Sucre has kept me busy and a little bit lazy. Knowing I would be here for a full month has allowed me to just sit back and enjoy. I have been a terrible tourist. I have hardly seen anything! Today I had a nice sleep in and then finally climbed a never-ending hill to get to a lookout over the city. Thankfully the view is gorgeous, the food was good and the coffee isn’t instant!
I have lots catching up to do on the past few weeks so here goes! I left off in Buenos Aires. I loved the city but spent a while there and when the time came I was ready to move on. Mendoza was the next stop. Mendoza is the wine region of Argentina and is known for producing most of the world’s Malbec. Yum!
You can’t go to Mendoza without going on a wine tour which I was totally game for. In hindsight I had built the wine tour in my mind too much and I was a bit disappointed. We went to two wineries and had 2 tasting at each. The wineries didn’t grow the grapes on property, there were no pretty views, the tastings were pre-poured and the group I was with were nice but dull. I hadn’t given it much thought before but the main reason why I have loved wine tastings in the past was because I have done it with friends & family. Wine tastings mean having lots of wine and ending the night with dancing, signing and maybe some drunk hide & seek. The Finger Lakes where I have done most of my tastings may not be known for world-class wine but it’s beautiful and so fun!
I found myself on a wine tour and totally sober. I wanted to buy a glass or even a bottle but you can’t do that. They don’t sell wine by the glass. You can buy a bottle but it’s for taking home, not drinking on sight. Lame. The cool thing about the wine tour in Argentina is that you are shown how the wine is made. It was interesting to see the barrels, the factory, the processes for actually making the wine. The other good thing we did on the tour was visit an olive oil factory. At first I wasn’t really interested but it ended up being my favorite visit of the tour. Our guide was super nice, it is a family run company and we were shown the whole process. No wonder olive oil is expensive – it is hard to make and takes A LOT of olives to produce. After our tour we were treated to basically a full meal – lots of different kinds of oil and olive spreads all with yummy fresh bread. So, I mean, I really shouldn’t be whiney. It wasn’t quite what I expected and would have been so much better with my friends but it was still a wine/olive oil tour in Argentina, not a bad way to spend a day.
That night I decided I just needed to make some friends at the hostel. There was a pizza party that night so I decided to sign up. The title of “pizza party” felt a little 5th grade but what better way to make new friends then over food? We asked if the pizza was good and I was promised that yes it was very good pizza. BIGGEST LIE EVER. Literally the worst pizza known to man. It did not deserve the title pizza. It was under cooked, hardly any cheese with 2 slices of green pepper and cut up spam hotdogs as the toppings. The delivery might have been my favorite. It was served on a Rubbermaid container top with cracks and then just dropped in the middle of the table. We all had a good laugh on how miserably bad the pizza was – bonding moment! I ended up meeting 5 people from my hostel. We were severely outnumbered by a giant rugby team that came in from another hostel. That could have been great except the rugby team were 14-year-old boys, most of team with dyed pink hair. Boys will boys and while they weren’t terrible they screamed, chased each other and eventually got in a food fight. Their coaches, presumably some of their dad’s really couldn’t be bothered and just got drunk in a corner. Classic. So my full first day in Mendoza was a bit of a bust but I got some good olive oil and made some friends.
The next day I decided to go horseback riding at sunset. I got picked up at my hostel at 2pm. For a while it seemed like it would just be me, a very boring but nice English girl and fun Brazilian guy. Ok, again, not quite what I was expecting but I could make this work. Marcelo, the Brazilian, confided in me that he was very nervous. He had never been horseback riding and he was scared of big animals. Oh, also, he had 2 bottles of wine with lunch so he was pretty buzzed. Excellent! Just after that the driver told us we had one more stop. Who would we pick up? You guessed it.. the pink hairs! They piled into the van and the day had definitely taken a turn for the unexpected.
We drive about an hour out into the countryside and upon arrival find out that sunset isn’t for several hours so in the meantime we can just hangout and wait. Mmhmm, that’s that Latin American efficiency that I just love. Why didn’t they just wait another 3 hours before picking us up? The gaucho guys brought out lots of orange soda and told us to help ourselves. Marcelo, bless his little drunken heart immediately say no, no that will not work – the grown ups are going to need wine. Wine we had. The boys ran around, played soccer, and at one point found a turtle and threw it into the half full pool. The owners made a boy jump in and fish it out! Good on you gaucho man. And to the coaches – excellent job supervising.
Eventually the boys made their way over and asked us questions in between giggles. Their coaches were finally interested as well. They asked us where we were from, what we did, if we liked Argentina? The English girl didn’t speak a word of Spanish so I translated for her. She is a Paleontologist. Mmmhm, yup, not one of the professions previously covered in my Spanish classes. I tried to explain what it was but all I could think of was she studied science about animals that are very very old. No one seemed to understand from that description. One of the coaches – oh, yes, Psychology! Me – Um, no. Second try – animals that are very big, very scary and really, really, REALLY old. Then a different coach acted out a T-Rex and I very excitedly confirmed that was what I was talking about. In Spanish – Paleontologo. Ha. Yes. That’s it. Add a freaking ‘o’ and you figure it out.
Ok, now it’s time to actually ride the horses. I am now tipsy and Marcelo is hammed. This should be good. All the boys and the coaches knew how to ride and immediately just hopped up on horses. I hung back waiting to be told which horse was mine. I ended up getting the biggest horse who was the highest on the horsie food chain. Great. So I get taken over to my horse and the stirrups are legit at my shoulders. Um? Listen, I’m pretty flexible but I am A#1 wearing jeans and B#2 unable to get my foot all the way up to my shoulder and then transfer all my body weight to said foot as I get up on the horse. Is there like a chair I can stand on cause this ain’t gonna happen. I get told no problem, we will lead the horse to lower ground and you can get on then. Um, ok. So they take the horse to the side which is basically a stream that is about a foot lower than where I am standing. The stirrup is now at my elbow. Still real, real high. Oh by the way, now the horse is a good three feet away from me and there is a cactus in between us. Great, just great. The man who was “helping me” def got the classic O’Donnell-Evil-Eye. Seriously? This is the best we can do? At this point the coaches are yelling Sarita! Sarita! Anda! Mmhmm, your encouragement is not a platform for me to stand on and therefore I am not interested. FML. Ok, time to give this a go. One little hop. Nope, not even close. Second attempt – the man helping me who, btw is a former jockey, about 5′ 2” and weighing in at 110lbs is trying to push me up. Yup, this is going great. At that moment I summoned up some sort of inner strength/flexibility/athleticism and got my ass up on that giant horse.
The owner, my new friend, Javier comes over and tells me not to be worried. The horse is very strong and I will feel comfortable in 5 minutes. I ask him the horse’s name and he tells me Peperieufaosidufoisd – basically I have no clue what he said. The closest thing I can think of is Pepperchino so we go with that. And we’re off. It’s beautiful. We are riding along the Andes Mountains. I am expecting a nice, little dirt trail ride. Very quickly I realize how very wrong I am. We are going up hills, down hills, through a river – here, there and everywhere. I am holding on so tight that I will later realize I have bruises on my inner thighs. As I mentioned before all the boys know how to ride and now they want to gallop. Apparently horses are very hierarchical and every time a horse tries to run past Pepperchinco he has none of it and starts running faster because he is the top of the hierarchy. Pepperchinco is now full-out running and I am just attempting to hold on – bouncing along and screaming Pep-per-chi-noooo esparate! Prada! Peppperrrchinnnoooo nooooo! My Spanish is spot on in moments of panic. Eventually he listens and some how I have not fallen off. This happens several times. We finally get to our first stop and I turn around and give all the boys the full-blown evil eye and in Spanish tell them all that there will be no more galloping. NO MORE. At this point both the kids, the coaches and I think even the our guides were terrified. Did the job. No one attempted to gallop past Pepperchino after that. Clearly we were both belonged at the top of the hierarchy.
Here is the thing about horseback riding – if you’re not galloping it’s kinda boring. I was surround by 14 years olds. Marcelo was at the back of the line and dinosaur girl was going even slower and kept getting way behind the group. I was bored. So I did what I always do when I’m bored – I started talking and singing to myself and Pepperchinco. He was a good boy and deserved some loving. No one else even asked the name of their horses and def thought I was out of my mind sing-talking to mine. Oh well. So be it. Pepperchinco clearly appreciated it.
As we headed back I suddenly had a horrible thought… I now had to get off Pepperchino. Oh shit. This should be interesting. I am proud to say that I actually made quite a graceful exit and did not fall on my ass. Unexpected. Javier was very proud.
After that we had a huge Argentina BBQ dinner. The food was fantastic, the wine was flowing and the coaches asked me about 100 times if I liked it. Asked and answered. New question please. When it was time to go back to town I had a pink haired boy sleeping on my shoulder within minutes. Fine, I provide the pillow as long as you stay quiet.
More Mendoza adventures to come!