Mendoza is an incredibly beautiful city - definitely one of the most picturesque and scenic places I've visited since entering Argentina. The plazas here are much bigger and elaborate; a great escape from the busy streets. If I haven't mentioned it already, traffic is an absolute nightmare in Argentina - there seems to be no right of way
rule. In most cases, it's all about crossing a junction and hoping for the best. That goes for both cars and
pedestrians. Like San Juan, Mendoza is a relatively new city - in 1861 an earthquake pretty much destroyed the whole place. Earthquakes still happen on a regular basis - apparently there was a small one just under 2 weeks ago. Glad I missed it.
It's been a while since I've done a chronological run-down, so here it goes:Saturday.
Went for a walk around the collosal San Martin Park, eventually ending up at Mendoza Zoo. The layout of the zoo wicked - it's situated on a hill, which gives a immense view of the park and the city when you reach the top (near the monkeycages somewhere). On the whole, the enclosures the animals were kept in and the living conditions were relatively decent, if a little below European standards. However, my basis for comparison is Cairo zoo in Egypt, a place that gives a whole new meaning to disrespect for animals, so all in all it was pretty cool. On our way out of the park we walked past the football stadium and saw a lot of people leaving the grounds. We also heard what sounded like rubber bullets being fired and saw clouds of smoke. Cat and me didn't think much of it; I thought the game had finished and one team was celebrating, Argentinian style. However, the next day we picked up the Sunday paper to have a look at the cinema listings and discovered that it wasn't a celebration, it was a riot! The game was suspended after only 17 minutes of play. Which means rubber bullets were actually fired. I remember reading that 29 policeman were injured during the incident. Crazy bastard football fans. And it was a group supporting the home team as well! Glad we decided to walk around
the grounds and not through them. We're still planning to watch a Boca Juniors match when we get to Buenos Aires though. Apparently the stadium is located in the roughest neighbourhood of B.A - all fun and games. Also had our first taster of the Mendoza trolley system - a great way of getting around the city and a hell of a lot more environmentally friendly than the bus.Sunday.
Boredom strikes again. Seriously, time couldn't have gone more slowly. Watching a film at the cinema has become a regular event for Cat and me. This week it was Thumbsucker
, a very interesting film about the psychological implications of being a teenager (at least that's what I made of it). Random note: using Spanish on a daily basis is really messing up my English phrasing. Instead of saying "should we ask for the bill?" to Cat, I come out with "should we ask for la cuenta?".
Likewise, "what are you having for desert?" turns into "what are you having for postre
?". I should stop now before I really confuse people when I get back.Monday.
So I thought we were going horseriding in the morning, but the girl who was working at the hostel on Sunday didn't book the tour for some bizarre reason. Tuesday morning it is then. As an alternative, we visited the municipal aquarium and the "Snake Zoo". Both were small, but really good fun. It beats visiting a religious art museum anyday. They even had a spitting viper
in the snake zoo, which if I remember correctly is the fifth or sixth most dangerous snake in the world, according to a World's Most Dangerous Snakes programme on Animal Planet from a few years ago. It certainly looked vicious. After a bit more shopping (does it ever end?), Cat and I managed to find the best all-you-can-eat restaurant: only 2.5 euros (1.75 pounds) per head. Brilliant. 5 plates later and I was waddling back to the hostel. Tuesday.
Horseriding at last! Cat and I had been looking forward to it since Salta, and it was so worth it. My first proper attempt at riding a horse. Apart from being given a lethargic horse, everything worked out well! He just wouldn't respond... everytime I kicked his side nothing happened. He just needed some encouragement from the guide. It was a really chilled out ride through a scrubby and rocky landscape, with views of snowcapped mountains in the background (the Andes) as well as an oil refinery. Nice. On the way back to the "ranch" the guide thought it was a good idea to encourage the horses to gallop - I just about managed to avoid falling off the damn thing! Great fun though. In the afternoon we tried to go to the thermal baths at Cacheuta (about 30k to the west of Mendoza), but failed miserably. We went to the bus terminal thinking that a bus would leave at 3.30, only to discover that the bus actually leaves at 5.30. When we finally reached Cacheuta (at 6.45) we found out that the baths close at 7. Brilliant. So we hopped on the bus heading back to Mendoza. Waste of time? Quite possibly. We made up for the failure by treating ourselves to a real nice meal at a fairly posh restaurant (by Argentinian standards). I swear the the steak just gets better and better - the one I had yesterday was out of this world. Any serious meat-lover should make Argentina their next holiday destination. Period. I know all you vegetarians are probably shaking your heads, but the cows in Argentina aren't given any artificial crap - they're allowed to roam freely on the grasslands of the pampas. I can't think of a better life for a cow than that really.Wednesday (today).
Wine tasting-time! Although I only visited one bodega, the tour was fantastic and I was allowed to sample a few wines, so it was well worth the visit. Malbec, a red wine, is becoming a real favourite (sounds sad, I know). I also stopped off at a chocolate and liquor manufacturer. They make a huge range of spirits - homemade whisky, cognac, vodka as well as sweeter stuff like chocolate (or chocolate and mint, or chocolate and banana) liquor and fruitier types. Again, I was allowed to taste a few - the chocolate one was delicious.
That about covers Mendoza. I'm catching the bus to Cordoba this evening - it's essentially a huge student (i.e. party) city, so this weekend should be a good one.