As the end of May approached I suddenly remembered that I was not actually a Chilean resident and my visa was going to run out soon! So the weekend before last, I casually took a bus across the border to Mendoza, Argentina! 😀
The bus journey takes around 8 hours, which may sound long to people from England, but the more I research travelling in Chile and slowly comprehend just how long it is, 8 hours really isn’t that much. Especially when the scenery that you’re faced with is so incredibly beautiful! The Chilean side of the journey was a zig-zagged drive up and through snow-scattered mountains with bright blue skies and the sun gleaming off the white snow all around. When we crossed over onto the Argentinian side (after the border crossing, customs, bag checks etc) the landscape changed. At first the road winded through towering red and orange stoned mountains, past lakes and patches of greenery then it became a flat plain as we reached Mendoza city.
The only downside to this journey was that a creepy 40yr old French man decided to befriend me halfway through the trip, interrupt my reading and sit next to me. For about 4 of the 8 hours I was faced with him complaining about every country he had visited in South America so far (Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia) and then complain about young people today, whilst I politely tried to argue against all of this. He also thought it kind to share with me how I looked unfriendly and he thought about not coming to talk to me (I wish he hadn’t) and gave me advice on how to deal with my “acne”. Thank you, perfect stranger for that wonderful conversation. In addition to this he playfully ruffled my hair and kept poking me in a “jokey” manner. Why do people no longer respect personal space, hey?
Luckily I never saw him again after we parted ways at the bus stop and I hopped in a taxi to my hostel with the friendliest and funniest taxi driver I’ve had in a long time. He gave me love advice: “Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente” which basically means “Out of sight, out of mind.” And chat-up lines for Argentinian men: something along the lines of “If your kisses awaken people then kiss me as if I were sleeping.” He was quite certain that I would find an Argentinian boyfriend and stay there forever.
The hostel I stayed in, Punto Urbano, had a great atmosphere, possibly due to its free wine hour which went down a treat with everyone there! 😉 But in all seriousness, it was good way to meet lots of new people quickly.
The next day was Independence Day in Argentina! We expected big celebrations and had heard lots about a cool market going on. The next day was also a Sunday and there was no one in the streets and the market was non-existent… So instead I went for a walk around the city centre with some of new people I had met. We visited lots of ‘plazas’ but had to leave the prettiest one (Plaza España) because we were all harassed by this homeless man. He was harmless really, although he did try to get me to swap my necklace for his rosary beads.
In the afternoon WE WENT ON A HORSE-RIDING TRIP!!!! I was super excited and also nervous as it was the first time I was really riding a horse and actually in control of it. We drove out to the mountains and rode for a couple of hours in the hills. It was amazing. I was happy just plodding along at a slow pace and enjoying the views as the sun was setting. My horse was also a bit of a piggy and stopped to eat a lot. And I do not have the strength to combat a horse. You’re meant to control them by pulling the reins to one side, but as hard as I tried she would not budge until she had gobbled 5/6 mouthfuls of grass. So I waited patiently. After this we had yummy BBQ where we were plied with wine and then went to gaze at the stars. The difference between the night sky in Santiago and out there was huge! There was next to no light pollution, you could clearly make out loads of constellations and the Milky Way, it was really spectacular. Such bright, sparkly stars; I could have stayed out there all night if it wasn’t so cold.
On Monday it was back to reality for me and I hopped on a bus back to Santiago and work!
So Mendoza in summary: There’s not much to the city itself, but there are great activities that you can do from it and as it is a wine-producing hub of Argentina it’s a good place for a drink too!