Back from Mendoza after a fantastic weekend excursion, with of course a few hiccups along the way as it is with nearly all trips. To give a quick introduction to Mendoza it’s important to know that it is one of the largest wine producing regions in the world and there are numerous vineyards that specialize in producing Malbec wines. The Malbec grape is used mostly as a blending grape in many French wines but because of the terroir of the Argentine malbec grape it is able to stand alone hence the Malbec wine.
Moving along, I had been told about the wonders of the long-distance bus experience in Argentina and how it’s like flying first class but for a fraction of the cost. While I can attest to the “fraction of the cost” validity, my experience with the bus is not as splendid as many others’ journeys have been. To say that the bus station was running behind is an understatement. It would be more appropriate to say that the DMV is an efficiently run agency, yeah that much of an understatement. The terminal seriously looked like the Fall of Saigon and was overflowing with long faced travelers hoping that their bus would arrive sooner rather than later. Two and a half hours after our departure time our bus rolled in and we were “whisked” away towards Mendoza. Fast forward 14 hours… After arriving we walked around the city a bit and then checked into our hostel, bought some groceries (and local wine) and prepared to relax the rest of the day and figure out our plans for the following two days.
Picture: "Complimentary" malbec grapes from a vineyard
The next morning we traveled to the town of Maipu, the Mecca of biking through wine country in Mendoza. A guy from Seattle staying in the same hostel recommended the business of Mr. Hugo to rent bikes from and I have to say we were not disappointed one bit. After being welcomed personally by Mr. Hugo, we were off to explore bodegas, olive oil plants, and a plethora of roads in horrible condition. After a full day of riding and sampling, we returned to Mr. Hugo’s where we relaxed for some time with some free wine (this is common with any bike rental business in Maipu). Mr. Hugo kindly showed us where to catch the bus back to our hostel (he personally walked us there, this guy was awesome!) and we embarked back towards Mendoza after a successful day’s ride. That night since everyone was tired we stayed in at the hostel playing cards and sampling some other products of Mendoza.
Picture: Part of our group with the very friendly, almost creepy, Mr. Hugo (center, non gringo)
The next day we headed back towards Maipu to continue our bicycle tour as it is a multi-day affair. Some of our group opted for a tandem bike (much fun to watch) at a different company while some others and myself made a beeline for Mr. Hugo again who was more than happy to receive our patronage. Much like the previous day we convoyed out towards food and wine and were not disappointed by the offerings of family owned wineries as well as internationally regarded fields. We had opted to purchase our return tickets for Saturday night and so we began our trek back that night, a night that can only be described as…unfortunate.
Our bus had left on time and it looked as though we would have no problems on our return trek, big time mistake. At some point during our trip the bus had broken down and it would be approximately three hours of waiting for another bus. Fortunately I had slept through this portion and was only made aware of this fact when being awoken to transfer buses. On the next bus I attempted to sleep but was sadly disappointed by a dripping air conditioned directly overhead that was akin to Iguaçu Falls. Unable to lean back in my seat I struggled to lean forward to sleep and avoid the complimentary Chinese Water torture courtesy of Andesmar Bus Company. When I informed the crew they replied that I should find a different seat; a fantastic idea considering the bus was filled to capacity. Eventually the familiar skyline of Buenos Aires appeared in the distance and our odyssey back was soon to end.
Picture: Bikes parked at one of the bodegas our group visited, Viña El Cerno
Mendoza is a spectacular region to visit and a very easily reachable destination from Buenos Aires if you have a four-day weekend available. With friendly people willing to help travelers and wines to match the degree of cordiality, it’s a great destination for wine lovers and biking enthusiasts alike...just don't take Andesmar.