09.07.2010 - 18.07.2010 5 °C
This is just going to be a quick(er) post as we have lots to say but want to catch up to where we are right now...
Friday 9th July 2010 - Monday 12th July 2010
The town of Mendoza is lined with trees (although due to the freezing weather none of them have leaves on at thew moment...) and is surrounded by mountains. In the summer this probably looks very picturesque. There isn`t much to do in the actual town itself (even more so because we were there on Independence day and a Sunday, when everything is closed), but there are lots of day trips on offer. We took the advice of fellow travellers we had met in Brazil and Buenos Aires and took the bus to Maipu (pronounced `my poo´; cue much laughter) to find Mr Hugo. Mr Hugo is a legendary figure amongst travellers for his bike rental services. We jumped on our red bikes, were given a map and a bottle of water and- alongside Sarah and Matt, who we met at the bus stop- we made our way to the first bodega on our wine tour. Unfortunately a couple of the bodegas (the first one included) were closed on Saturdays, but we didn`t let that stop us! We cycled on to a few more bodegas and enjoyed some lovely Mendoza wine and a traditional Argentine stew called Locro.
After going on to a chocolate and licquor factory (where we indulged in many licquors, including `Russian Death´, which we found was very aptly named!) we went back to Mr Hugo´s house where he plyed us with free homemade wine until we had to leave for the last bus. We can see why Mr Hugo has the reputation he does, he was massively friendly and really looked after us. And if your glass is half-full, he`ll be right over with a top-up and if you ask for a little, he´ll give you 3/4 of a glass... Good lad.
For the rest of our time in Mendoza we just tried to replace Liam´s clothes (unsuccessfully) and partied on down in the hostel bar for a couple of nights. And on Sunday 11th July 2010 we watched Spain become World Champions in a little Irish bar down the street. There was one very happy half-chilean, half-spanish English girl that night!
Monday 12th July 2010 - Friday 16th July 2010
We spent the next five days in Santiago, Chile with Jaz´s family. Getting to Chile was a mare, a bus ride that was meant to last just six hours ended up being closer to nine after a 2.5 hour wait at immigration somewhere 2,500m above sea level in the middle of the snowy mountains. But as soon as we got there we were promptly picked up by Jaz´s uncle and spent the next few days taking a sort-of break from travelling.
Santiago is HUGE, we feel like we didn´t see that much of it, but we sure did try most of the traditional dishes and drinks. Family took us out every day and amongst the foods we had were:
- Completo from Domino´s (not the pizza place). This is essentially a hotdog lathered in chopped tomato, onion, corriander and mayonaise (Liam added extra ketchup, mustard and chilli sauce). We all had two each, they were amazing.
- Pisco Sour (both Chilean and Peruvian versions). This popular `trago´ made from pisco (surprisingly enough) was amazing. Apparently both Chile and Peru argue over the ownership of the drink, but they prepare them in completely different ways. The Chilean one was a lot sweeter, whereas the Peruvian one had a spicy kick. Traditionally the Peruvian version is made with egg white, so we look forward to trying that when we get up there!
- Marrequeta con Palta. Marrequeta is a type of bread (which I apparently loved when I was little) and Palta is mashed avocado with oil and salt. Any regular visitors to my house will probably know it as it´s one of my mum´s fave dishes to make.
- Mote con Huecilla. This is a summer drink, but we had it anyway. The essence of it is boiled dried peaches and oats. It´s a bit hard to explain and looks rank (see picture!), but it tasted amazing!
- Chorrillana. This is a MOUND of chips lathered in oil and covered in onions and meat. There were six of us, we got two Chorrillanas between us and they were not finished! It was accompanied by a type of Chilean Sangria (whose name I can´t remember) that was immense.
- Bistec a lo pobre and Merluza. The former is a thin steak (cooked to perfection) with two fried eggs on top, served with fried onions and chips. Needless to say that was Liam´s dish! The latter was a battered hake, which I ate with chips. How very English. It was so nice though. We had these dishes in a food market, inside a fish market. The roof of the building was- we were informed by a random Chilean man- imported from Birmingham and is the same as that in a market in London.
In Santiago we mainly wandered around town, had a disastorous fringe cut (Jaz, not Liam), went up a couple of hills (inc seeing La Virgen- Santiago´s small version of Christ the Redeemer) and spent some amazing quality time with family. We also replaced Liam´s clothes, the camera wire and some other bits and bobs.
On the Wednesday we took a day trip to Valparaiso and ended up going to Viña del Mar, too. We got on the two hour bus at about 9:00 am and as soon as we arrived at Valparaiso´s rather dodgy looking bus station we found a tourist info desk, got a map and promptly realised they did city tours, too (including Viña del Mar) so booked it for about 20 pounds each. We swiftly changed our mind when the girl started to lead us down some dodgy-looking roads to `go and meet the car and guide´. Things came to a head when we were at a railway station which she was walking across to a deserted-looking carpark, so we let our thoughts be known and the girl went off to get the driver and they met us back on the main road.
The driver was a nice guy, who spoke English with an Australian accent. We demanded his certificates and identification and wearily got in to the car. It turns out we were wrong, he really was a decent guy and the tour was legit. For the first few hours we were weary and very, very cautious, but he did everything he could to put us at our ease.
We saw the open-air museum, which was essentially an area with paintings all over random walls. The paintings were done by local and national artists and were really quite varied, ranging from the alright to the awesome. We also saw the house of Pablo Neruda (which was shaped like a boat) and many different streets which looked like they belonged in different countries due to all the building materials being imported from them.
Valparaiso is a major port town and for this reason it also has the coloured buildings as La Boca does. However, the buildings are also covered in corrugated metal for reasons we can´t remember...
The final part of our Valparaiso trip was a journey up a hill in a very old and very shakey cablecar type thing. From the top we saw the view of both Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, including the very very busy port. There we ate some awesome empanadas before carrying on to Viña del Mar.
Viña del Mar has the charm that Valparaiso lacks... it is quite simply gorgeous. A beach resort, the buildings are gleaming white, the beaches clean and the people friendly. We saw (and took photos of) the clock made out of flowers (apparently whoever takes a photo of it will one day return, we´ll see if that´s true or not!) and also an original head from Easter Island. After a brief wander around the markets (and some more wristband buying) we headed back to the bus.
We really enjoyed our time in Santiago, we think it helped that we were with family as it is such a huge city. It was a shame about the smog cloud covering the city but the views from the top of the cerros were otherwise amazing. It is hard to comprehend how big a place it really is and how close to the mountains, too. We would love to return in the summer, though- it was FREEZING! A massive thanks to Aldo and Ximena for everything they did for us while we were there (un gracias enorme para Aldo y Xime para lo todo que hicieron para nosotros).
On Friday 16th we got back on the bus to Mendoza and settled down for the six-hour journey. Needless to say, it took longer than that, five hours longer in fact. Firstly we had to stop for about 20 minutes whilst snow was shoveled out of the road and then we spent 3.5hours in immigration- including a very cold hour stood in a queue at 3000m of altitude in the middle of the Andes at night fall. If you ever get a bus on this route wrap up VERY warm!
We got back too late to jump on the last bus to Salta as planned, so we went back to Hostel International Mendoza, where we had stayed previously and they had spaces for us. The next day we wandered the market, made some food, played some epic games of Jenga and finally got on a bus to Salta that night. Nineteen hours later, we were there (no delays this time!)
More to come about Salta, another Argentina-Chile border crossing and San Pedro de Atacama, but right now my hands are cold and my belly rumbling!
Jaz and Liam xxx