Santiago and Mendoza

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January 9th 2016
Published: January 9th 2016
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Our journey to Chile was a long one, from Ecuador via Panamá, but as we looked down on snow-capped mountains from the plane, excitement for the next leg of our trip was growing! We arrived at our AIrBnB apartment in Santiago, a fantastic find with a 17thfloor balcony with views to match and lovely landlady ready to greet us. Unfortunately the next day wasn’t my best as I started it lying next to the toilet and later vomiting into a carrier bag outside a Chinese restaurant! Ah well, Tom went to explore and later gave me a guided tour of the main sights when I was feeling a little better! Our first impression was that it felt a lot more modern and Westernised, and a lot less hectic, than Ecuador. Santiago’s Plaza de Armas was a lively square, complete with an old man’s chess tournament, live music and a fairly impressive cathedral!

The following day I was feeling myself again and we set off to Barrio Bellavista, a very cool area with amazing graffiti adorning every spare bit of wall and lots of lovely cafés, bars and restaurants. We wandered around the pretty streets, admiring the colourful flowers and then found a very artsy square to have our lunch. After an afternoon spent in Barrios Lastarria and Bellas Artes, exploring Santa Lucia Park and climbing many stairs for a view of the city, we headed back for a barbeque on our balcony. The sky went every shade of pink/purple imaginable to finish our (largely) very enjoyable stay in Chile’s capital.

Next up was a bus journey through the Andes to Mendoza. The views were incredible as we climbed, twisting and turning around 26 hairpin bends past spikey snow-capped mountains followed by miles of green fields, waterfalls and vineyards as we got closer to our destination. Crossing the border was a long and slightly painful process as our entire double decker bus of people queued for the slowest passport checks imaginable, followed by checks of everyone’s hand luggage and all luggage under the bus being taken off, dragged around and then shoved back on again. To top it off, we were asked to give a tip to the luggage guys! I don’t think so.

After a 7 hour bus journey with no food, we were starving… but had no Argentinian Pesos to pay for anything! After wandering around for about an hour looking for a cashpoint, we eventually found Plaza San Martin – where the whole city’s ATMs seemed to have been hiding! We celebrated with our first Argentinian steak – very tasty if a little tough due to our budget! – and went back to the hostel to sit on the terrace and enjoy the free wine.

The highlight of our time in Mendoza was, predictably, a wine tour. The weather was extremely temperamental so we wimped out of hiring bikes but set off after lunch for my first ever wine tasting experience. Tom had done it before and was pretending he knew how to “assess the bouquet” and other such nonsense! We stopped at three different wineries and an olive farm, being given a tour and description of the production process at each one, and then got to taste two or three of their wines. The last one was our favourite, and not just because they gave us cheese to go with the wine!

Our time in Mendoza was spent largely avoiding the rain and planning the rest of our trip – not the most straightforward of tasks as it is peak season in Patagonia. We did manage to see some of the sights, wandering around the crafts market in the tree-lined Plaza de Independencia and admiring the cafés and restaurants along Avenida Sarmiento. We also looked around the Mercado Central and had a slightly disappointing (but extremely filling at least, after waiting an hour for it) lunch there!

Next we need to survive a 19 hour bus journey… but our reward will be the scenery and walks of the Argentinian Lake District! Woop woop!

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