16.05.2011 - 21.05.2011 14 °C
We have had so much fun in Mendoza, Argentina´s famous wine region. Although the hostel was probably by far the worst that we have stayed in- think box size bathroom where you have to lean back over the sink to get your head under a shower, while there´s an electric socket right by you, and a fan so low that you get your head caught in it, the pastries weren´t half bad. The City itself is full of beautiful little plazas and wide moon lit streets to eat your dinner on while various musicians fill the air (or torture you as one attempting to be an opera singer did two nights in a row). It is a great place to fill your people watching needs, as I so have, and being in that setting does make you feel that in some ways the Argetinian men in Mendoza have it slightly easier than our English men at home. Who wouldn´t feel the romance sitting in the evening in the plaza, by the fountains and their lights, looking at the stars with the warm breeze on you. Against the Wantage park there is really no contest, the rain and the cold, the water pressure pads in the centre, a few ugly street lamps. But then the Argentinian men would bring along a bottle of red wine, not White Stripe, so I guess they know how to work it a little more.
As everybody says, travelling is a very educational experience as you learn so much about yourself and the world around you. Stew and I have certainly discovered some of our limitations, one of these being that perhaps we should not choose to tandem ride around the vineyards of Mendoza while drinking a lot of wine. There are several reasons for this-
1. We do not tandem ride and getting our balance right at the start was post two glasses of red wine, which took a while.
2. I do not drink wine so I´m pretty sure that each glass had a little more of an effect on me than if it had been another beverage.
3. The Argentinian´s are really not stingy with their wine tasting. They do not expect you to participate in any of this spitting out and wasting the wine nonsence that you may do in other places and they give you a good 1/2 glass of every wine that you taste.
4. In Argentina you have to remind yourself to keep the tandem on the right hand side of the road while the locals skirt around you in their vehicles.
I´m sure Stew will not be overenthusiastic when describing my ability to steer the tandem, when it was my turn at the front, but there was no flying off our mode of transport this time so I think that´s success all round. A particular success after we went to the chocolate and absinthe shop and had our large shots of the pure stuff, 75%.
The vineyards certainly provided the scenery in which to tandem around, it was still warm but you had all of the colours from the autumn leaves hanging off the trees and the quaint country buildings that you´d love to be able to move to England and afford to buy. Once we had visited the Tempus Alba vineyard I had started to develop a real liking of red wine, however I fear that I will not be able to continue drinking it at home. The wine that we were tasting was not cheap, and I became very excited when I could start to tell how the wine had been aged and take a good guess at how long it had been in the oak barrel for. I could then actually taste the oak, the certain fruits, the hint of cinammon and realised while I was talking that I really did sound like one of those prats that thinks they know a lot about wine. Maybe I am now a wine snob, I will hate the taste of the cheap red wine at home but will be too stingy to buy a nice bottle- I can see my own downfall already. It was at the Tempus Alba vineyard that Stew and I also met one of the highligts of our trip, Christian, one of the owner´s sons. A man so very Catholic, with a great love of Pope John Paul II, and yet a great realism that the Catholic Church should always be doing more to help people. He really opened up to us, got a glass of wine and sat with us while he explained how his mother is dying of pancreatic cancer and how he feels about it all. Such a humble man who on some subjects talked so philosophically about the many possibilities of a matter and yet on the subject of having children told us very matter-of-factly that he would be getting his partner pregnant at the start of November, for them to have a summer baby next year. We have swapped email addresses so will hopefuly be updated about the progress of this.
From one saddle to another we spent the next day as Gauchos, horse back riding around the vineyards of Mendoza on Picasso and Mezane Rio. Gaucho style horseriding is very relaxed, one handed and slightly slouching as you try and fall into the rhythm of your horse. From trotting around the vineyards they then took us out to gallop along some paths, after they had decided that we were good enough at riding to control the horse and not go flying off, and again we got up to some high speeds. The man in charge, Fabian, was amazing with the horses and so helpful in teaching us how to take a bit more control and get into a good gallop. Stew´s Picasso was less hands than mine but had a bit of a fiesty nature as he went to bite Mezane a few times. I was then told that my horse was the new one and the other horses didn`t like him so I think there was a bit of bullying going on. We finished our 3 hour ride by trying out the Argentinian horse game "Pato" where you throw around a heavy ball with handles and have to get it through goal posts. If you drop the ball however you have to pick it up from the ground while hanging off your horse. You are supposed to do this while your horse is galloping along however, due to our slight lack of experience, we did this while our horses were standing still. It was only Stew and I with the two people that ran the business, and the tour guide, so they got to experience our competitiveness during the game. You have to keep hold of the ball while trying to tug it from the other person, and stay on your horse at the same time, so of course Stew and I would not let go and nearly ended up both coming off our horses. The day was then rounded up with the most beautiful bbq. Fabian says the trick to a good steak on the bbq is a bit of fresh lemon, so we will have to give that a go- don´t blame us if you try it and don`t like it!