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Mountains, Wine and Mud

View BrimItOn Tour on sdyzart's travel map.

Our bus from Santiago to Mendoza was going to take about 8 hours, so to save time and the cost of a nights accommodation I booked us on another night bus. In hindsight what I completely forgot was that we were changing countries so we would need to go through border control and wow what a joy that was at 2.30am!

We had tried to ask at the bus depot how long it took to get to the border and of course things got lost in translation, so at around 1am we gave up trying to stay awake and attempted to sleep, roll on 2.30am and on comes all the lights and we are told to get off the bus. Another queue (in the cold), another stamp and then we are sent around the corner (still outside) to queue for at least 45 minutes for our bags to be checked. Cold, tired and a little delusional at this point we finally see the queue start moving, only to get through to see our bags are not there, which was good news because the Argentinian border control only check a select few bags (security seems to be getting more blaize the more borders we cross) and we were told we could get back on the bus and onwards to Mendoza we went.

We arrived at the bus depot in the middle of nowhere at around 7am and realised we had entered Argentina without any local currency, there was no cash machine and taxis didn’t allow you to pay by card #rookymistake #weshouldknowbetterbynow. By pure luck as we were walking gormlessly around the station we heard a shady voice say ‘cambio’ (which means ‘exchange’) and we were saved.

As our stay in Mendoza was over my birthday we had decided to treat ourselves to a nice hotel and we certainly noticed the improvement on customer service compared to a hostel. Firstly they served bacon at breakfast (dream come true) and secondly even though check-in was meant to be at 3pm, they had us in our room by 9am. Of course the first thing we did was shower and rest after that awful night on the bus.

Once we were back in the land of the living we headed out to explore and were delighted to find a huge supermarket, which had a proper cheese aisle. There was only one thing to do, buy cheese, meats, crackers and wine to have for dinner that night. We haven’t had good cheese in SO long. Right next to our hotel we came across a little vegetarian Indian restaurant, so decided to stop there for lunch (again we can’t remember the last time we had a decent curry) and the food was to die for, I felt like I was right back in India again.

After a night of not doing much other than eating cheese and drinking wine, we were up early for day 1 of my birthday celebrations, which was a trip to the Andes. Obviously we booked this a while ago and in hindsight if we had known how long we would spend on buses while in South America, I don’t think we would have booked ourselves on to an 8 hour bus tour. Also after seeing Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu in Peru and the snow capped mountain ranges in Bolivia, the Andes would need to be something pretty spectacular to impress us. If we had taken this tour in winter when it was snowing I think we would have found them beautiful, unfortunately they were just big brown mountains with boarded up ski resorts around them.

To get into the Andes, we had to go through the pre-Andes and mid-Andes (spoiler alert – they all look the same) and along the way there is very little else to see. We stopped at the Mendoza dam, which took 6 years to fill when it was built (all the water being taken from the Mendoza river) and an Incan ruin sulphur town, which was a very weird yellow ice looking thing. From there we continued to drive the winding roads into the mountains and back to over 4000m above sea level.

At the top we were right between Argentina and Chile, represented by a small Christ of the Redeemer and each countries flags. Being so high up it was crazy windy and the dust partials whipped your skin, so we took a few quick photos and then sort shelter in the small souvenir shop there. We napped for most of the drive back and had a chilled evening in (eating more cheese and wine).

Birthday celebrations day 2 was one of things I had been looking most forward to, a private tour of the Mendoza wine region. Our guide Solly picked us up in a swanky salon car and off we headed to our first winery, Casarena, which had been producing wine since 1937. By 9.30am we were half way through our first glass of rose, sat in the gardens and learning all about the wine making process. We got to visit the fermentation room, sample some of the wines that were fermenting and then do a wine tasting of red wines from different years to compare how the flavours developed. I have never liked red wine, but I think Argentinian Malbec may convert me!

At 11am (and 6 wines down) we headed to the next winery, Dante Robino, which was even older and had been established in 1920. Here we were welcomed with a beautiful sweet sparkling wine and taken on a tour of their old and new cellars. After a history lesson on the process of making red, wine, sparkling and champagne, it was our turn to have a go at creating our own blend of red wine. This is where my inexperienced palate of drinking red let me down because I had no clue what I was doing and mine tasted disgusting. Lynden however nailed the blending and won hands down in the judging, which meant he got to make and name his own bottle of wine…which he called Aussie La Creacion (Aussie Creation) and while he was doing that I had the task of writing the label.

Onwards from here we visited a gorgeous winery called Renacer for a 5 course lunch and 5 more glasses of wine. The food, the setting, the wine; everything was divine!

Thank goodness for all the food because we had a 4th winery to visit before heading home, the last one was called Trez Wines and was owned by 3 friends and was a little more rustic and simple, here we did wine and chocolate pairing and really just sat around the table with our guide and the sommelier talking and drinking. It was here that we bought a 2015 Malbec (the year we met) and planned to cellar it until our 10-year wedding anniversary (I am hoping within the next 10 years I will become a red wine lover).

When we got home we had to have a little rest to let all the food and wine go down, but the day wasn’t finished there as we had a reservation at 1884, which is owned by celebrity chef Francis Mallman. The restaurant was beautiful, we sat outside in the garden, which was surrounded by purple flowering bushes and lime trees, with fairy lights above us and to the side was the outside kitchen where all the meat was being cooked. We started with a glass of sparkling wine (because it would have been rude not to) and shared a delicious octopus entrée and a pan-fried goats cheese salad. For mains we both had steak (obviously), mine came with crispy bacon, avocado and mascarpone cheese, Lyndens came with Patagonian potatoes and a tomato salad. Needless to say it took us a while to eat it all, but we weren’t going to let any go to waste. Absolutely stuffed we decided not to have dessert, totally forgetting that we had told them it was my birthday, so out came dessert anyway with a candle in it. It was 2 shortbread biscuits, filled with dulce de leche and dunked in chocolate with ice cream. It was of course delightful and we forced ourselves to eat it the entire thing.

Our last day in Mendoza was spent at Termas Cacheuta, which is a thermal spa in the pre-Andes. The day was as you expect we sat in the hot spring pools, gave ourselves a mud bath, had a massage and then a big bbq lunch, then got back into the hot spring pools again. It was a tough day. In the evening, we had sushi for dinner and rolled into bed before 10pm.

It has been a jam-packed 4 days in Mendoza, next we head over to Buenos Aires to be reunited with some of our new friends from our Peru tour.

Posted by sdyzart 18:26 Archived in Argentina Tagged mountains honeymoon argentina wine spa mendoza south_america andes thermal_baths mrandmrs

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