12.10.2009 31 °C
Scenes from my bus ride here
The weather is fantastic here. Sunny and warm. I set out to enjoy the city.
The city is very small, easy to cross from one side to the other on foot in about an hour. There is a huge park at one end. Parque San Martin, reminiscent of central park, there are runners, walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers all taking advantage of the beautiful day.
Since I don't eat alot of red meat I was feeling a bit sick from the streak the night before. I found a great vegetarian buffet. I felt a bit like a criminal eating vegetarian in Argentina. The place is called the Green Apple on Calle Villanueva. The owner Christina lived in NY for several years and meeting me made her homesick. We shared stories after my delicious lunch. The people here are so warm and inviting.
I've been on Mullet patrol, my mission for this city is to capture as many of these fascinating creatures which is not as easy as you'd think. They are literally EVERYWHERE, however obtaining a photo is a bit like catching a squirrel. You have to be swift and stealthy. Just as you're about to get a great shot, they cross the street. I missed several amazing ones because I wasn't ready with my camera.
There are so many varieties here too..there's the classic sho-lo, business in the front, party in the back
.....then there is a version thats cropped in the front with dreadlocks in the back quite a rare breed . The femullet (female mullet) is alive and well here too!
Thurs night I went for a coffee at Cafe Havana. I asked the employees where I could go dancing and they said they would take me out. After their shift was over we stopped by a local bar. One of the guys has a jealous girlfriend who promptly whisked him away. The other guy couldn't stay long but convinced me I should go to the club alone and got me a cab. The taxi driver was my age and really nice. I told him I only wanted to go to the club for an hour and asked him to pick me up at 1am. I go dancing alone in NY all the time so I assumed it would be the same. I walked into the club at midnight and everyone was sitting at tables. It was way to early for them, they were still having dinner!. I felt really awkward being there alone. The only way to interact with people was to approach their table and interrupt their conversation and ask to join them. That's hard enough to do in English but throw in my awful Spanish and loud music and it's incredibly daunting. Feeling defeated I headed for the bar, figured it would be easier to talk to the few people that were standing. The bouncer decided that I was his girlfriend and told the bartender to give me a drink on the house. The bartender then told me to take a seat and wait at the table. Back to my social isolation, I sat and watched people talking, laughing. I wish my Spanish was better so I could talk to people more comfortably. I had a table with four seats so when a group of guys came in and were just standing around I invited them to sit. It was that simple. Soon I was chatting away with a fun bunch of people, but by then it was time to go. My new taxi friend was waiting for me outside. I told him I needed 2 more hours since the dancing hadn't started. A really cheesy band took the stage and I had fun with my new friends. 3am rolled around and dancing was just getting started! Argentinian's reaaaaaly love to party. I left the club and my driver was there waiting for me. He said many people asked for a ride but he told them he was waiting for me. I love Argentina! He then invited me to go out to a club with him and stopped the meter. The club he wanted to take me to was closed and I was tired so I asked him to take me back to the hotel. It's kind of my MO to become friends with every random person that I speak to so it should be no surprise that I went out with my barista/taxi driver/restaurant owner. Its what I do.
Mendoza is known for its wines, particularly the Malbec. I did a full day tour or 3 wineries/vineyards, Lopez and Familia Zucchardi. Essentially I had wine for breakfast. The tour was interesting because each Bodega uses different technology to produce their wines. There was an older couple from Rio with me on the tour. The woman was also a speech pathologist working with voice clients. They spoke English well and were very nice. I hope to see them in Brazil.
We had an enormous lunch at Zucchardi. Bread, empanadas, salad, veggies, meat, more meat and dessert. The food was amazing as was the selection of wines chosen to accompany it. Sufficiently stuffed, we headed back to town.
My plans for Oktoberfest didn't work out so I decided to spend a few more days in Mendoza. I spent the day in the park.
Fri night I was going to go out with the crew from Cafe Havana. They told me 12:30 at my hotel. I waited and waited until 1:30. I wasn't sure if they meant 12:30 Argentina time which could be 1, 2, 3am...or if they weren't coming at all. If I waited any longer I'd be asleep on the lobby floor so I opted to go out alone. I went to Por Aca, the bar on Aristedes Villanueva that we said we would go to and I didn't see them there. Again feeling defeated I set out to find fun alone. Villanueva is the street with all the bars and restaurants so there was no shortage of places to go or people to talk to. I walked past the Public House at hostel Damajuana. My ears perked up when I heard English. I asked where they were from and was delighted to hear California, and Australia. I decided I would hang out there. The people there were very young but fun. Nick from Orange county is a sweetheart, the stunning Australian girl was only 19. There was a HUGE group of Chilean college students from Vina who had been partying all day. I don't know where the time went but when I checked it was 5 am and I had a rafting trip at 8:30 am so I said my goodbyes. They were all staying at the hostel there and it didn't look like the party was ending anytime soon. Crazy thing is I didn't feel tired at all.
8:30 am they picked me up at the hotel for my day of adventure. Horseback riding was first. I had the most elegant white horse and we set off into the Andes.
Our guide was so nice and spoke English really well. I practiced my Spanish with him. The scenery was so beautiful. Snowcapped peaks, tufts of brush and thistle scattered in the desert, a green lagoon, flowing river. So tranquil. So easy to forget any worries or cares. Reflecting on how lucky I am to be having all of these incredible experiences.
I had lunch with Gaby and Jon, a newly married couple from London. Gaby is hilarious, wonderful British sense of humor. We went rafting after lunch.
I am kind of an adventure junkie. Skydiving, hang gliding, bungee jumping did nothing for me. Class IV rapids in raging white water following a storm in Costa Rica, now that was exciting. Rio Mendoza has class IV rapids so I was excited. Disappointed when I learned that the river was low and its not until December that the real rapids begin, I may have to return. I sat in the front to get the most excitement out of it. Dressed in head to toe neoprene we set out into the freezing cold water. My wetsuit had a few holes in it so the icy water chilled my toes. The river was calm to my dismay. Our guide Diego worked on the Pacuare river in CR where I went rafting with Liv so he knew the kind of rapids I was looking for. I think he intentionally steered us near rocks to liven things up a bit. The front of our raft went up on a rock. I dug my foot into the foothold, leaned back and tensed every muscle in my body in an attempt to avoid going in the frigid water. My head went in the river but I managed to stay in the boat. We ALL thought I was going swimming. But that was the only excitement on the brief 45 minute trip. There was a really nice family from Cordoba. The mother is a biologist and professor at the University. She has 4 sons. The 8 year old was happy to practice English with me and wants to be my facebook friend. So cute. I will have to see them in Cordoba!
After rafting I walked around the town. The Argentina/Peru match was on so there were hoards of people watching in cafes and peeking in the windows from the street. There was much cheering and chanting in the street when they won. I stopped by Havana to see what happened the night before. They must have come for me 10 mins after I had left and our paths didn't cross. We made plans again to meet at the Public House and then go to a club. Again realizing how difficult life is without a phone. I went over to the Hostel to see the gang. The hostel has a pool, ping pong table, hammocks. They were having an Asado (BBQ) and had again been drinking all day. Ah, youth. I really like the vibe at the hostel and how easy it is to make friends. My hotel is boring and attracts business travelers. The private rooms were really nice though I can't imagine getting any sleep at a place like Daymajuana. Conflicted.
I told Gaby to meet me at the hostel as well. The group at the hostel was going to a different club, Adele and Nick decided to stay at the hostel and Gaby and Jon got lured to an “awesome” club with some weird guy at the bar. Again off on my own. I told the Havana crew that we would meet a Apeteco. Ready to dance I jumped in a cab. The club was mobbed with greasy mullets, and a cloud of smoke rose over the dance floor changing colors with the strobe light. I pushed my way through the crowd in search of the Havana crew. I left promptly after I could not find them. Realizing that clubs in Mendoza, now matter how great the locals claim they are are awful.
I should have booked my rafting trip for Sunday as EVERYTHING is closed on Sunday. I walked around the city looking for a bike to rent to go to the park. Stopped at the Green Apple to say hello to Christina when two young American girls and a French guy came in. I joined them for lunch, told them tales of Bolivian travel and took them to the park. I left them to pack my bags and check out of the hotel. I had 2 hours before my bus so I went back to Damajuana to say goodbye to everyone and to return the guys sweater that I borrowed the night before. They were all in the backyard, drinking, having another Asado, trying to convince me to stay. The hard part of traveling is meeting great people and then having to leave them, though knowing me I will never lose touch with them.
Off to another bus ride. Going to meet Carlos in Cordoba