11.05.2006 - 19.05.2006
The bus ride back across the border was long, but there was mountain scenery as we passed close to Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Andes.
The Busy Border Crossing
This city, as everyone knows, is the wine capital of Argentina. It was much busier and bigger than I expected, full of noisy traffic at times. I didn't find it as relaxing as Valparaiso or as picturesque, though there were some nice parks and outdoor sculpture.
Plaza Espana had some beautiful tile work.
Futball, or Soccer is very big here, as in many parts of Latin America.
Not everyone is white, though it is less obvious than in other countries.
Our hostel was alternately very noisy or quiet. During our first two days there was a big rock concert in town, followed by a national holiday, akin to our Labor Day. Things were really hopping, and as a result I had my usual sleep problems. The owners of our hostel were absolute gems, extremely welcoming and helpful, and so we didn't want to move. In general Argentines stay up late into the night, and seemingly get by on very little sleep, much like Spain. This seems more noticeable here than in other parts of the country, and takes some getting used to for this middle-aged vagabonder. It is another way that traveling can test one's limits, especially with sleep issues. At times, I have taken to thumb tacking a blanket over the window to block out noise and light, a bit neurotic I know, but modestly effective. Sometimes I get what I call traveler's depression. I consider it a form of homesickness, a longing for the familiar and the comfortable. It lasts for a few hours, perhaps a day, and then passes. I think this is also part of the process of traveling.
On the national holiday we rented bikes, fought the crazy drivers, and went out to where the wineries are located in the nearby countryside. All were closed, even though we were told they would be open. Bummer. It was NOT a good day. The next day, however, we took a bus ride to some hot springs, and spent the afternoon talking to the locals while having a soak. That was great.
The nearby country was beautiful.
Yesterday we took an organized tour of the wineries instead of trying to do it on our own. The second bodega,
which is what they call them here, was small and intimate. It was run by a couple who came over from Europe. We got to sample several reds, and then bought a bottle of their estate Malbec which we enjoyed a few days later. The wine industry in Mendoza is a major business. The owners told us that much of the wine sold under Chilean labels, such as Concha y Toro is actually from Argentina. We also visited an olive oil factory.
On a different occasion, Nanette had some lessons with the sculptor next door to our hostel, though she swears she doesn't remember having negotiated this because she mistakenly took an ambien that morning. Here she is just about to slice off the guys ear, but it's only a bust. Just ignore that maniacal gleam in her eyes.
We have also restarted our Spanish lessons two hours a day with another good teacher, this time in a group format. My energy for studying Spanish had started to wane, but I have been re energized. Tonight we are going out to dinner with our class at 9:30PM, the normal dinner hour . We will probably cheat and try and eat something ahead of time. We have had some fabulous lomo here. Some of the best we have eaten thus far. As the French would say, boeuf de beurre. It melts in your mouth like butter.
We met a woman from Switzerland for lunch, someone we hiked with a few weeks back in Torres Del Paine. We knew she was here via email. We have been busy, as you can see. At the same time, as our journey winds down, I am thinking more about our return and what that will be like. How will our friends react to us? And we to them? Will the US seem different as we view it with new eyes? How will this experience change us.