Western Argentina and Mendoza


Mendoza was on the list, but had been moved up the calendar a bit because some friends (2 different traveling couples) needed parts and it worked out that we could get them in Santiago, Chile and deliver them to our friends in Mendoza, Argentina (just a days ride away) just in time for Christmas.  Good friends, good wine and a new country for the holidays….perfect.

Mendoza is a big city out on the plains of western Argentina.  It’s nothing out of the ordinary as cities go, but the surrounding area is stunningly beautiful.  Not to mention this is wine country….

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For the past couple of months I have been trying to get my hands on (and stash) crisp $100 USD bills.  I’ve been told that these will get me the best exchange rate for black market Argentinian pesos, aka the dollar blue.  The official exchange rate is something like 8 pesos per dollar, but if you bring crisp, clean big bills in you can get between 12 and 14 pesos per dollar. So it’s worth the trouble. We hit upon an ATM in La Paz, Bolivia that dispensed them but I didn’t visit it enough as it turns out. And on our first night in the country we didn’t have any money to buy fuel or food, so thankfully friends Toby and Chloe fed us dinner and breakfast. Nothing like being starving wanderers on the road.

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They’ve already been through the strange process of finding the “money street” in several Argentinian towns and give us the scoop for Mendoza. We hop in a taxi and find the place we are looking for and as we walk down the street men approach us and offer to “cambio” (change) money for us in low voices.  We go in to an unmarked office in some strange shopping mall and make the deal. It’s all so cloak and dagger and funny to me, but I’m happy to have money in hand for the country I’m in.

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Mendoza sits on a flat plain just east of the Andes and if it weren’t for all the giant old growth trees I think the sun would bake this place….but thankfully Mendoza has an abundance of them. And it makes the city cool and cozy and park-like.

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For months people have said “just wait til you get to Argentina” meaning that we will finally find good food and wine again… Meaning no disrespect to the countries of Central America and most of the northern South America, but it had been a long time since we had eaten a decent piece of beef.  But Argentina vowed to make up for that. And indeed, it did.

So at the store, with our fresh cash, we stock up on cheap wine and meat for our second night in town.  And our third night…. and our fourth night….. you get the idea.

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Good wines run about $3-$5 USD per bottle for wines that would cost 5 times that back home, or more.

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And after a few nights we are tired of the daily grind of grilling and drinking and decide it’s time for a change of pace…so we decide to go camp at the lake and do some grilling and drinking.

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Lago Potrerillos is low as you can see from the waterline in the pics. And we find a gulley or draw to camp in (which offered some protection from the gusty wind) near the dam. As the lake receded it must have had a layer of grass or moss floating on the water that eventually settle onto all the plants that had been under it.  So there is a sort of dried blanket covering the shrubs and bushes here….it’s strange looking. Sometimes the grass blanket drapes over things like hoodies or making tiny igloos in the landscape.

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One of the best parts of camping is being surrounded by nature.  And I’m a tomboy who loves to watch nature do its thing. I wander off onto a hillside one day for some pictures and am completely engrossed by a leaf-cutter ant colony and take some shots.  Not everyone’s thing, I know, but they were beautiful and working so hard….

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3 comments

  1. Loved Mendoza… Especially a night walk to get a smooth ice-cream in the evening heat..

  2. Michelle, Brian …. insomnia has allowed me to get all caught up on the blog .. wonderful job as usual …. congrats on Easter Island Jan 15 🙂 Shoe

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