Parents and Pisco Sours

September 11, 2013 - Mendoza, Argentina

From Auckland I took a loooong flight to Argentina and went back in time by a day. Arriving in Mendoza i was tired and weary and bracing myself for a difficult spanglish taxi fare negotiation, flicking through my phrase book for tips. But after immigration, there were my mum and dad, standing and waiting with big grins to surprise me.  Cue big hugs and a few tears.

No one looks after you like your mum and dad: I'll give you an idea of the kind of hotel we were booked into- jacuzzi bath, champagne at the breakfast buffet and a swimming pool. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I had trouble adjusting to such luxury, waking up in the night and rustling around for my room key thinking i had to walk outside in the cold to the bathroom hostel style. Yeah right!
I bombed on our first day in Mendoza. After the amazing breakfast I wallowed in the jacuzzi bath, practically reenacting a scene from pretty woman. Then I thought I'd lie down on the bed for a minute, only waking up 3 hours later when mum and dad returned from the pool. Jet lag was definitely winning, but I managed to climb out of bed to go to a real Argentinian steak house for a rib eye and a couple of glasses of malbec. Hero I know, but someone's gotta do it.
I was recovered by the following day so we set off on a wine tour of the Maipu vineyards- this was the main reason I'd wanted to come to Mendoza and I was really excited. We hired bikes from "Mr Hugo", a smiley fellow who, like most South Americans, will not allow the language barrier to prevent him from having a lengthy conversation at you whilst you stare back in confusion. I had visions of cycling around leafy quiet lanes, past old, small, family run vineyards. The reality was far less relaxing as the main route was along a terrifying main road. I hadn't ridden a bike in over two years and had visions of getting tipsy and toppling off my bike and under a cattle wagon going a million miles an hour.  We all agreed we'd better take it easy.
The vineyard entrance fees turned out to be more expensive than the hotel/Internet had made out, and there were no ATMs to be seen. So, we decided to choose just one vineyard and choose wisely. We did good, visiting the largest vineyard in the Southern hemisphere and having a one and a half hour tour of their impressive grounds and equipment. We learnt a lot about the history of wine in Argentina and tasted 4 very different wines, including their experimental "Cabernet Franc" which is apparently the next big thing. It's produced using 97% red grapes and 3% white which makes it lighter than a cabernet sauvignon don't you know. Keep an eye out for trapiche wines- apparently we can get them in the UK!
After the tour of the very swanky vineyard, we ducked into a much more modest olive oil, liqueur, and chocolate house for a quick taste before heading back. It was a top day and something I'd wanted to do for aaaagggges. And we didn't die. Tick!
The next day it was time to move on to Santiago.
The bus journey over the Andes was something dad had looked into in depth and was really excited for. It was to take 7 hours, allowing a whole 2 hours for border control. Bus is the main way to travel in South America, and the buses are first class, super spacious and super comfy. We climbed up and up into the snow line, passing some pretty impressive skiers at close range and taking in the awesome views. At border control we were ordered about in Spanish and we had to make sure we were completely switched on. After being stamped out of Argentina and queuing to be stamped into Chile, we took our bags off the bus and put them through the scanners. I handed my passport in again, and despite my terrible Spanish managed to catch what the guy said "Oh Rihanna! Great singer!"
I left my coat and travel pillow on the bus, which dad scalded me for, convinced they'd be searched or chucked as an anti drugs measure. But they were still there waiting for me on my seat, so the kilo of cocaine I had in my pocket made it across the border just fine. Major flaw in the supposedly tough system.
On the Chilean side we descended steeply, turning through 28 hair pin bends or "switch backs". This was what we took the travel sickness pills for! Again, the views were superb, but after all that excitement and the super comfy seat, I couldn't resist falling into a deep sleep...
We arrived in Santiago at dinner time and wandered around the city, taking it all in and looking for a restaurant. We passed a couple of grungy buskers, including a full on band, so that was right up dad's street. We settled on this small, casual cafe/ restaurant and chose to sit in the back. There were hardly any other customers around (we were dining far too early by South American standards) and the staff were hanging about, chatting, and generally having a "boys club" meeting. Dad got chatting to them about football, I had my first taste of empanadas, and we just generally had the craic with our new best friends. I'd seen the bar man spending quite some time mixing a cocktail in a huge champagne bucket, and toward the end of the night, three of them dramatically presented this bucket of pisco sour to us with three straws, basically telling us "down it!" I got ready to get stuck in whilst mum and dad sat there dumbfounded with their mouths literally hanging open "We can't drink all that!" The staff burst out laughing at their little joke and replaced the bucket with three much more civilised cocktail glasses of pisco sour. Oh those mischievous Chileans.
We had just one more day to explore Santiago and decided it had a cool rock and roll edge to it. It was also hilarious to watch the lovers and their outrageous public displays of affection. One couple were sat high up in a tree in the park having an intimate moment, whilst at the fountains dad rounded us up and suggested we leave before "this pair start taking their clothes off". Oh the Latin Americans. They're worse than the French.
Next stop - Cuzco! With Louise!

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Dawn Greener:
September 11, 2013
YAy....... We made the blog. Tick. Xxxxx
September 17, 2013
Sounds great! Pretty woman-no hands!!!! I miss you girl. Glad to see you having a great time with the family. You must be excited to see Sanjay!! Jealous of many things but not these seven hour bus trips be pulling a face like Karl pilkington! See you very soon sweets x love always xx
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