Friday, 27 June 2014

Mendoza, Argentina: Vacinations, Vineyards & Horseriding

My overnight bus ride from Córdoba to Mendoza was full of a rowdy women's volleyball team. I found them good fun but I don't think everyone else enjoyed their company.

Mendoza is the 4th biggest city in Argentina (after Rosario, Córdoba & Buenos Aires). It is very famous for its global award winning wines, especially the Malbec. Mendoza is a very touristic city due to its wine, being the crossing point to Santiago de Chile and its proximity to the Andes (including Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America and tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas, measuring 6,950m above sea level).

As soon as I hopped off the bus I was straight off to a clinic with all of my bags strapped to me. On Thursday mornings in Mendoza the government clinic gives out free Yellow Fever shots. I was supposed to have it before visiting Iguazú but better late than never.

After checking into my hostel, grabbing breakfast and signing up to a Pizza Party I was collected from my hostel from Yani, a girl from Couchsurfing. She gave me a quick tour of part of the city before taking me to the massive park (the site of where the Kiwi from Australia was shot and killed a couple of months earlier). After touring the lake we shared some bikkies and drinks.

Plaza de Independencia

After the returning to my hostel I was off to another hostel for a Pizza Party with all you can eat pizza. Once the eating part was done all the tables were stacked to the side and the hostel became a mini nightclub with 70 people from 4 different hostels. Whenever I went to the bar they would pour straight spirits down my throat for free... I only paid for one drink and got hammered.

The next day I went for a hike up a little mountain Cerro Gloria. It was a bit of a trek to the start of the mountain. I had to walk passed the big park and past a zoo. The scenery was nice. The top of the mountain is a tribute to General San Martin, the man responsible for winning the wars of independence from Spain in most South American countries beginning with Argentina. Ironically he was fighting in Spain against Napoleon before returning to South America and winning independence (Napoleon installing an illegitimate Spanish King, his cousin, might have been the turning point).

I caught the last 10 minutes and the only goal of Argentina vs Iran. A 12 year old kid tried to pickpocket me while I was watching. They have another trick as well where they hold flyers above wallets or phones on tables pretending to hand them out while the other kid quickly grabs your wallet or phone while out of view under the flyers. Afterwards I returned to the hostel for an all you can eat asado followed by another night of getting free spirits poured down my throat.

Don't swim in this!

Probably the best part of the zoo and it was outside

The next day Yani picked me up from my hostel in her car. She took a course in Wine Tourism where her teacher was a boss at one of Argentina's most famous and awarded wineries, Trapiche (it has even won awards in France). Yani hooked me up with a free tour.

I arrived in trekking pants and shoes, everyone else on this tour was very well dressed (it turned out to be the higher end tour). The tour taught me about the history of the local wine history, the process and much more. The wines we sampled at the end were amazing. The guide even let Yani and I stay behind to finish the bottles on the balcony while she escorted everyone else out... I love Couchsurfing!

These tracks used to go to Buenos Aires and Valparaiso in Chile

Wine is very cheap in Argentina but these will set you back about $40 each.

A great way to spend a Sunday

The Louvre?

The next day I explored the city I explored the city solo.

The meaning of this is in Buenos Aires Part 1... I take this photo in every city

The next day the Aussies I met at my hostel in Còrdoba (Tom, Shaun and Steve) ended up in my dorm room in Mendoza. We all went horse riding that afternoon. My first time on a horse in my life! It really hurts your testicles when they run fast... Apparently there is a technique.

Kung Fu & I

After the horse riding we had another asado with the staff and other riders before getting our driver to drop all of us off at a bar. It was 3 Aussies, 2 Colombians and 1 Venezuelan...We played drunken pool where I might of photo bombed a Venezuelan and a Colombian when they thought they were having a normal photo... They didn't find it as funny as everyone else.

They didn't know until after they looked at the photo.
My final day involved watching Argentina beat Nigeria, celebrating afterwards and going to another hostel Pizza Party. The next morning I was finally off after 1 week in Mendoza.

Next Stop San Juan!

Lessons Learnt:
Couchsurfing is Awesome!
Only guys find that type of photo bombing funny.
Riding horses is better for girls.
Argentina is my world cup team.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Córdoba, Argentina: My Favourite Argetinean City

After arriving in Córdoba I made my 40 minute trek to my hostel. I checked in, got changed then headed off to a Couchsurfing meeting at a bar where I was the only non-native Spanish speaker.

Córdoba is the 2nd biggest city in Argentina. It is known as the university city in Argentina with many young people coming to study from many parts of Argentina... This equals many bars.

While eating breakfast on my first morning Brazilian guy, Bruno, asked if I wanted to go hiking... Bruno, 2 French guys and I were soon at the bus station trying to figure out how to get to Quebrada del Condorito.

The province of Córdoba has many mountains that are much flatter and rounder than the Andes due to being much older. Quebrada del Condorito was quite beautiful with stunning landscapes and many birds... The only downside was jumping around to keep warm while waiting for a bus on the side of the road in the middle of no where after the sun went down.

The next night I was off to meet some CSers. The first was Daniela and a friend of hers for a quick tour and then drinks in a bar. After returning to my hostel I met up with another Daniela (Dany) from CS and one of her friends, Cristian, at another bar. Dany and I ended up dancing the night away at a bar and talking well into the morning. She is a 27 year old Argentinean defence lawyer that definitely knows how to dance.

The next couple of days involved drinking mates, watching a big boxing match at Dany's place (I was surprised that she enjoys watching one of my favourite sports) and of course more bars.

I might have been a little drunk
The next few days involved meeting more people from CS for exploring, being the only foreigner in an Argentinean soccer match (it was tough), watching the beginning matches of the world cup, meeting a group of other Aussies in the hostel and hanging out with Dany... I also missed an Aussie getting kicked out of the hostel in the early hours of the morning (he was a good guy when he was sober but had a massive cocaine and alcohol problem).

200 years since the revolution. There are 201 of these from 1810 to 2010.

One of these ones is my Birth Year.

I'm not sure why there is one of these in Argentina but it's cool.

The World Cup has definitely kicked off!
It was now time for another Argentinean Asado (they are definitely not standard BBQs) with the hostel crew followed by a night of clubbing.

Some of the hostel group
The next day I met up again with another CSer , Eugenia, for more tea and sweets at her place before heading off to the park to play some padel tennis with 2 more of her friends (our 2nd attempt to play). The mini sports day was followed by a trip to a bee covered bakery for many facturas (sweet buns with cream and jam).

Those mini things everywhere are bees

More bees

After Dany returned from a weekend at her parents house I was showing off my cooking skills. We switched between English and Spanish regularly with Dany often accidentally throwing in Italian just to complicate things further... I would usually meet her after her night time Italian classes so it was difficult for her to go from Spanish at work to intensive Italian and then to English.

My last few days involved more world cup soccer, Dany taking me to a pub/restaurant and another communal hostel asado for my last night.

Waiting for my pub steak

My final day involved making Dany take over a 2 hour lunch break to say goodbye. The hard part of travelling but the world is very small.

Dany decided to head off to her parent's place the same night so we decided to share a cab to the bus station and say good bye again... it was actually our 3rd goodbye. I was supposed to leave Córdoba a week earlier... This time it was for real.

The Taxi Ride

Ready to go!

Following 2 weeks in Córdoba and seeing all of Australia's world cup matches on TV it was time to move on.

You get used to saying goodbye all of the time when you travel but sometimes you wish you had more time.

Next stop Mendoza!

Lessons Learnt:
I can't speak Italian.
Australia actually played well in the world cup.
I always have the most fun in university cities that aren't the capital.
I love Argentinean Asados.
My Spanish improved a lot in these 2 weeks.
I only managed to meet 6 of the 25 people that wrote to me on CS wanting to meet.