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Published: March 28th 2018
Mendoza is definitely our kind of town. Sunny, gorgeous wine, amazing nosh of all descriptions and plenty of pavement cafes in the shade. After our rather poor start in the bus station, we headed off to dump our rucksacks at our hostel and explore the town. We only had one day before we headed out into the Altas Montanas (the Andes) so we wanted to make the most of it. We found pavement cafes for coffee, a veggie takeaway for a picnic in the park and an amazing parilla (barbeque using wood) for a steak supper. Oh does it sound as though we did nothing but eat? Funny that! We did manage a walk round the park in between lunch and dinner but I don't recall much about that. Thankfully we knew we were returning after a few days in the mountains and that we would be able to visit more hostelries then!
We collected our car (“oh no, no that again”, I hear you say, and quite rightly when we swore we would not hire another car after our one-way street problems in Santa Cruz) and headed straight out of the city towards the mountains. Mendoza is in the
foothills of the Andes but the foothills are a mountain range in their own right and are so big that you can’t see the actual Andes from Mendoza. But once you get past the foothills, there they are. Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas at nearly 7000m and that is where we were heading. I was whistling as we went along because I was safe in the knowledge that the season for climbing it was CLOSED as the summer “window” was over (phew, no difficult discussions lay ahead!). We did a very short walk of about an hour to get a good view of the mountain and as we were walking at a height of around 3000m we were huffing and puffing like a pair of oldies. What a horrible feeling, it took us back to trekking in Nepal all those years ago. It was great to be back in the mountains again although we stayed in a fairly unusual hostel where our “double room” was actually a wooden barn with room for about 9 sets of bunk beds. There were only 3 sets of bunks in the room and our double bed in the
middle of what could have been a dance floor. Not the cosiest of places especially as It was jolly cold overnight.
On the way back to Uspallatta, where we were staying, we picked up three hitch-hikers who all reminded us of Jamie (that’s not the only selection criterion, if they had looked like Sarah or Ruthie or Rich we would have also picked them up). Two were from Mexico and one was from California. They were all enormously tall with equally enormous rucksacks and one of them was also carrying a skateboard. As we trundled along the road we were reminded of happy times with three children in the back of a clapped out car. They were very well behaved and didn’t fight and we had hysterical if stilted conversations . What was sweet was that they were all planning (or so they said) to message their Mums when we dropped them off to let them (the mums) know they (the Jamie lookalikes) were alive after their trip into the mountains. Good Boys.......
While we were playing happy families we were stopped by the Police AGAIN. Police road blocks are very common here but given that we had
driven a car on the road for a total of about 6 hours during our trip, it seems unfair that we have been pulled over THREE times. The first time we had no idea what was going on as the enormous gang of armed police were selecting vehicles seemingly at random and making them pull into a stopping place. When the head honcho arrived at our car we tried to explain that we spoke very little Spanish and we were very sorry (for whatever we had done). He smiled and leaned through the passenger window and presented me with a single flower. Turns out (from later discussions with people who knew what was going on) that is was Mother’s Day and they were giving flowers to all women who looked old enough to be a mother!
The second time we were pulled over was for not having our headlights on during the day which apparently is illegal in Argentina. We gathered this from miming and our pathetic Spanish. The police wanted to fine us 3,000 pesos which is about £250! YIKES! I think we must have looked so horrified and so distraught, adding to the enormous difficulty we were having to understand what the bloke was saying to us that the policeman took pity on us and let us off.
So when we were pulled over again, we wondered what we had done wrong this time. If I had had my wits about me I would have told the guys in the back to pretend they didn't speak Spanish as that's what had saved us last time but it all happened too fast for my thinking to catch up. As the Policewoman approached Pete, we both smiled and uttered our (obviously not Spanish) greeting. It was at this point that the Mexican lad in the back took over and had a very complicated, very passionate conversation with the lady until she let us through. When we asked him what he had said, he said that he had told the police officer that yes, we were all one family; Mum, Dad and three boys (presumably triplets) and that we had been on a day out in the mountains. We had not come over the border from Chile (the two Mexicans had) and we were enjoying a family holiday in Argentina. Whether or not the Police Officer wondered how we had produced two such very dark latinic sons and one blonde and fair skinned one, or why it was that Pete and I didn’t speak Spanish, we will never know- as we will also never know whether our Mexican sons were illegally in Argentina. Charm (and latinic good looks) is always a good thing to have up your sleeve.
We returned to Mendoza for another two glorious days of feasting. Thankfully there seem to be no museums at all in Mendoza so we didn’t even feel that we were being too hedonistic. We found the Central Market which was a wondrous place of butchery, fishmongery, cheese and various other sorts of mongery. Our sort of place within our sort of town! We used the opportunity to buy goodies for picnics for the next three days as we are heading up to Iguazzu in northern Argentina and we wouldn’t be able to buy picnic food up there of course. One of our most exciting finds was a piece of reblochon cheese which is one of Pete’s most favourite things in all the world.
I am writing this part of the blog on the plane from Mendoza to Iguazzu. Unfortunately the pressure seems to be having some sort of an effect on the reblochon. Despite it being wrapped in two ziplok bags and tucked in the rucksack in the locker above our seats, a rather pungent and not all together pleasant smell has started to come througn the plane’s air conditioning system. Oh dear....people are starting to look concerned. It must be something to do with the pressure......should we come clean or keep quiet?.....another moral question to wrestle with and discuss with friends on our return home?
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