Wine bike tour highly recommended!
14.04.2010 - 17.04.2010 22 °C
The second place we visited in Argentina, Mendoza was quieter and prettier than Buenos Aires, in a well-established wine region, surrounded by vineyards and countryside. We stayed in HI (Hostelling International) Hostel Mendoza, which was clean and secure with helpful staff (and one very fit one, who we nicknamed Dave - real name 'Nacho'? - making lack of hair straighteners even more embarrassing).
We spent our first day in a large park with a lake, relaxing, sunbathing and trying to avoid making friends with the local wild cats and dogs (who seem to want to make friends with us). There are quite a lot of stray dogs around, which is not very nice for Sophie, who's scared of dogs at the best of times, least not when rabies is potentially an issue. They are pretty friendly though and often follow you down the street or come to sit with you in the park, so are difficult to avoid.
We signed up for a cycling wine tour of local vineyards as we'd heard this was THE thing to do in Mendoza. We were a little uncertain if our fitness levels and mountain-biking abilities were up to the job, but finding out more information was a good excuse to speak to ´Dave`as he had tour-booking responsibilities. He reassured us that the minibus that collected us would continue to follow behind the last cyclist for safety, shielding us from Argentinian traffic and picking up anyone that became too inebriated to pedal, so we eagerly signed up.
On the morning of the bike ride I felt really ill and was actually sick when I tried to eat breakfast. I considered it may be stupid to persevere with wine-tasting in this state but couldn't bear the thought of missing out on my only opportunity to do this tour as I'd looked forward to it so much. So I packed some sick bags and some diarrhoea tablets and pressed on regardless. Unfortunately we were the first pick-up so it didn't help that I also had to stave off travel sickness on the minibus, trawling round in traffic picking up other 'wine enthusiasts', before a half an hour drive to the first vineyard. Still feeling green around the gills I did my best to appear interested in fermentation processes whilst trying not to be sick from the smell of the yeast and the wine.
Somehow, the first glass of wine, on a verandah looking out over beautiful scenery, chatting to the rest of the group perked me up. By the time I'd pedalled precariously to the next vineyard I felt so much better and really glad I'd come.
We spent the day visiting 3 vineyards, learning about wine making and tasting local produce. We had a lovely lunch in the middle of a vineyard in the sun (vegetarians catered for!). It was such a nice way to spend the day, with a good mix of people who were a laugh, including three boys who were 'working on a naked calendar for charity' (basically a legitimate excuse for getting naked in public for photos at any opportunity).
I would definitely recommend this as an activity in Mendoza - it is one of the highlights of my trip. It was very well organised and safer than I perhaps anticipated. The tour guides looked after us all very well and the hospitality at each of the vineyards was outstanding.
When we arrived back to the hostel we were all in good spirits and considering going to a BBQ party the `Calendar Boys´ had insisted we come to at their hostel. In the end we decided against it as they had been up for two nights straight (having gone straight on the wine tour after arriving in their hostel that morning), and having got pretty wasted on the tour we thought (a) they'd be passed out in a deep sleep in their rooms and (b) the hostel wouldn't let us in anyway as we weren't staying there. After her Absinthe-sampling, Naomi thinks she embarrassed herself in front of ´Dave´ by accidentally calling him it to his face (several times) when he asked if she had a nice time on the wine tour, ha ha.
All in all, Mendoza was great :-)