiTomasso bodega, the oldest winery in the region. It was winter and the vineyard looked very cold and dead, but the air was fresh and the wine still flowing! Our tasting guide compared all of the wines to men which had our eclectic group laughing the whole time. She also explained about the recent usage of plastic corks that they use on bottles meant to be drank within 1-3 years of production. Two of the people in our tasting group were from Portugal (where a lot of the corks are exported from) and couldn’t stop rolling their eyes, however.

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We tried the Malbec (regional star), torrontes, a sweet wine and their cab sav. After that we went to our second and last winery, Bodega Mavi, to recline on their outdoor sofas and take in the view: vineyards, the Andes and abundant sunshine.

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After a yummy cheese plate and wine sampler, we rode back into town to return our bikes, which now seemed a bit wobbly. When I arrived back to the hostel, I was informed that the border crossing into Chile was closed (the road intersects the Andes) so I impulsively bought a plane ticket for the next day – not cheap! On to the next country…

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