Before talking about Mendoza, let me just mention that the drive from Santiago to Mendoza is absolutely breathtaking. It also happens to feature the highest mountain of South (and North) America the Aconcagua with its broad wide shoulders. It should also be visible from Santiago, but due to smog, clouds and dust it rarely is. But as soon as you leave the city you can see it sitting there. The road slowly winds up in to the mountains to end in a collection of overlayed, steep hair pin curves giving an impressive view. Shortly behind the highest point, the border crossing forces the bus to stop and gives you between 20minutes and 4hours to enjoy the view.. So better be prepared. There’s not a whole lot going on, except to wait your turn. The usual questions about endangering Argentina with an half eaten apple are asked and, even if you answer wrong, you’re usually allowed to continue. I smuggled half a clove of garlic into the country this way.
The road back down to Mendoza is much less steep, but just as pretty. The mountains vary in shades of red and yellow, there’s almost no vegetation and the rocks get quite creative in their formations.
Mendoza itself is about as far from the mountains as Santiago.. But less smoggy, therefore the Aconcagua can actually be seen, behind a veil of fog.. It’s not like there’s no smog at all. The city itself has little to offer, but that didn’t matter since we were there mainly for the wine regions around Mendoza. After checking out the prices for the guided wine tours, somewhere north of $100, we decided we could do our own. One can take the public bus to Maipú, rent a bike there and tour the closest wineries. We’d also been given the tip to take the back roads as they were less busy. So at the first occasion we took a left turn and started driving into the country side. It didn’t take long and a lady stopped us to tell us that this is very dangerous and we should return to the busy road because it was “prettier”. After much consideration we decided to go ahead with the initial plan and turned onto the back road, away from all the cars. It turns out she was right, in a sense, because 5min later I had a flat tyre. The thorns lying all over the road had perforated my tire in about 15places.. Too much for the “anti-flat gel” to act fast enough to keep the air in. But almost immediately we had people surrounding us, offering to help and not 20min later we were back on the road.
A sunny day, lots of good wine, great company. What more can one wish for. We stopped at three wineries and something, somewhere was nagging in the back of my head but I couldn’t figure out what. The first winery had a little extra treat, an owl was sitting at the entrance looking out for us.
Meanwhile, I liked the wine at winery viña el cerno so much, that I decided to buy a case of it to bring home. A slight lack of sobriety might have been a factor in this decision. Finally at the last winery, we were already quite drunk, something clicked and I decided to ask the local owner what the rules were regarding blood alcohol while riding a bike.. She just looked at me and said “Don’t you worry, we have an agreement”.. Not quite reassured by this, we set off into the sunset, this time on the main road to avoid any flat tires.
It didn’t take long for the first police car to arrive and, much to my consternation, it slowed down and started shadowing us. Even though we were on our best behavior and totally driving as if we weren’t drunk! Still, the police car followed us for a good 10 minutes before finally pulling over and stopping. Much to our relief. We drove on and noticed, soon after, that we must have passed the bike rental. We had gone to far. So we turned around and saw from a distance, that the owner of the bike rental was having a lovely chat with the police car that had been following us! They had only stopped because we had reached our goal… But we failed to notice!