We were THIS close to taking a bus. The constant anguish and mental trauma of dealing with unpredictable winds and weather had us tied in knots. Do we go, do we stay, do we hitch, do we bus? But, after some serious curb-side deliberation, we decided to play the wind lottery again, and go for the final 1-day 120-km stretch of Ruta 40 into Mendoza. As usual on this portion of the trip, the major challenge is that the distance between point A and B is so big, and so ridiculously desolate, that you really need perfect cycling conditions to complete it. Otherwise you find yourself midpoint in the desert, bracing yourself against the wind, wondering what the h you’re going to do now. But the wind gods smiled on us this time and the final 120-km went without a hitch (if we don’t count the flat I got about 2 kms from our target hostel...which we won’t). A pre-dawn start, actually a pitch-dark start (we had to pull over and wait 10 mins because we couldn’t actually see the road yet), kick-started the day and we rode like it was the Tour de France. So ya, a very pleasant turn of events. We rolled into Mendoza under sunny windless skies a few days ago.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that it has been pouring rain since our arrival. But hey, not so bad given the alternative of perhaps being in a tent in the desert, or some hole-in-the-ground hotel in some hole-in-the-ground town. As they say, it could be a lot worse. The hostel that Amy found on the internet (a skill she has sharpened to a point) is fantastico – a beautiful colonial-style house just outside the downtown core complete with gourmet kitchen, courtyard, pool, and of course, a huge asado (see last post). All for the ghastly price of 24 bucks a night for a private air-conditioned room. So while it’s pouring out there, we’re cozy in here. Oh no...not another glass of wine...I really shouldn't...OK just a splash J
Mendoza is a big deal for us. First because it essentially marks the end of our cycling journey through Argentina – from here we turn right (west) towards the Chilian border, a stone’s throw away. Upon reflection, we can’t say we’re entirely unhappy about that. While Argentina has proven to be our hands-down fav, cycling-touring through the parched and endless nothingness of this part of the world has been trying. As the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest, and we’re looking forward to a change of scenery...and a change in wind direction hopefully!
The other reason Mendoza is a big deal is because we’re here for a month and a bit. Amy’s parents are flying in at the end of March for a visit, so we have until then “to play”. And, there is a A LOT to do around here. The two biggies for us are (1) wineries, and (2) mountains. This is ground zero for the Argentine wine industry. Approx 70% of all the wine in Argentina comes from Mendoza and area. Then there are the Andes – second highest mountain range in the world – just down the road. Add to that, Aconcagua – the highest mountain in the Americas and one of the “seven summits” – is just around the corner. It’s like having the Rockies towering over the Okanagan. Hmmm, what should we do first!?
So far, Mendoza seems like a wonderful place...a lovely mid-sized Argentine city complete with endless walking malls and central plazas lined with palm trees. Although, we haven’t seen it other than under cloud and rain. Yesterday we didn’t even make it to the main plaza before torrential rain forced us into a cafe for cover. Again, could be worse...the cortado mediano (espresso with a shot of milk, medium cup) and flan were delicious. However, an interesting twist in our dealings with the mercado negro (black market money thing) is upon us. It would seem the chicos on the street here do not like small bills, and are only interested in 100-dollar bills. We stockpiled our U.S. cash from ATMs in Sucre, Bolivia, which delivered it to us in 20-dollar bills. Well, NOT GOOD, according to the money guys. “Hard to sell” they say. I suppose if you are an Argentine converting your life savings into dollars, you don’t want a stack of 20s. Long story short is that our 20s are hard to change here. When we do, it’s at a lower rate. But hey, we’re still beating the official bank rate by a mile, so no biggie. The malbec is still 3 bucks a bottle!
So now what? Kind of a holding pattern for the next few days. In between the steak, wine, and cortados, our biggest challenge is to gather up intel and launch an attack on the Andes. There are a few options for getting into the mountains here, and it will take us a few days to organize ourselves. We need more gear, lots of food, transportation to the trailhead, fuel for the stove, maps, directions, permits, etc. Easy stuff when it’s your backyard, but a rather daunting task when in a foreign city you know nothing about. MEC...where are you?! J
A few days of holding steady is good actually. It will give this bad weather pattern time to pass. And, as the guy at the gear store told us, time for the snow up high to melt. Yikes! Ah well, that’s what down jackets are for. The next few days will also be critical for Amy. As mentioned last post, she’s going through a bit of a rough patch with neck and back pain. It’s been going on for a week or so, and we’re now looking for some kind of medical help. Chiropractics don’t seem to be a “thing” here. We have her booked with a physio tonight. We’ll see where that goes. Fingers crossed that she’s ready for the mountains in a few days. More on that and other Mendoza fun soon. Adios.
|Now this, my friends, is a cortado mediano.|