2008.11.10-12 – Mendoza, Argentina
I caught the early morning bus and made the 1000+ km long haul from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, Argentina. The ride took about 12 hours and the scenery was nothing to gawk at. From what I have seen, the central area of Argentina is a lot like Wyoming. It’s dry, desolate and there’s not much to see except sage brush. The western Patagonia region along the Andes is where all the action is. Argentine Patagonia reminds me more of Colorado where you have plains leading into foothills and then into dramatic snowcapped mountain ranges. The Andes are a lot more impressive than the Rocky Mountains but I think in general the Argentine landscape reminds me a lot of the American West. I think this is why I love Argentina and Chile so much. I can relate to the climate and landscape of these countries and feel comfortable there. To me Chile feels like California and Argentina like Colorado. The seasons are the same as in the United States except the opposite time of year.
I got into Mendoza around 7 or 8 PM on the 10th and was planning on staying a couple days then heading back to Buenos Aires. I checked into a hostel in town but was having reoccurring flu symptoms. Luckily I paid the extra money and got my own room to battle out this stomach bug.
I was feeling somewhat defeated the next day with my flu symptoms still lingering but I made the best of it and took a bus out to the Las Thermas de Cacheuta hot springs about an hour outside of Mendoza. The hot springs were pretty nice but it was hot out and would have been a little better if it was colder. I hung out with a group of Israelis and a couple of Americans. There’s nothing like hanging out with some fellow travelers to get the juices flowing on ideas for other places to visit. In the South American hostel circuit you meet all sorts of world travels on year plus expeditions going all over the place. It’s hard to be on a three week trip and not get jealous when they start rattling off tales of faraway lands.
One thing I have noticed in my traveling is that for some people like to travel in big packs of like 8 or more people. I don’t know why because this would drive me nuts. My rule with travel is three people at maximum. I almost think that is too high because inevitably someone is always cranky and usually the other two who are not tend to gang up. I like traveling with one person because if you start to bicker you can just do your own thing for a day or so and that usually helps the air. Anymore I think I just like to travel by myself and try to meet someone for a portion of the trip. That way I have some interaction and memories to share with someone but at the same time I get my space. Taking a vacation where you stay in one place, like an all-inclusive, is different, I can go with a group on one of those but when I am “traveling”, I like to keep the group small.
I got back from Las Thermas and took it easy that night. The next day I got up and made the call to stay another night in Mendoza since I was still not feeling in my prime with the lingering stomach virus and my flight set to go back to the States soon. Mendoza is world famous for its wine, in particular Malbec, so I felt I was obligated to do the vineyard tour while I was there. The easiest way to do the tour is to take a bus out to the Maipú region and rent a bike to cruise through all the vineyards and do wine tasting. It was ok but that’s something that would have been better done with someone else and I never like going through the motions of obligatory tourist activities.
With the vineyard visit out of the way I had to make a decision and clear out what was lingering in my mind..to stay or go. I think this whole dog and pony show in Mendoza was subconsciously just a just a reason for me to get closer to Patagonia and down to Torres del Paine. I was finally feeling better and starting to get over my flu so I decided to skip going back to Buenos Aires and extend my trip so I could see Patagonia. I made the call to Delta and changed my ticket again. I extended my stay another week and a couple days. It cost me another $250 bucks but in the end it was worth it.
2008.11.13-15 – Bariloche, Argentina
I left Mendoza the night of the Nov. 12th and headed down the legendary Ruta 40 to Bariloche, Argentina. It was an 18 hour bus ride overnight and well into the next day. The bus ride wasn’t too bad actually. I paid the money and got the full-cama service which is a big ass seat with plenty of leg room and they fed us pretty good. I instantly fell in love with Bariloche and to this day, after a second trip to South America, Bariloche is still my single favorite town on the continent. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The weather was cool 70 degree mountain air and the views from all angles were top notch. It is built on a lake overlooking amazing and rugged Andes Mountains. I felt at ease and comfortable there. The feelings I had walking the streets of Bariloche were similar to how I feel in many small Colorado and Montana mountain towns. I have never been to Switzerland but Bariloche is how I imagine Switzerland should be and if it’s not like Bariloche I will be very disappointed.
I took a bus into town and found this really cool hostel called La Bolsa. I loved the setup there. They had this big community kitchen that led outside to a courtyard and parrilla grill. The interior décor was nice dark wood like a mountain lodge. I stayed two nights in Bariloche and enjoyed every minute.