(Meaning, ‘If you came into the world and didn’t drink wine, why did you come?’.)
That’s right, we are so proficient at Spanish now that our new acquaintainces feel confident enough to involve us in wordplay, including this one, wittily mixing the word for ‘wine’ and the past tense of ‘to come’.
This newly acquired lingo came into its own this week as we made our way to Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital. Indeed, a poster proudly informed us that Mendoza is ‘The International Wine Capital of the World’; we wondered if a few other places might have something to say about this, until an expert later clarified that there are indeed five wine capitals. We felt the poster should have been clearer.
Mendoza has some 950 bodegas (wine producers) in the surrounding countryside, and while we weren’t able to visit any of them in person, we sipped a few samples in town and tried to make the most of the sheer variety available. Thankfully there was the option of the single glass of wine, otherwise we could have been there a while.
Our arrival in Mendoza marked the end of our yo-yoing back and forth across the Andes. We took a day to position ourselves away from Chile’s capital and in reasonable distance of the border; a slightly casual start on Monday left us hitching out of Santiago in the baking midday sun, but in the end it was achieved and our third driver, Vayron (below), treated us to giant ice-creams (photo taken after at least 10 minutes of scoffing) in San Felipe, followed by a tour of the vineyard where he works preparing grapes for exportation.
Our “farewell Chile” route afforded us more than just a quick peck goodbye, as the exit across the mountains lasted several hours and wooed us with its gigantic rock faces, multicoloured sands and a view of the highest peak in the Americas, Aconcagua. This we enjoyed with Hugo and Yolanda, a couple from Santiago who were heading to Mendoza for an Easter break.
We joined them again in Mendoza for dinner on Wednesday, Steve taking advantage of the opportunity for a flambéed pancake. Obviously.
We are not really city types (yes we know, we live in London), but having entered the most populous strip of this part of South America we’ve accepted that they are the most straightforward stepping stones for heading north. This being the case, we made for Córdoba on Thursday, our destination for the Holy weekend.
Arriving in Argentina’s second largest city (though eight times smaller than Buenos Aires) on Thursday evening, we were grateful to our driver Pablo for shuttling us straight to a new type of accommodation for us – a residencial. “Great,” we thought, innocently, “shabby but cheap; that’ll do fine,” and off we pottered for a bite to eat.
The fact that Steve had needed to squash six or so mini cockroaches before we left should perhaps have served as some kind of warning, but at the time we weren’t feeling too sensitive. However, our threshhold for cleanliness compromise was spotlighted upon our return, with the discovery of a veritable stream of critters clustered around the doorway. The mighty flip-flop found its calling for a second time, but when Jo spotted three more of the creatures having a fiesta on our bed, our spirits were broken. Surrendering their kingdom back to them, we bid a swift retreat to the seventh floor of a tower block hotel called “Hotel Grand Bristol” – it seemed like some kind of sign.
We have made the most of activities going on in the city relating to Easter, including a service at the cathedral on Good Friday. We were momentarily confused as to whether this was going to be in or outside the building as there seemed to be crowds heading in both directions, but when we noticed ‘Jesus’ chatting idly to one of his persecutors on the steps up to the church, we realised that this was the dress rehearsal for a later skit and headed indoors. We returned this morning for an Easter Sunday mass, and didn’t even have to try too hard to find a chocolate egg.
Important advice: when coming to a new place, it is important to read up on what’s good to see.
Total number of lifts: 43
Week Five distance travelled: 1138km
Total distance travelled: 5758km