Mendoza, land of beautiful trees and sprawling vineyards, is the Fertile Crescent of Argentina. Known for its internationally renowned Malbecs, the region facilitates the largest wine industry in South America. We arrived at sunset, and thus were gifted with the sight of the departing sun illuminating the grand vineyards. The landscape was a patchwork quilt of one bodega (winery) after the next, all evenly spaced and geometric in appearance. The grapevines of each property varied slightly in their particular shade of green. Each shade represented that estate’s patch on the quilted valley.
Our reason for road-tripping to Mendoza was somber, but our stay was more than pleasant.We’d found a buyer for Pandita the puppy. The interested man had a home in the country with a big yard and children to play with her. Although seven hours out of our way, it was the best option. Seeing Mendoza was on our bucket list anyhow, so the trip was not such an inconvenience.
The drive was a hot and, on many occasions, quite smelly. It took us much more time than our GPS had predicted because there was a conundrum crossing the regional border. Pulled over by dirty cops, we ended up with a driving ticket for an overdue insurance payment (because we refused to give them the bribe they wanted), and had to sit and wait in the car for two hours. The cell phone coverage was close to nothing so there wasn’t much to do about our predicament. The officers asked to see Mario’s wallet. He was carrying less than $20 total. Once they realized we were broke they gave up and let us go. But with a ticket of course. Horrible luck.
Our stay in wine country was far better than the journey there. After a tearful departure in the valley of Lujan de Cuyo, we parted ways with Pandita and headed to Mendoza city. The city itself was lovely, with an abundance of tall, leafy trees lining every street. The atmosphere was tranquilo (chill). The people seemed laid back and friendly. Probably because of all the wine, Mario and I hypothesized, jokingly. Close to the center of town was a giant park. Complete with a small lake, plazas, running paths, gardens, and grassy fields, the place was impressive. Living in Mendoza wouldn’t be too shabby.
We spent the night in a sweet little hostel/B&B named Casa Huesped. The staff were kind and talkative; recommending many things to do and places to see. Alas, we only had one full day. Always prefering the more nature-oriented tourism, we opted for going to an area called Potrerillos outside of the city in the hills. The area was beautiful. It exceeded my preconceived expectations. Yet another reminder to always listen to what the locals recommend, and not just go to the first place you read about on Trip Advisor.
Potrerillos was obviously a vacation spot for city dwelling Mendoza locals. A pristine lake sat in the center of steep hills and far off mountain. Narrow, dirt roads lead to higher ground. Along the roads were playfully painted cabañas (small cabins) for staying the night or renting out for vacation. Although fairly empty at the time, I could imagine the town teeming with people during the high season (summer months). I pictured nature enthusiasts hiking in the mountains then cooling off by the lake.
We chose to go kayaking. A man was renting boats for a decent price by the lake shore and being out on the water sounded very appealing. We spent an hour paddling about, soaking up the sights. We got so carried away admiring the mountains and taking pictures, before we knew it we were all the way accross the lake from where we put in. The sun was starting to set and we were the last two boats out on the water. It was a good arm workout paddling frantically to get back to shore.
Back in the city, we took a midnight stroll through the central park then returned to Casa Huesped. Our last night sleeping in a bed and having the luxury of hot showers and free breakfast when you wake up. We tried some of the infamous wine and bought a bottle to take with us to drink in the tent while camping.
In the morning we bid farewell to the city and started our long road trip to the south. Our car was packed with water jugs, grungy clothes, camping gear, and loads of instant and canned food. All set for Patagonian camping.