Saturday 14 February 2009 - Friday 20 February 2009 34 °C
My first impression when stepping off the bus in Mendoza was...wow its hot!! Much hotter than Chile and unfortunately the dreaded humidity was back!
The main activity in Mendoza was going on wine tasting tours which obviously didn't appeal as i don't drink wine! it was quite fun to play 'spot whos been on a wine tour' at the hostel in the evenings...some staggering around and red wine stained teeth going on! you can also do a tour of the vineyards on a bike which sounds like a recipe for disaster! However Mendoza is a very pretty city, it was hit by an earthquake in 1861 which resulted in the city being rebuilt with future earthquakes in mind- wide avenues (for rubble to fall into!) and lots of plazas (for evacuation points). The plazas were a great place to hang out in the shade, read and people watch.
Next stop was San Juan a small town a couple of hours drive from Mendoza, on my favourite, the semi cama! The bus attendant brought round coke and alfajors as a mid morning snack, after the sweaty hike to the bus station it was just what i needed! Alfajors are a chocolate biscuit with a caramelly filling, very yummy! When i arrived in San Juan i thought that all the residents had left the town but turns out they just siesta properly here and literally everything was closed. I can understand why they do it though because the heat in the afternoons is unbearable.
In the evening we went to an Olive Oil Museum which was actually more of a tour around the factory where they process the olives into oil, using all the original machinery. The chap who showed us around was the son of the founder the company and was clearly very proud of all the companies products and history- unfortunately he was babbling away in spanish and i had no clue what he was saying! Luckily Karima can speak a bit of spanish so could translate! We tasted the oil and watched a short video and by the time it had finished the guy had set out all kinds of things for us to try, olive oil paste, sundried tomatoes, olives with roasted almonds in, pickled cucumber, sweet dried olives and finishing off with a glass of, well we're not quite sure what it was but it we think it was an argentinian grappa! no need for dinner that night then!
The next morning was an early one, we were going to get the bus out to a nearby reservoir and go swimming but had to go early before it got too hot. The bus took ages, the driver honked at everyone he knew which seemed to be the entire town! But when we got there it was worth it, completely still and quiet. The landscape was really unusual, the whole area is clay. Nearby is the Valley of the Moon where the landscape is meant to resemble the moon and i guess this was quite similar. We walked around the reservoir, past a no swimming sign, over all the rocks to a shady patch and headed down to the waters edge ready for a dip and promptly sank knee deep into the clay bank! All the rocks and earth look pretty solid but as soon as it comes into contact with the water it turns into mush as we found out when we stepped into it! No wonder the no swimming sign is there!
Spent the morning shade bathing and taking photos then caught the bus back into town. Was 1 o'clock by then and pretty hot so there was only one thing for it....siesta!!
The next afternoon i hopped back on the bus to Mendoza where i had to change for the bus to Cordoba, 8 hrs east. I had a couple of hours to kill between buses so had a little picnic on the grass outside, fending off the local stray dogs! time to head to the platform. 9pm came and went...no sign of a bus to Cordoba. the fun thing with South American bus companies is that you never know exactly which make of bus is going to arrive. I had booked my ticket with Andesmar but was expecting the bus to be an El Rapido one but it could always have been a Tramat one too! They like to keep you on your toes! All around us buses were coming and going, Cata International, San Juan, Chevalier....no sign of any of the buses we wanted though! There was a big group of people clearly waiting for the 9pm bus and they started to drift off, sit down, settle in for the wait. Then the words strike and manana started to be mentioned...uh-oh this didnt sound good! Headed inside and with a stroke of luck found a lady who spoke english who explained there was a strike and all the Andesmar/El rapido/ Tramat buses were stuck inside the depot because they had blocked the road outside. A local judge was trying to sort out the situation but they didnt know how long it would take. All the argentinians got very vocal and pretty angry resulting in the police arriving! the Andesmar rep said he was calling the depot to find out the situation and if the buses werent running they would put us up for the night. Everything worked out well in the end though as after about 2 1/2hrs they got everything sorted and the buses started to arrive. Did think we were going to witness a bit of a riot at one point though!
The bus journey to Cordoba was nice, after the unbearable heat of San Juan it was such a treat to curl up in the cool air-conditioning and i slept really well!