Our stay in Mendoza would have been as tortuous as the roads we took to get there if the views and vinos didn’t compensate for the potential calamities.
The drive through Los Liberadores, the gateway between Chile and Argentina, was a long and winding road. With purple mountains on every side, the view left nothing to be desired—until we saw the line for customs. Colorful buses teetered on the dirt cliffs while hundreds of passengers stretched and yawned.
After two hours of lines and a few furrowed brows when examining our “temporary” visas, we were back on the bus and headed for Mendoza, but not without photographing our first steps (since Buenos Aires) on Argentine soil.
The rest of the ten-hour drive flew by thanks to increasingly beautiful scenery. We savored views of Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western hemisphere, expansive vineyards, and indigo lakes misplaced in the middle of the desert.
All that was lovely, but trouble started when we reached our hostel. Somehow, the hostel booking was impaired after the last minute addition of Scott’s Chilean polola (girlfriend) and the subtraction of John. Somewhere in the equation our beds failed to add up.
Tired, aggravated, and unamused by the over-animated clerk, I pulled a turbo-assertive Laurel and scared the clerk into finding us beds; hammocks; lawn chairs; whatever. It was a holiday weekend in South America, so hostels were full of like-minded travelers. With nowhere else to sleep, I pardon my aggression.
Meanwhile, our next problem was congealing as we continued our pursuit to change our bus tickets back to Santiago. Schools in Rancagua were going on strike, so we had an extra day to spend in Mendoza. Since we had bought our bus tickets online, we tried calling, e-mailing, and of course, stalking the Andesmar bus offices to change our tickets. Ignored and practically derided (“Silly gringas, don’t you know that the company’s main office is in no way affiliated with the online branch?”), our attempts failed to solve our transportation troubles and we instead bought new tickets.
After one last e-mail of condemnation, the company replied five days later, promising to reimburse us for the unused tickets. Still awaiting that transaction.
While our living and leaving issues permeated the weekend, the charms of Mendoza were overpowering. No one could stay in a foul mood and as we road bikes through wine country Saturday morning, we were even singing a little Mungo Jerry. “In the summer time when the weather’s fine, you can reach right up and touch the sky, when the—”
Right in the midst of the chorus, Cami’s camera was snatched by another biker…with a motor. Outmatched by his horsepower, we drowned Cami’s sorrows in dulce de leche liquor and olive tapanads. Feeling courageous after a couple wine samples, Cami started wearing her wallet on her wrist. Just consider stealing from her again.
On the ride back to Mr. Hugo’s bike rental service, we tried to stay to the right of the white line, heed pedestrians, and manage our questionable breaks, but the task proved difficult. A local police car decided it was in our best interest to follow us slowly and toot his siren every time we veered off the bike path. Judging by his patience as he crawled at 5 kph for 3 kilometers, it seemed like a typical part of his job description.
With our wine-fix fixed, we spent the rest of the weekend strolling through Mendoza’s broad, tree-lined avenues, enjoying the sunny cafés and saucy nightlife. Too soon, the weekend was over and Mendoza drifted away like the snow off the purple backs of the Andes. We were back on the road again. Back to work. Back to school. Back home.