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Things start to go a bit pear shaped in Mendoza

ARGENTINA | Monday, 12 January 2009 | Views [1341]

A Bolivian approached us as we waited to get our bags off the bus, touting the “Life House Hostel” and promising free transport. We had been contemplating other places but we decided to go for a bit of randomness, seeing as we had never planned to come to Mendoza in the first place.

A French couple were complaining at reception as we checked -in they had been travelling around South America for 6 months and said it was the worst place they had ever stayed. It didn't bode well. The 4 bed dorm we were given was quite big and we had it to ourselves but it had the tiniest bunks. Hobbits would have been hard pushed to fit in them.

Once we had freshened up we went for a stroll around the attractive city centre and had an al fresco lunch on a pedestrianised street. The plan was to rent bikes and visit a few vineyards the following day, so we went to the nearby tourist information centre after lunch. This was where things started to go wrong. The place we had been recommended to rent bikes: Hugo's was closed on a Sunday. As were all the vineyards. So the plan wasn't very good in retrospect. We were, however sent over the street to a different place that did rent bikes and opened on a Sunday, so at least we would be able to do something. We booked an MP3 based city biking tour and the very friendly guy in the shop gave us a few suggestions of places to go out to that night.

Back in the hostel we had a few beers before going out and got talking to a group sitting around the pool. One was an Israeli who had no qualms about telling us that he fully supported his goverment's attack on Palestine. When asked where he thought the Palestinians should go he responded “I don't care – to the sea.” Nice chap. We spent the rest of the evening eating empanadas, giving Claire her first taste of the very popular drink Fernet Y Cola (she didn't like it as I had predicted) and listening to a fabulous improv jazz band outside a bar called Casa Usher.

When we went to pick up the bikes a couple were vehemently complaining about a tour they had been on (it seems to happen a lot in Mendoza) and the nice chap, looking tired and drawn gave them a refund. He gave us our dodgy looking rusty bikes and said he only had one MP3 player for us as he needed the other for another renter. Not much use to us then as we would have to listen to it one at a time.

We had a cheeky McDonalds (only the second time we had had burgers and chips in South America) and soon afterwards I nearly killed myself by riding into a large pothole that I didn;t see somehow. Not long after that I managed to get both wheels of the bike stuck in a sort of cow grill, as the oncoming traffic approached. I managed to free it before they flattened the bike and me along with it. We had planned to go to the park to cycle around. Half way there I changed gears and the rear dérailleur clunked strangely, seized up. Bits of the bike shot off in all directions and I nearly got knocked over by a bus.

Needless to say when we walked the broken bike to the shop I was not a happy camper but at least the guy gave us a full refund and was very apologetic. He was having a bad day – at least 2 refunds and it wasn't 1 o'clock yet!

We decided to get the bus up to the park and got off outside the zoo. We drank mate within view of the penned up, sad looking creatures and watched the mass of cumulonimbus clouds approach. Thunder rumbled around and we stated to feel drops of rain as we made our way up towards Cerro de la Gloria, Glory hill. On top of the hill is a massive fabulously ornate monument to El Gran Capitan General Don Jose de San Martin – el Libertador. He rallied the Army of the Andes here to liberate Chile from the Spanish. On the way up to the hill there are a plethora of intricately designed commemorative plaques to the man. Golden eagles circled the statue, overlooking the city, mirroring the eagle top San Martin's left in the statue.

As we walked back towards town through the sweltering afternoon heat (the rain had not materialised) I managed to walk into a thorny tree and make my forehead bleed and get a branch wrapped up in my sandal, making my toes bleed. Every rock or branch in my path seemed to make me trip over. My knee was still bloody from the cycling – I was a walking disaster zone. The only thing for it was a siesta under a shady tree, during which nothing at all happened, thankfully.

We strolled back into town and had an early dinner. It took about an hour for the menu to arrive, the waitress scowling as she brought it. The food was very tasty when it did arrive – we ordered the menu del dia which included desert. The waitress completely ignored us for another hour after we had finished mains and when I managed to attract her attention she brought over the bill, but not the deserts. She added 10% for service and although I gave it to her, I told her it was a good job she included it as if she hadn't I wouldn't have given her anything for her appalling service. She didn't even apologise.

We walked back to hostel through the main plaza and the storm clouds gave an amazing electrical show. The rain that had been threatening all day finally arrived and drenched us to the core as we ran through the torrents back to the hostel. As soon as we entered it stopped abruptly but the thunder and lightning carried on for the rest of the evening. It felt as if Argentina had had enough of us and was kicking us out. We obliged the following morning and went to the bus station early to have a bite before the ride over the Andes to Chile. The restaurant above the terminal a bizarre timewarp to the sixties with its sixties menu and decor. The waiter even had a handlebar moustache. We were glad to be leaving Mendoza – it hadn't really been kind to us. It had to happen at some stage or another and three and a half hitch free months ain't bad going at all!

Tags: bike, blood, rain, storm


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