Friday, 4 November 2011

Mendoza - Argentinian Wine Country - Muy delicioso.

We only visited two places in Argentina. Buenos Aires, and Mendoza, the heart of Argentinian wine country, so it's difficult to say with any certainty whether the whole of Argentina eats quite such magical amounts of Steak, but I can say for certain that Mendoza is not the place to give a rest to your poor overworked stomach. We thought we'd be able to lay off the meat for a bit but if anything, things went from bad to worse with the introduction of a communal Barbeque at the hostel we stayed at. Now we could eat fillet steak for about £3 from the local supermarket which was a two minute walk away and if anything the wine, was somehow cheaper and more delicious than it had been in BA. We would just have to ride it out.

The main attraction in Mendoza is just outside town and consists of a boozy cycle around the vineyards on a kind of mammoth Tour de Argentina, drink-a-thon. It's really good fun. Really good fun. You arrive at the jump off point by bus, the only public bus in Mendoza with foreigners on it, and alight about an hour from town to rent the bikes. We rented from Mr Hugo, a grinning veteran who is happy to ply you with free wine before you embark on a tour of wineries that include barrels of free wine. Health and Safety lies comotose with stained red lips in the garage, along with his poorly maintained mountain bikes. 'Are there any hills?' I asked whilst trying to find a hint of resistance from the brakepads. Mr Hugo looked a little baffled, let out a hearty laugh and went to fetch me another glass of his home brewed vinegeraitte. Mr Hugo's first language is not English.

We set out and luckily there weren't too many hills or we would all, almost certainly, have received quite serious injuries and arrived at our first winery. Which unfortunately was closed for lunch. I say unfortunately as the next closest visitable manufacturing outlet specialised in Absinthe which I can assure you is up there with the worst possible things you can put into an empty stomach. It was about 70% alcohol and as sweet as concentrated Haribo extract. I'm not going to lie, it was a real struggle not to spray it all over the group of scandinavians standing in front of us, who had sensibly opted for the coffee liquor. Resisting the urge to buy a 3kg packet of fudge from the gift shop, the only edible thing on hand, which may, or may not have provided sweet relief for our now inflamed stomach linings, we pedalled frantically towards the smell of food to have our first meal of the day.

Having sworn never to touch the stuff again, the last time I swore never to touch the stuff again was after I wandered for 5 hours completely lost in Barcelona, we eventually made it to our first winery. Stomachs sated we enjoyed a number of delicious wine tastings. Nathan and Shauna who we had met along the way, declared this to be alot more satisfactory and we easily slid into that routine for the rest of the afternoon. The picture below rapidly becoming a most familiar sight as we left each vineyard.

We must have visited 7 or 8 different wineries throughout the course of the afternoon but the way we looked at it we were cancelling out the wine by cycling 2 or 3 kilometres between each one, thus rendering our drunkennes completely guilt free, despite it being no later than 4 in the afternoon. We eventually wobbled our way back to Mr Hugos at about 5pm and having covered a fair distance on the way out were in for a fair old cycle on the way back. The journe would have been a lot worse if it had been along a non descript a-road on the outskirts of coventry, luckily we were in Argentinian wine country and we had Mr Hugo's welcoming grin and violently acidic wine to look forward to, so we left the final bottle of (decent) wine behind us and pedalled slowly back along the roads that had brought us here.

Only one more thing of note really happened after that, as we were unwinding with a glass of what could only be described as 'Rancid Ribena on the nose and downright methelated on the pallate' back at Mr Hugo's place having handed back our boneshakers, we heard an almighty crash as a cart being pulled at not inconsiderable speed, detached itself from a 4x4 that had rolled past. It careered off the fence protecting us from the road and completely desimated Mr Hugo's sign outside. Had we been pushing our bikes in 15 minutes later, having no breaks would have been the least of our worries. Siezing the opportunity to pour our wine onto the ground in the commotion, we went outside and joined those aimlessly milling around and staring at the offending trailer.

A bus ride back and still not completely convinced that Gout is actually a real, painful and very contractable affliction, we decided to keep the lush's lifestyle in full swing or should I say flow, by purchasing a handsome piece of fillet and banging it on that BBQ I mentioned earlier. Along with another, completely unnecessary bottle of wine. It took a while to fire the old girl up but when she got going she blackened that steak up like a champ. Here's a photo of Nathan and I looking absolutely delighted with ourselves and our steak.

We had an excuse, of sorts, we would be moving soon, to the more barren and austere setting of Bolivia the next day.

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