Welcome to Mendoza, a city with a desert climate bordering the Andes mountain range. It’s a mecca for bodegas (vineyards) and wine production as well as outdoor activities. We spent a total of 10 days in two different AirBnB rooms and went on plenty of adventures while finding a relaxing daily routine. We made a point to be located close to the city’s biggest park which reminded us of Mount Tabor in Portland. It was perfect for running, walking and relaxing.
When we arrived we were greeted by a friend of Will’s cousin who picked us up, toured us around Mendoza a bit, offered us good advice for activities and invited us over to join his family for an asado (BBQ). A true godsend when entering a foreign city! Rodrigo dropped us off to get settled in our first AirBnB and then later we met his family for dinner. We enjoyed grilled steak, ribs, two salads, lots of wine and some gelato for dessert. An amazing feast that we are truly thankful for!
After exploring the downtown area during our first morning we spent the afternoon out in the heat biking to the different bodegas in Maipu, which is just southwest of town. We rented bikes from the number one shop, Mr. Hugo, where we met the character-like owner himself and tested the bikes. They were old clunkers but got you from bodega to bodega. We visited three bodegas in total; Tempus Alba – a modern bodega that reminded us of the wineries from back home, Familia Di Tomaso – the oldest bodega in the area where we saw ancient brick brewing vats (pictured right), and Mevi another modern bodega with a beautiful balcony that looked out to the Andes. Since it was a hot day the white wines hit the spot, but the best wines were the famous dark malbecs. As we headed back to return the bikes we detoured through one of the vineyards to soak up the warmth and aroma of the growing vines. When we returned the bikes we were greeted by Mr. Hugo with some juice and he escorted all his renters to the bus stop. He reminded us of Mr. Magoo and we smiled as we thought about him on the ride home.
Part of the reason we visited Mendoza at this time was because it was the week of the grape harvest celebration, Vendemia. Special events took place throughout town all week. Although we did not end up going to see any of the theater performances that took place at night, we did experience the giant city wide parade. We went to the park for a morning jog which happened to be where the parade was lining up to begin so our run was cut a bit short. The parade was comprised of floats, bands, dancers, and gauchos representing each area of the Mendoza province. On the floats were the crowned “queens” (young women) representing each area and a few others who were throwing out grapes, water, juice or candy to the crowd. It cracked us up when we saw kids lifting sticks with buckets duck-taped on the top end so they could better catch the grapes/prizes. I joined the madness for a bit and scored an orange juice box from a gal on the float. We had a great time observing the culture, watching the entertaining dancers and waving to the passing “queens”. Will’s favorite part of the parade was the gauchos that accompanied each region.
Mendoza has little hiking within the city, so a few days in we decided to take advantage of the closest hike. Cerro Arco is known for it’s array of antennas located at the summit point and has an amazing view of the city. The 6k hike was fairly steep all the way up which made for a quick decent. On our way down the clouds rolled over the Andes. Little did we know we would experience one of the rainiest downpours of the year in Mendoza. We arrived at the trailhead when sheets of water started coming down, but still had another 2k to the bus stop. Thankfully a gentleman who came down the trail at the same time offered us a ride. Long story short, the gentleman was at the same parade events as us the day prior and enjoyed running so we had a lot to talk about. He was also an Herbalife representative who I ended up buying some protein powder from later that day. Sometimes life’s encounters are very random.
After a day of rest we decided to go rock climbing on Monday with a guide company called Andes Vertical. We were so excited to try a sport that we have always wanted to try and thought we would enjoy. The guides picked us up at 9:05, threw our stuff in the car and took off to the hills in the south. We drank Mate and ate tortitos on the ride as we were still waking up. We arrived at the first climbing location, nestled right next to the Mendoza River which was running low and was quite muddy brown. The rock walls were made up of compressed mud and rocks which made for great holds. We received a little instruction before starting our first (ever) top rope pitch. We accomplished three successful pitches each at the first location before it was time for the sack lunch.
After a little rest our instructor said we had graduated to the next level, and we drove to another rock 25 minutes away. This second rock was a different type of rock, solid granite and on one side of the face it was shaped like una ola (a wave). The pitches here were more difficult, but we managed two more! We both had to take rests during the final pitch because our arms, legs, fingers and toes were depleted of strength. It was the hardest pitch of the day and we had to use our skills from the previous climbs to make the route. It was very rewarding to conquer this last climb and topped off our day.
Completely exhausted we could barely untie the rope and take off our shoes before putting on our sandals, packing up and heading back to our airBnB. A day well spent and a new interest found!
We decided last minute to go rafting on Wednesday because our plans to rent a car and go on a long hike didn’t work out. Since we didn’t want to be bored or spend another day in town we opted to try rafting and signed up around 8pm Tuesday evening. When in Mendoza! On Wednesday we were picked up at 9:40 then weaved through town and Maipu (where all the bodegas are) to pick up a few more people. At 11:30 we arrived at Rio Adventura, a riverside lodge with a swimming pool, indoor shower area and of course all the rafting supplies. We were welcomed by our guide, set up with gear and headed out in vans to the launch spot 12k down the road, up the river. At the launch area we went over the main commands and instructions for rafting. “Forward” paddle, “back” paddle, “down” (meaning sit down in the raft or you might go flying) were the main ones. We buckled our helmets and lifejackets then set out on the river. We were put in the front to lead the rest of the boat, who all happened to be Swedish, in paddling. The guide said it would be a good test for our relationship since we needed to paddle in unison and take the brunt of the waves :). The first 5 minutes on the water was calm and the ride was peaceful, but then the fun began. Our first rapid brought a wave of water into our faces and we couldn’t help but laugh as we struggled to keep paddling in rhythm. We had a bit of a calm before the second rapid, called the labyrinth, took us by storm. It was a continuous set of high rolling rapids. We paddled hard, got soaked and embraced the challenge. Our guide was feeling a bit adventurous so we set out toward a deep wave like rapid to try and flip him off the back of the raft. Maybe we didn’t paddle hard enough, but we got stuck in the wave that took our boat under the water for several seconds; it was as if we were surfing the wave. Thankfully no one panicked but we would have preferred the trick to work out. A few more light rapids and the hour of rafting was over. While only an hour of rafting at the end or the Argentinian summer, the recent rain storms brought the water level up to a great level and our arms, backs and even legs were tired. One last group paddle high five and we took the van back to town. We had a great experience and would recommend taking a rafting trip down the Mendoza River!
The next day we decided to tackle the big run that we needed to do in order to prep for the half marathon we are hoping to do in Chile. While we had no intention of running fast we laced up our shoes and headed to the park in hopes to complete a 10-miler. My stomach started feeling strange half way through, so Will went ahead and provided me with someone to follow. We went all the way to the top of the Mount Tabor like hill, Cerro de la Gloria, around to the zoo where we saw lots of goats, and back down to the small lake where we began. With a short sprint at the end to reach 10 miles we felt accomplished and tired. We walked back to our AirBnB to refuel and relax the rest of the day. My stomach issue turned into a nasty bug and I spent the rest of the day in bed fighting it. Thankfully, I found the Today Show, Ellen, and a show called Unique Treats in English on DirectTV to keep me entertained; the AC and our own private bathroom helped, too. That evening we went out to an early dinner which started with frozen yogurt because nothing else sounded good to me. Why not start with dessert? We then went to an Argentinian restaurant where Will enjoyed lamb from Patagonia with grilled veggies and I had veggie soup. I’ve forgotten how awful and helpless you feel when you are sick, but I stomached what I could and went straight back to bed after dinner.
With my stomach still not doing well, I started on some of the travel meds we brought after a morning walk in the park when my stomach decided to sucker punch me with pain. Will left me alone to rest most of the day and went to print our bus tickets for Sunday and get a haircut. He came back with a stylish short trim and some comfort food — a Subway sandwich, apple cake, tortilla chips and avocados. Needless to say I didn’t feel like ingesting anything but managed to down half the sandwich and a bit of apple cake. We called it an early night after watching the first episode of Downton Abby season 5 and ate some dinner in bed.
Friday I woke with a slightly better stomach and more energy so we took the Metro to Mendoza’s annual Green Market. The market reminded us of all the Farmer’s markets around Portland and the US. We are so blessed to have a farmers market in a different Portland neighborhood every day of the week compared to an annual one in Mendoza. The Green Market was full of homemade jams, fresh produce, vibrant plants, crafted goods and delicious food. We enjoyed a fresh veggie sandwich and a berry juice blended of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. This meal hit the spot considering I had my appetite back. Later in the day we rode bikes around the park for a bit and then stumbled upon a latin dance class in the middle of the park where I couldn’t help but jump in for a few songs. Why not join a flash-mod dance class in the middle of an Argentinian park? That evening we went out to Mexican food… although I stuck to simple foods (tortillas, chicken and avocado), we really enjoyed having some Mexican for the first time in a few months.
Now off to country number 2 — Chile! A seven hour bus ride with a short boarder crossing to our next destination of Vina Del Mar on the Pacific Ocean.