October 11, 2010
Crossing the Chile-Argentina border was a breeze; just make sure to eat all your fruit before you get there.
Mendoza was HOT. Compared to the coastal areas in Chile where we had been for the last while, Mendoza was nice and warm. Crossing the mountains makes a huge difference. No wonder wine grapes thrive here. Thankfully the town is very flat, so walking it wasn’t too tiring. I encourage stopping at one of the many heladerias (ice cream shops); the oldest of which is Helados Ferruccio Soppelsa. Ice cream is probably Mendoza’s best kept secret. I came for the wine, but I’d stay for the ice cream. Check out this list of Mendoza’s must-eat ice creams.
Unfortunately, we made a bad decision when it came to lodgings in Mendoza. We stayed at Hostel Mendoza Lodging (ARS42/$8.50 per person per night), which was, for lack of better words, a dump. The guy who checked us in wasn’t very polite or helpful. We had booked online through Hostel Bookers, but we didn’t get the room we had requested. Instead we were put in a small, brick, semi-basement closet with a bunk-bed in it. We were told we would be moved into another room the next day. Come the next day, we were put in a four person dorm (with bunk beds). We were not very happy since we had booked a private double room. Breakfast was included, but it was the worst one we’d had at any hostel. It consisted of undrinkable coffee, a glass of powdered orange juice, and toasted buns (which I’m convinced must have been toasted three days prior to them being served to us). These buns, if left uneaten, were then passed around from table-to-table to the next unwitting group of travellers. The next day they did the same thing with plates of stale pastries.
Of course, one can’t leave Mendoza without visiting some wineries. After much contemplation, we decided to visit the Maipu area. Maipu is the closest wine region to Mendoza, and it is possible to rent bicycles and cycle from vineyard to vineyard. We avoided the organized bus/bicycle tours and took a bus to Maipu, and rented bicycles when we got there. Take a 171, 172, or 173 bus from downtown Mendoza to get to Maipu (you need exact change for the machine). In total it cost us ARS35/$7 per person for transport to and from Mendoza and bike rental for the day. We rented our bikes from Mr. Hugo, and we were given a map to the wineries in the area. This website has a list of the bodegas of Maipu. When we returned the bikes, we were given a nice glass of wine to enjoy in the garden before we returned to Mendoza: a nice surprise!
Next, we are off to the last stop on our two-month tour of South America, Buenos Aires.