Mendoza is actually quite a large town. Much bigger than we expected it to be. We arrived in there in the early evening after our first long bus trip. The hotel we had booked (last minute again) was old but clean. No one working there really spoke English and as we had only booked one night we were keen to start looking for a hostel to move to for our next couple of nights. We checked out one hostel called the Monkey Hostel which looked great, had great reviews, but didn´t have any rooms. They were nice enough to send us with a map to a few other similar quality hostels - which is how we found Hostel Estacion Mendoza. Lesson learned about booking last minute in high season!
We were already enjoying Mendoza more than Santaigo with the nice wide streets, lots of trees and very nice people. The nicest building in town turned out to be the Park Hyatt! Although this is wine country you can´t actually get to the wineries from town. You can have a good steak & cheap glass of local vino, but that´s about all the town itself has to offer. On the first evening we managed to find Dan a nice steak and some good local wine for myself so we were both happy.
The next day we moved to our hostel which was great - there were lots of other english speaking guests and boards with restaurant suggestions and lots of activities for us to do - Yeah! We decided to book the bike & wine tour. This seems to be the common choice among young tourists for getting between the wineries and it is much cheaper than a private driven tour. On our second night we headed out in search of a vegetarian restaurant that was recommend in our Lonely Planet book called the Green Apple - it no longer exists. Big disappointment. Dan and I are compromising - steak one day, my choice the next. We are starting to wondering if the LP book is just extra weight in our luggage! We settled for Subway as a last resort instead. Go with something you know - especially when you´re a picky eater like me & can´t read the spanish that is on most of the menus!
The bike tour was the following day. We opted for taking the local bus for about 45mins to the town of Maipu and heading to the bike rental company ourselves which works out to be much cheaper than taking the package deal you can buy from the companies in Mendoza. We decided to rent our bikes from a company called Bikes & Wine which was straight across from the bus stop in Mapiu. We were each given bikes & a map of the local wineries and we were off. First stop was around the corner at the wine museum for a free wine tasting and then onto the olive oil maker next door for a introduction on how olive oil is made then tasting olive oils, jams, liquor & chocolate. We weren´t really excited about the olive oil here, but nevermind we were here for the vino. The guys we rented the bikes from suggested that we head down to the end of the wine route first to avoid most of the rest of the people and work our way back. So that´s what we did. We rode 14km down a bumpy, busy, VERY sunny road to our first winery or Bodega as they are called in spainsh called Boutique CarinaE which was the smallest winery in the area. They still bottle everything there by hand. There is one lady who puts on every single label. Only she is allowed to do this to make sure that they are all identical. The tour was good, and we got a tasting afterwards of 4 of their specialties. Mostly Malbecs of course. We even tried a Rose Malbec with neither of us had even heard of before. Great on a hot day like it was! Next up was a stop for lunch at a nice local restaurant with great food. We then headed for a larger more well known winery called Trapiche which is the most famous winery in the area. Unfortunately we got there just after 4pm and the last tour was at 4pm. Possibly starting at the furthest winery wasn´t the best idea after all! Since we figured we´d missed most of the rest of the tours we headed to the ´Beer Garden´which was actually a little hut with outdoor loungers in the shade. Very bohemian - they had cold drinks and we could hide from the sun which was a nice way to re-energize before the rest of the bike ride back.
That was it for our wine tasting - not nearly as much wine as we had hoped for & far more sun than we wanted! To make up for missing some of the wineries on the bike tour we decided the next day (our last in Mendoza) to rent a moped. Dan was a little worried at first since he hadn´t been on a bike in at least 6yrs & these were small bikes, but we decided to go for it & it turned out to be way more fun than the bikes! Despite our butts being sore from the crappy bikes the day before we both really enjoyed riding around the city and out to the other closest wine region called Lujan de Cuyo. We especially enjoyed all the shady roads - which there tons of in Chacras de Coria just before Lujan where we stopped for lunch. We didn´t end up making it to any of the wineries in that region even though we had been given a map because we some how kept missing the ones on the main road, and didn´t want to ride in the sun to the others. I never thought I´d been hiding from the sun like we were in Mendoza! We would definitely recommend Chacras de Coria for sleeping & wine tasting over Mendoza or Maipu to anyone heading to the region.
Before we headed out with the moped the lady we rented from gave us a phone to use in case of emergenices and also in case we got pulled over by the police and they wanted money from us. She assured us if this happened then she would call the tourist police who would come and sort out the regular police. A little odd, but luckly for us we didn´t have any troubles while on the bike.
Nest stop is Pichilemu. Which Lonely Planet describes as “Lusty left break waves make this rusty and ramshackle 'Pichi' a hot surf sport. With bohemian buena onda (good vibes) and more expats everyday, it isn't a bad strip of sand to kick back on”. Fingers crossed they were right about this one! We are looking forward to some slightly cooler weather. 34C is a bit too hot for both of us, and hopefully the sun will be slightly more forgiving! We are taking our first overnight bus to Santiago (Salon Cama, fully reclinable seats which are way better than most airplane seats) and then switching to another bus to Pichilemu. 12hrs in total & I am very excited about the place we are going to stay in!