Bikes, wine, more wine and Mr Hugo
15.05.2012 - 18.05.2012 19 °C
The overnight journey to Mendoza wasn’t too bad. We arrived really early and had no idea where to stay so stopped into a little café for breakfast and some free Wi-Fi. Found a cheap hostel on Hostelbookers.com called Áll in Mendoza monkey hostel’ and decided to book it for two nights. We got the map out and after about 20 minutes of walking, found the hostel, which was in a great location near the main plaza. The guy checking us in showed us to a dorm, which stank! We promptly referred him to our booking which was for a private room for two but he said we were only paying the dorm rate. We got a bit annoyed at this as it was a promotion on the net, but the owner of the hostel, Luca, was quickly there, telling us we could have the private room, and apologizing for the new guy! The room turned out to be tiny, but at least it smelt clean! We had a little nap then decided to explore town as it was a really sunny day. Mendoza isn’t a big place but there are some nice plazas and plenty of shops to look around. We stopped for a set menu lunch (which was huge) in a little restaurant, which had a great outdoor seating area. In the evening, we hung out at the hostel, played scrabble and drank in the hostel bar (the owner had been given a load of lime flavored beer which he decided to give out for free as he didn’t like it – it tasted a bit like the Desperado beers in France).
The next day we got up early and had our free hostel breakfast, more bread and jam, then headed out to do the famous wine tour of the area. Lots of people had told us to go with a tour company, as there had been rumours of muggings on the trail, but we decided to go it alone to save money. We also both hate organized tours and being herded around! It took a while to get a bus, as although we found it quickly, we then had to buy a scanner card for it (like an oyster card), as they only accept pre-paid cards or change… coins aren’t easy to come by in Argentina! The bus takes around 30 minutes to get out to the vineyard area; you have to jump off when you see all the rental shops. We had been recommended a place called ‘Mr. Hugo’s’ which is run, unsurprisingly, by Mr Hugo. It was about £5 for the whole day, including a bottle of water each. Mr Hugo is so sweet and very chilled out, he said we had to take helmets for legal reasons, but not to worry about wearing them! He gave us a little map of the region and we were on our way. The bike made us both laugh so much, as they were very old school with huge seats and wide handle bars with little baskets on the front.
We had got a few tips on places to stop and headed up to the Museo del Vino first. It’s a sweet little place with lots of old wine making equipment. We had a wander round and our first free taster of the day (although the tasters are more like full sized glasses of wine!). We then cycled a little further up the same road to Entre Olives, which is a little family run place that makes their own tapenades, oils and chutneys. We had a tour of the gardens (I didn’t know black/purple olives were green olives left to ripen). We then learnt how to make olive oil and got to try all the yummy foods they make on-site. We even finished the tour with a few shots of home-made schnapps and absinthe! It was really interesting and good to eat something with all the alcohol. We bought a jar of green olive and garlic tapenade and started our long cycle to the furthest vineyard. We decided it was best to ‘go long’ before we got too sozzeled. We also thought it would be safer to work our way back to Mr Hugo…
The cycle to Florio’s took about 40 minutes, and it was such a pretty ride. The first part was through town, but once you clear that it’s all beautiful tree lined country roads, surrounded by grape and olive trees. It’s a little scary when vehicles pass as the roads are tiny, but we made it there in one piece. Florio’s is a family run vineyard that only opened to the public 2 or 3 years ago. We had a tour of the factory, where they still hand bottle and cork their wine, then got onto the tasting! We tried four of the wines they make, two of which were fizzy (they also ‘fizz’ by hand), but they were a little sweet for me, kinda like dessert wines. After this, we cycled back up to Familia Di Tomaso which is yet another family run place, but the oldest in the region. We didn’t do any tours here, but instead stopped for lunch in a beautiful spot surrounded by their vineyards. The sun was shining too and we enjoyed the menu del dia with a glass of white wine made from the grapes that were growing around us. We had a little explore of the property then carried on our wobbly way and up to Tempus Alba, which is quite a modern, posh vineyard. Here, it was a self guided tour of the grounds, which we were pleased about as we knew enough about grape squeezing by now and just wanted the samples! At all the vineyards, you pay around £3- £4 for the tour and samples, so here, you just pay for a selection that they let you pick. We picked six wines between us and settled down on the terrace overlooking the vineyards to try them all. It was such a gorgeous spot, and by now, then sun was setting, which made it even more stunning. Our favourite was the Merlot, so yummy! We were tempted to stay for another round, but it was getting late, so we carried on up to Trapiche, which is another quite famous and old winery, but it was unfortunately closed for the day, so we trundled up to the infamous Beer Garden. The Beer Garden was funny, it’s down a little dirt track and is just a little building with an outdoor area with tonnes of sofas and bean bags. We shared a pint of their home brewed ale, which is served with home made crisps to absorb some of the alcohol! It was so yummy we stayed for another round, whilst having a fierce discussion on whether or not the bar tender was a man or a woman (I think lady boy!). It was 5.30pm by the time we left, and we decided we could squeeze in one more tour before the sun set. We stopped in at Historias y Sabores, which was another place that made all its own tapenades and chutneys. It was good to have another feed and the setting there is lush as all the seating is surrounded and covered by grapes vines, orange trees, lime trees and flowers. The final shot of absinthe definitely finished us off and we rolled back into Mr Hugo’s feeling the effects of the day. He poured us a jug of orange juice, followed by more crisps and we relaxed for a while in the courtyard. The whole trip is about 25km of cycling but I’m so glad we did it independently. We covered so much more of the area, had such a good laugh, and saved about half the money of the organised trip! There are tourist police on motorcycles that drive around the area too, so I never felt unsafe at any point, I think some travellers just set themselves up for a fall sometimes and attract the wrong sort of attention. We grabbed a bus back to town and made some dinner at the hostel but ended up having quite an early night, too much wine!
The next day, we booked a bus for the evening to cross the border into Chile, so ended up just hanging out most of the day at the hostel. It all ended up being a bit of a nightmare though, as we walked to the bus station with all our stuff for the 10pm bus, only to be told bad weather had shut the border and we would not be able to leave until 7.30am the next day! Luckily, an enterprising hostel owner was waiting to scoop up all the lost looking people, and did us a good rate on a double room near the station for the night. It turned out the hostel was plush, with a big flat screen TV in our room! We watched a movie and got some sleep. The next morning, we trudged back to the bus station and were relieved when the bus finally turned up 45 minutes late. We were on our way to Chile…