We caught a 13 hour, 8.30pm bus with Andesmar from Buenos Aires to Mendoza. We arrived to beautiful sunny weather, different from the rain and cold we experienced this time in BA.
We were approached at the bus station by some kid promoting his father’s hostel. We’d had a look for hostels on the inter web and they were all about the same so didn’t have somewhere in mind. This guy told us he could give us a room to ourselves for AR$45 a night, brekky and a lift there. We said why the bloody hell not!
There was no-one staying at Hostel Roca Putu, but a while later, after speaking to other travelers we found there was no-one else at other hostels either due to off season.
We took a walk down to organise some stuff to do and went to Hostel International something selling tours. We knew we wanted to do the winery tour and they had a special on where we could do the High Andes Tour one day and the winery tours by bus another for AR$200 each. Booked.
We took a walk in a massive park, probably bigger than the city. We wanted to make it to see the auditorium but the maps weren’t to scale and it ended up getting a bit dark so we flagged it.
Our winery bus tour began with the a few wineries in the Maipu region by bus. We were to be picked up from our hostel between 2.15 and 3pm. It got to 3.15pm and we were wondering wtf was going on!! The bus finally arrived and we discovered that the first one had broken down and they had to swap it. Great start.
The first winery we went to was Don Arturo, a small, family owned winery. We were separated into Spanish speakers and English speakers – us and another bloke, Kevin from Canada! We were a little disappointed to have to do a tour but the guide was friendly enough. We didn’t ask many questions because we were very eager to get to the tastings but we did find out about French oak and American oak barrels. We saw plenty of barrels!
We then went to Vistandes. This is a larger, much more commercial winery with production of wine up to 710,000L per year. The tour was good, the guide spoke English well and smashed out the information so we could get to the tastings. He already had red wine lips so had been working hard for the day, he drank wine with us and then was off to Uni!!
The next stop was Olive Boutique Pasrai. The name comes from putting the Spanish and English words together…. (pasas – raisins). They make pretty damn good extra virgin olive oil. We got a quick tour of the factory and then got try their range of olive oil skin products, olive oils and of course olives!
High Andes Tour:
We were picked up at 7am from our hostel and headed out on Route 7. We stopped in at Upsallata for a typical, shitty Argentinean coffee then headed out to see some of the Andes…. We stopped many times along the way to take pictures and walk around. We met two pommy slappers Emily and Laura who we are currently still traveling with.
We called in at Puente del Inca (Inca Bridge), we were about 2700m above sea level. This had been formed by mineral waters giving the orange, yellow and green colour which make it look awesome. The building beneath the bridge was one a spa resort! The rooms each had access to the hot springs beneath and it was said that the Incan people thought the waters to have special healing powers and brought the sick when seeking a cure.
Punta del Inca – Inca Bridge
The next stop was the highest peak in the Americas at 6,959m – Mount Aconcagua. This seemed to be a bit of a waste of time wandering around the “park” but we had fun. It has a few glaciers hanging off it and apparently takes about 15 days to summit. At least one person a year dies attempting, some times as many as 7!
Slapper Doctor Emily, Rich, Chan, Kevin and Pommy Doctor Laura.
On the way back to town, and after making amigos on the bus with two pommy slapper doctors Emily and Laura, and Kevin from the winery bus tour, we had planned to do a winery tour on bikes the following day. Cheese and olives were on the cards. We ended up over catering with 1.2kg of cheese plus olives, toastadas and bread but never mind.
We met at the bus stop at 9am and went out to Mr Hugo’s Bikes, again in the Maipu region. Mr Hugo is THE BEST! We got our bikes, our free bottle of water and an explanation on what we could visit.
Ride our bikes until we get wine!
We set off, deciding to go to the furthest winery first. We paid AR$15 to do a short tour of the little Florio winery then got to the good part of tasting the wine. We got to try 5 wines, they were all quite sweet but enjoyable enough. We didn’t like them enough to buy a bottle so took off to find some better.
Tasting numero uno
Next we pulled up at Carinae wines. Parked up at special bike parking….
Exclusive Bikes & Wine Parking – we weren’t with that company but parked there anyway!
We then found out because it was a public holiday we would be charged AR$40 (AUD$9) each for tastings – double the normal price. We decided just buy a whole bottle of wine and blow that joint off and go drink it in a nice grassy area where we could also have our little picnic of cheese and olives.
We rode for about two minutes and pulled in to the closest grassiest area – an olive grove – no grass, just dirt. Meh. We set up as best as we could, plastic bags and jackets as makeshift seats and tables, and smashed down our delicious wine and food.
Bodega Familia Di Tomaso was the next stop. Again we had to listen to their wine making process be explained and then we drank some more wine….. it was good but we didn’t want to buy it.
We then went to the brewery and it was shut, not to worry next door was the wine museum, free entry and free glass of wine! We had a quick look around but there was about 50 other tourists there (most on bikes also) and we wanted to get into the wine incase it ran out so can’t say we learnt much, joke was on us, the wine was crap we couldn’t even finish it!
Next stop chocolateria “A la Antigua”. By this stage we had eaten enough cheese to shut up our back ends for a week and some of us weren’t really hungry, Rich and Kev were keen to try the liquors and absinth so they went in.
This was the last straw, we’d been on our outing for 7 hours so thought we’d call in at a Cafe Wine Bar for one last drink. The wine she stocked was a shit wine we had already tried so we bailed and had a coffee instead.
We returned to Mr Hugo’s to drop off our bikes and he had snacks and fake juice for us! In Argentina you can only pay for the bus with coins and because of this they are hard to come by. Between the five of us we were about 30 centavos short! We asked Mr Hugo to change some money for us, he was the sweetest bloke! He took extra care to ensure we all had the right amount of money each in our hands, and walked us out, watching to make sure we made it to the bus stop, then he waved us off like dad sending the kids to school!!!
That was a big day…. then we decided to go to Salta that night – 20 hours by bus. Stay tuned!!