May 6, 2017
“El mundo es un libro, y aquellos que no viajan sólo leen una página.”
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” San. Augustín
Extraordinary,astounding,breathtaking, marvelous. The list of positive adjectives to describe my experience in Mendoza two weeks ago is endless, despite some minor inconveniences. I will explain those later in this blog entry. On Thursday, April 20, after my last class for the week was over, I rushed to the apartment to begin my last minute packing and to eat my dinner. We (students in the program and I) were scheduled to leave that same night at around 10:00 PM but were required to be at the bus terminal at least a half hour early. Because our trip to Mendoza was only going to be for three days, I had no other choice but to pack light, in which I did a pretty good job doing! I managed to fit three days worth of clothes and other personal necessities in my school book bag and a small tote bag. Seeing that the bus terminal and the apartment where my roommates and I live are in close proximity to each other in the center of the city, the taxi ride to get there lasted less than 10 minutes. I was very happy when my roommates and I arrived at the bus terminal about fifteen minutes before we were supposed to get there. (Punctuality is my middle name)
After about forty-five minutes of waiting in the bus terminal for the arrival of the directors and the other students, we finally were all ready to board the bus for the nine and a half hour trip. But, it wasn’t ANY type of bus. We had the advantage of riding the Megabus and were privileged to be on the second floor. Thankfully, I was able to get the window seat! Everyone, including myself, were in pajamas and comfy clothing and were ready to sleep. The bus ride was quite smooth and I was able to sleep pretty well with the help of soft music from my headphones in the background.
At around 7:40 that next morning (April 21), the bus pulled into the bus terminal in Mendoza and from there, we were driven to the three-star hotel in a minivan . Since it was rainy and chilly upon our arrival, we were extra tired and wanted to sleep some more in our hotel rooms.But we had to eat breakfast and board the minivan once again, where we would be driven to our first activity of the weekend. I have to admit, I was a little jealous when I saw that everyone else was able to eat rolls and other types of bread and all I had was a flavorless light rice cake that didn’t even satiate me. But, I managed to survive for about five hours until lunch.
As the minivan drove us to El Cerro de la Virgen, our hiking location, my tiredness quickly disappeared as I observed the fertile oasis of Mendoza and it’s beautiful countryside. Mendoza is located in western Argentina but lies on the east of the Andes mountains. It’s rich Andean landscape makes the province famously known as being named “The Garden of the Andes”. Upon our arrival to El Cerro de la Virgen, it was still quite cold, chilly and began to drizzle slightly, which is surprising for this particular province. Normally, sunshine is almost always in the weather forecast. Despite these dreary conditions, the hike through the mountains was quite an experience and I truly enjoyed witnessing the magnificent landscapes from 5,905 ft in the air. The two expert tour guides were extremely helpful to us all, leading and guiding us while we maneuvered towards the mountaintop. They were also willing to stop and rest with us when we began to feel tired. Although this was my first hiking experience, and I had to stop a couple of times to take a breather, it was easy to forget how tired I was as we began to move closer and closer to the summit that nearly reached the clouds.
At last, after we reached the top and observed the spectacular view before us, we descended down the mountain by foot. It took us about an hour to reach the peak of the mountain and our descent towards the bottom took just as much time. At this point, I was getting anxious to reach the bottom because I was cold, tired and VERY hungry. When we finally reached the bottom, we all walked to El Parque Termal Cacheuta, where one of the directors had cooked and prepared the very well-known Argentine asado accompanied with vegetable salad and later on, a fruit salad for dessert. It was simply amazing knowing that I was eating in small barbeque area that is set amid natural hot springs on the Mendoza river.
Of course, by the time we arrived back at the hotel later that evening, all of us were extremely tired. On the bus ride the night before, all of the students had to write down who they preferred to room with during this trip. Thankfully, I was able to choose and share a room with two other ladies that I know in the program. Since the hotel we stayed in was three stars, our expectations were not too high, but we still expected our stay to be decent and somewhat satisfying. However, it was the complete opposite. The room was freezing cold, the showers would spurt out either really hot or cold water, the Wi-Fi was not working and worst of all, the toilet would not function right. This is a prime example of learning about how to accept, adjust and move on. Despite this unsatisfactory situation, I slept well that same night, looking forward to the activities in the upcoming days.
The following morning, I woke up to a gorgeous sunny day, which was perfect for the activity scheduled. We would spend the day visiting three bodegas or wine shops by bicycle. Just to give you all a little background information, Mendoza is known for having the best wine in Argentina. In fact, 70% of Argentina’s well-known wine is produced right in its province. Many of its vineyards are located at extremely high altitudes. On our way to the first bodega, I was in awe of the beautiful Andes mountain backdrop. Once we arrived, we were guided by an expert who showed and explained to us the process of their wine making. This particular wine shop was more older than the other two that we would go to afterwards. At the end of the tour, they wanted everyone to try a sample of their wine. Now, seeing that I am not a wine drinker, I had to let them know that I couldn’t partake of the wine that they offered. Thankfully, they understood and instead, they offered me a sample of their grape juice, which was also straight from their vineyards. My taste buds were rejoicing at the sweet and pure flavor of this natural drink. I brought a whole bottle of the grape juice to take back to the states so my family can try it. We rode our bikes to two more bodegas and by the time we arrived to the penultimate wine shop, I was starving. But, the beauty of the vineyards, the blue and almost cloudless sky along with the Andes mountains in the background that I observed on my bicycle, distracted me from my hunger. We had chicken soup for our principal meal at the second to last bodega which was also quite tasty and it gave me the energy needed as we headed to our last wine shop for the day.
I failed to mention that before my roommates at the hotel and I departed to go on our second day excursion to the vineyards, we expressed our concerns to the lady at the front desk about the malfunction of the rooms toilet. By the time we arrived to the hotel that same night, we were all exhausted and were ready to go straight to bed. However, soon after we returned to the hotel, we were confronted with the news that we had no other choice but to change our rooms. The lady at the front desk told us that the person who came in and tried to fix the toilet claimed that something else went wrong, and from there, all of the water shut off completely. We didn’t have that much to move out of our rooms seeing that this was only a three-day trip. But still, it was very inconvenient. The good thing is, our second room was much more spacious than the latter and the toilet and shower worked properly.
Many people say, save the best for last and for me, this quote rings true to my experience in my last day in Mendoza. The program had planned a rafting trip right on the Mendoza river for the day. The view of the Andes mountains from the minivan window on our way to the rafting location took my breath away. I had no clue that we would be this deep within the mountainous area. The driver of the minivan was willing to stop and allowed us to get out and observe the awe-inspiring view.
Although rafting sounds and looks like a fun experience, I chose not to be a part of it because I don’t know how to swim…YET. I will learn, eventually this summer hopefully. However, although I couldn’t partake of the activity, I enjoyed myself just as much exploring and walking through the mountains with one of the directors. Some parts in the mountain were dry and other parts were filled with medium levels of water. I was impressed by the innumerable amounts of plants that I saw and the distinct layers of the mountains, each formed differently as years past have gone by. When lunch time rolled around, the director and I headed back to the rafting area and everyone enjoyed barbequed chicken, salad and peaches for dessert. (This lunch is probably the closest to a typical healthy meal that I have sometimes in the United States which was quite satisfying).
As we headed back to the hotel that same day, my experience in the Andes mountains was made when we stopped on the side of the road for one last time to get one more view of the landscapes. The water was pure blue and the snow could be plainly seen in the distance on the top of the peaks. I took in everything that surrounded me and thought to myself, “I have to come back again, and bring along family and friends with me.” This trip was probably the best one that I have been on since I’ve been here in Argentina. I’ve always read and heard about the geographical diversity here, but to actually see it with my own eyes, was certainly a memorable experience, and definitely one that is worth doing again.