Stretching after our 8 hour overnight trip from Cordoba to Mendoza, I was pleased that we pitched in th extra money for first class seats. For 350 peso (~$80 US), you got a two course meal, wine and champagne, seats that recline into beds, and front row seats of the journey through the country side. Arriving early in the morning, we had a full day to explore the city and two days ahead of us to look forward to.
Nothing like Napa Valley, Mendoza was very populated with clean streets and gorgeous city plazas. Our first day we spent time walking the streets and planning the next few day. Though, over the past several days we had partied late into the nights in Buenos Aires, trekked through Iguazu, and chartered a private flight in Cordorba, our insatiable hunger for adventure had still not be satisfied.
“Corre, corre, corre!!!” As my instructor yelled at me to run, I leapt off the ledge of the mountain. Short of jumping out of a plane, we decided to go paragliding in the Andes. After climbing to the top of a mountain in a jeep, on a road comparable to “Death Road” in Bolivia, we finally made it to the top. One by one, we geared up and hooked up with our instructors. Suspended 2500m above the city below, I took in the stunning view of the mountains, ant-sized buildings below and breath taking horizon, all for less than what I’d pay for a nice dinner in the States. After discussing my instructors passion for flying and a half hour had passed, we began our descent. The instructor yanked on on the right toggle , sending us into downward spiral. The horizon became vertical while the blood rushed to my feet and my adrenaline spiked. An amazing start to our 3 day stay in wine country!
Later that evening we decided to head out for dinner. We quickly realized the error in our judgement of taking a recommendation for another couple on vacation. The overpriced, touristy restaurant had clearly been pulled from a guide book and regurgitated to us as a recommendation. We finished the bottle of wine we ordered and set out to find something more enticing. The first thing I noticed at the next restaurant was the oddly paired threesome sitting next to us. As dinner progressed I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. There was a young women and two much older men. One appeared to be a father figure, while the other was clearly a guest. The young women clearly knew little to no English as the older man talked to her as if talking to a child. The father attempted translate at times as the old man discussed his life and what he had to offer her. Progressively the conversation had a stranger and stranger tone as he acted almost possessive of her. Once he referenced his previous communications with her father and their “arrangement,” I was convinced we were witnessing the first meeting of a mail order bride!
The next day we had scheduled a full day wine tour by bike. Incidentally, our tour guide was a girl from Tennessee. A southern girl with three guys from the states all hopped up wine, she had her hand full. Quickly bored by the museum tour of the original winery mansion, we managed to talked her into getting us a tasting at the house she hadn’t been able to do before. The second winery was much more enjoyable, although not exactly what we were expecting. Rather than rolling hills and acres of vineyards, we toured an industrial sized facility with mamouth oak barrels. I suspected we needed to get further out of the city in order to get that Napa type experience. Eventually we got to the good part; our guide lead us to a private tasting room in which it was only the three of us and her. She must have liked us because she brought an extra bottle that they don’t usually use for tastings and she was generous in her servings! After a bit of joking around, sipping on some wine, and discussing our travels, we were off to the next one.
The last winery was led by a fast talking Californian that was volunteering at the winery. As he described the harmonious nature of the organic winery, we overlooked the acres of vines. Much better! Our guide was smooth, charming, and energetic; before we even finished the tour we all had wanted to buy wine… We left with five bottles… The tour concluded with a stop for some local ice cream of the dulce de leche variety and sipping one a few beers while chatting about our travels and life.
That night we wanted to explore the Mendoza night life, so we asked some locals for a good place. We arrived at Iskra, paid the nominal cover and walked inside. If a jukebox had been playing, it would have come to a screeching halt! It was clear that we were in local territory and we were the intruding American tourists. After wandering around a bit, ignoring the constant head turns, we took to the bar. In celebration of one of our friend’s last night in South America, the Jack and Jameson began to flow!