Mendoza (2 – 4 December 2013)
The bus ticket that I had booked under stress in Arequipa could finally be used. But first I had to get my email endorsed. It was difficult to find Andesmar’s office however amidst the sea of many different bus companies offering tickets to all over South America. I found a bus company whose name was similar to Andesmar thinking that it was Andesmar. The lady there tried to give me directions to the right office and I thought that I had understood her despite it all being explained in Spanish. Not that I am ungrateful, and indeed I was very grateful to her for not finding me a bother, but it would have been better if she had walked me there instead since I got confused again once I turned a corner. I still think that it was sheer luck that I found the correct office eventually.
The bus ride was enjoyable. It was I think compensation for the stress I had to go through when I booked the ticket and to get the ticket endorsed. I was leaving Chile and entering Argentina again. I was near the end of my journey in South America and I had to work my way across Argentina to get to Buenos Aires from where I would catch my flight home.
Between Chile and Argentina lies the Andes Mountains. In fact the customs building was high up in the mountains. I kept wondering if I would get a headache again but I am happy to say that nothing happened to my head this time. It was a bit chilly up there though.
Mendoza is in the middle of wine country. The area around the city is the largest wine producing region in Latin America and many bodegas, or wineries, are open for visits. Mendoza lies at the foothills of the Andes and is a base for adventure tours in the mountains. In fact Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in both the western and southern hemispheres, is nearby. Since I do not drink and neither do I want to climb a mountain this time, I really have no idea what I had come to Mendoza for.
On the other hand Mendoza was a good stopping point before Córdoba my next stop. Furthermore, since Mendoza sounded like a popular tourist destination, I thought that I should go have a look around. I also assumed (wrongly) that there would be plenty to do in the city itself since it was a major city in the region. I still do not think that I had made a wrong decision to visit Mendoza but I should not have spent that extra day in the city.
Walking in the city itself was actually quite pleasant. Its streets are mostly lined with trees and in the heat of the South American summer the shade they provided was very much welcomed. The city centre is a neat square with the Plaza Independencia in the middle. Each quarter of the square city centre has a plaza in its middle too.
At the Plaza Independencia is the small Municipal Museum of Modern Art which I visited.
There is a small history museum located in a quiet area of the city called the Museo del Área Fundacional or Historical Regional Foundation Museum. It contains exhibits from old Mendoza.
Since I had given myself heaps of time to see the city, I also popped by the Serpentario (Serpentarium) and the Acuario Municipal (Municipal Aquarium) across the street. The serpentarium was pretty interesting but I have always been fascinated with snakes. The aquarium was alright too. However both places were very small (Mendoza seems to love small things) and I could have completed each in about half an hour if I wanted.
A bigger place to visit was the General San Martín Park. It was big and shady enough to spend a few relaxing hours in.
The bright spark in my visit of Mendoza was my accommodation. I had booked a room in Hotel Modigliani and discovered that it was in fact an apartment with a kitchenette and balcony. I loved it there. The guy working at the hotel also taught me to make and drink maté, the Argentine national drink. I was expecting a drink that would taste like some scary herbal concoction but it turned out to be like tea. It was an enjoyable drink and I had a nice time drinking it out on the balcony in the cool night. I definitely had a much better experience with maté than the small bottle of red wine that I felt obliged to try just because I was in wine country. Not that the wine was bad, but alcohol and I simply do not get along.
I was sorry to leave my apartment in Mendoza. And I was even sorrier when I had to check out and wander around aimlessly in the city till dark with nothing to do since my bus out of the city would only leave after 10 pm. I did not know that it could get this stressful to have nothing to do! I should have stayed a day less in the city. But to be fair, I suspect that I might have enjoyed my visit more if I had planned it better.