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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mendoza: Montaña Madness - Day 2

Our second day of Mendoza touring was also spent with Felipe as our escort. We wanted to break up our 2 winery tour days by doing something outdoors, so we asked Uncorking Argentina to plan a day in the Andes Mountains - and plan they did. Mendoza is located on the eastern side of the Andes so the clouds/breeze/rain gets mostly blocked by the huge mountains, making it very dry and desert-like. There is an amazing system of canals and waterways in place to bring water to the city and outlying areas, otherwise, wine production and general living conditions would be impossible. This helps explain why Mendoza looks more like the set of a western movie than Napa Valley, but the views got considerably better as we began our excursion. We started our day off at 9:00am and drove an hour or so into the mountains.
The gorgeous mountain view driving in
Our first stop was Argentina Rafting where we were booked to go zip-lining (or on a canopy tour, as it was called). It was terrifying and awesome, a highlight of the trip.
I wore the least outdoorsy coat possible
Shankar flying on one of our first lines
This was the longest line at 420 meters - over a lake
Check out that view!!
And here is a delightful video of yours truly on the line. Look for the tiny ant in the middle of the screen.
We then headed off to lunch at the most remote, and coldest, restaurant I have ever been to. I think it was like 50 degrees inside - I wore my coat, scarf and napkin for warmth the entire time. The restaurant was in the middle of nowhere, we started to wonder if Felipe was kidnapping us - but alas, there was a restaurant - although I have no clue how they get their food deliveries. The place had windows on both sides of the building and there was a beautiful mountain scape out of each side, but that is where the positive comments end. This was the only "miss" we had with Uncorking Argentina, we should have skipped this place. The food was mediocre, the service was s...l...o...w... and we were shivering through the whole meal. It did make me want to invest money in land in Mendoza, the owner purchased the restaurant's land 10 years ago for US$50,000 (for something like 80 hectors) and now each hector is worth US$30,000. I thought he should sell a hector and invest in central heat.

In the afternoon we drove another 1.5 hours to get to Aconcagua, at 22,800+ feet, it is the highest mountain point in South America. We did not climb it. But walking around on the ground level trails was fun and it was cool to see some snow. We could also see into Chili, which was only 25 km away from where we were. Here are some mountain pics:
Approaching Aconcagua
Collectively wishing that we had dressed warmer
You might see this again on a Christmas card...
Jon fell through the snow :(
It was so dark, we didn't know the telescope was blue
After having our fill of the mountain, we piled back into the suburban for a solid 2.5 hour ride back to town. The original plan was to stop at our hotel and pick up some warmer clothes for our next event, but we were late, so we had to skip the warmer clothes idea. We drove straight over to Phillippe Schell's place, where we had a nighttime stargazing session planned. Phillippe is originally from France and made his way over to Argentina for a project with 3 other french guys approx 12 years ago. He has since broken off from his friends and started Andes First a company that offer things like the stargazing that we did. Phillippe knows his stars. And he has this crazy huge badass telescope, the biggest one I've seen in person. He told us all about the southern sky, we saw stars, star clusters, supernovas, galaxies and planets (like Saturn!) and he even arranged for 2 shooting stars to occur while we were out there. It was fascinating. And freezing. We regretfully left after 1.5 hours outside because no one could feel their extremities, but should we ever return to Mendoza in the summer, we would love to do a mountain stargazing tour with Phillippe, there is so much less city light that the stars literally multiply before your eyes.

We ended our day with a delicious dinner at Afrazan, a highly recommended restaurant in town. At this point, we could hardly keep our heads off the table, the day coupled with the wine that Phillippe had given us to enjoy with dinner - it was bed time for sure. Another wonderful day.

1 comment:

  1. Stank and BlakelyJuly 15, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    I love your comments under the pictures: "I wore the least outdoorsy coat possible." Hilarious!

    The zip line looks crazy. I don't know if I could have done that -- wow! Glad you all did so much cool stuff and had such a great time :)