After another night bus, I was excited to arrive in Mendoza despite catching a cold my last day in Bariloche. I opted to get my own space and splurge a little on an apartment instead of staying in a hostel. I arrived a bit before the apartment was ready, so I headed in the general direction I needed to go and stumbled upon a pedestrian street with tons of cafes and outdoor seating. I set up camp for a bit until the apartment was ready. When I got up to go, I was delighted to see I was actually on the same street as the apartment and soon discovered it was right across from the cafe in the heart of downtown. The apartment was exactly what I needed – my own space, a kitchen, close to everything, and surprisingly quiet given its location.
My first couple of days were primarily spent resting, recouping, and trying to find a pharmacy that was open on a Sunday. Once I was feeling a bit better, I managed the one outing I had been looking forward to – visiting the bodegas (wineries) in the Maipu region just outside of the city. I took the local bus to the starting point where I rented a bike from Mr. Hugo’s. I have to say the outing was not as fabulous as I’d anticipated. I think I’ve been a bit spoiled having ridden my bike through both Napa and Sonoma. The main road was fairly busy and did not have a bike lane for the full stretch. Giant trucks screaming by me did not give me the biggest sense of comfort nor safety. The scenery and traffic improved once I got onto the sides roads, which is where most of the bodegas are. I stopped by a few, though my visits were fairly quick considering I was just taking pictures and not tasting wine due to my lingering congestion. On my final stop I was happy to enjoy a tasting of various oils, vinegars, tapenades, jams, and chocolates. There I also met an interesting family of four from Australia. They were a couple months in to a year-long trip around the world. Mind you, the two kids were about 9 and 11. Apparently Australia has flexible homeschooling laws, so that’s what they’re doing while traveling South America, Europe, and Asia. I was pretty astounded – they by far have the most interesting back story of any of the travelers I’ve met.
A couple other highlights of my in Mendoza: I went for 2 runs in a nice park they have and I managed to cook all of my meals for 4 days with just about $30 in groceries.
From Mendoza, I planned to cross back into Chile and visit Santiago and Valparaiso. I arrived at the bus station in the afternoon in search of a night bus only to learn that the route to Santiago over the Andes was closed due to snow and might not reopen for 4-5 days. You might recall my first bout with Mother Nature was on my first visit to Chile in TdP. This time, She had decided to not even let me enter the country. Going with the flow has pretty much been the theme of my trip and Argentina had been pretty good to me, so I decided to head north to Salta – just a quick 18 hour bus ride away.
Salta is a small town in the northwest region of Argentina and a good stepping stone for my next sure destination – Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. Salta is a unique city in Argentina, having preserved a good bit of its colonial culture and architecture. The people of Salta are very proud of their home and make a point of identifying themselves as Salteños rather than Argentinians. I stayed in the room of an apartment belonging to an older woman, Josefina, from the area. Josefina was very hospitable and loved to tell me about the culture and politics of both Salta and Argentina as a whole. I stayed only a few days, during which I explored the town and tried the local cuisine – more empanadas, tamales, humitas, and locro, a corn-based stew with white beans, vegetables, and meat. I could have stayed a while longer in Salta and would definitely go back to visit the surrounding areas, which include smaller towns, hiking, beautiful scenery, and wine country.
From Salta, I figured out my next step on the way to Bolivia: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. I hoped this time Chile might actually cooperate :).
(I’m playing catch-up here, so there will be another post soon!)