South American Tour 2018 – Mendoza Argentina – Day 4

Day 4 – Mendoza
When you are on vacation, you often lose track of time. And so it was for most of February 13, when I thought it was actually Valentines Day. It wasn’t until late in the day that I realized my faux pas!

Mike rose early to catch sunrise, and also headed out at end of day to catch sunset. In the morning we met some of Bautista’s neighbourhood friends. It is amazing how they also play with Hilario and hug and care for him. And when they met us, and each time they greet us, we kiss cheeks as a sign of caring and respect. Very inclusive and loving – a great way to live.

This was perhaps our favourite touring day from Mendoza. About 11:30 we headed off for the desert to Laguna del Rosario; bit of a long drive but amazingly worth it. Most people would not know about this place, but that’s the advantage of travelling to visit a local with a deep history of the place. When the Spanish first settled here, they built 7 churches in the desert. The one we went to was the 3rd built and is now in the same spot despite several earth quakes at the location. The current church was built in the 1880’s, the previous 200 years prior and the original in the 1500’s. The church is still used each Sunday, and is well maintained as is the cemetery around it. There seemed to be many houses in use but we didn’t hear anyone apart from the odd motorcycle. It was a bit like being at the scene of a spaghetti western.

The original natives of the area were tall, thin and black, but are all dead now. One white family lived with them and the father created a dictionary and the son recorded many stories – but that is about all that remains of their entire culture. They were partial nomads who raised goats and grew carob and corn. Some carob trees survive, but they are few and far between. The houses are still traditional adobe with outdoor ovens and toilets. Not quite sure how the people here survive – there are some goats, but no sign of gardens and no apparent way to earn a living.

The green parrots make funky giant stick nests on top of posts or trees. They squawk noisily if you approach their vicinity. But they didn’t seem to disturb Marcelo’s siesta. (He did do a lot of driving and we were cutting into his siesta time after all)

From town we headed for lunch to Puesto Dias. Lunch was great – nothing to order, you just get what they are serving for lunch! We had salad, tomatoes, Italian zucchini, olives, cheese, and bread. Then a plate of warm liver and kidney pate. Then the roasted baby goat – very nicely done. For dessert there was candied melon and goiabada with cheese. And of course, with everything…wine 🙂

Before the dessert arrived, the goats where driven in. When we arrived there were 3 babies and 1 mother in the pens, along with a couple sheep and horses. Just after 5 pm – there were 700! All looked might healthy and were only a little hesitant of Mike’s camera as he photo’d their arrival. A bit later, the horses were taken out for a ride. All but one that is, and although it let Hilario touch him, it did try to eat him!

South American Tour 2018 – Mendoza Argentina – Days 2 & 3

Days 2 & 3 – Mendoza
February 11 (day 2) was a chilly one at only 10 C! It was raining back home in Canada – so not all that much temp difference. After a leisurely breakfast of yogurt / coffee/ fruit and pastries, we headed for the foothills to Jasmine & Marcelo’s property, about an hour drive to an area with lots of agriculture. No fruit or veg could be brought into the area to ensure no contamination of local crops. So we had to stop for veg inside the region – and they had the very common foosball table of course. We had a ‘campo’ near their property, and Bauti immediately took me exploring to the riverbed where we found some bones, and many footprints – bird, fox and mouse. We had another asado (so more meat, cheese, wine & beer – all excellent) along with Paul and Fiona. They are a Canadian couple from Winnipeg who have been in Mendoza for 20 years now. They were very helpful in guiding our Buenos Aires agenda as she goes there a fair bit.

We hiked around the property which is lovely – but quite remote and isolated. On the way back we got a flat tire, but Mike & Marcelo were able to change it quickly. The next few days provided Marcelo with quite a challenge however trying to find new tires. It was a super long weekend (we lucked out as it gave us more time with Marcelo), so lots of shops were closed.

We stopped at a local beer pub on the way back and sat outside with lots of fires going it was so cold! We included campari and Fernet con Coca as it was too chilly for beer drinking. Can’t say we’re big fans of the Fernet & Coke, but it sure is a popular drink here.

The next day our plans had to change due to the flat tire. The drive out to the desert is not one to make on old tires – so Marcelo spent the day trying to source a solution. We did manage to check out a cool little bodego, Estrella des Andes (Star of the Andes). It was an old train station and there were lots of antiques around, and a local stone artisan had sculptures around the grounds. and of course, the standard foosball table. Once again we ate and drank too much – but no regrets.

On the way back, we stopped by the chapel on the old Ortiz family finca (farm). Marcelo’s great uncle still lives there. It is still well maintained as is the small ‘machina’ (machine – Hilario’s favourite thing in the whole world!) water wheel in the canal.

After a short siesta, we went out for ‘dinner’ which consisted of ICE CREAM and coffee. The dulce de laite con nuet (with walnuts), and the marscapone con frutas del bosque (with berries) were amazing – they certainly know how to make ice cream!

And as a final success for the day, Marcelo went with Mike to borrow 2 tires from his brother-in-law. They went out to his sisters home, an old school house, to pick them up and also check out the horses. We were invited back to ride another day, but unfortunately that never worked into the plans. Bauti and Hilario are now getting lessons tho’, so next visit we’ll look forward to seeing their progress!

South America Tour 2018 – Mendoza Argentina – Day 1

Day 1 – Mendoza
We spent part of our first day getting acclimatized to Argentina by relaxing around the house. The boys (Bautista and Hilario) shared with us their prize possessions – Bauiti’s latest nature catch – his pet spider and the stick bug which hangs out at the house, and Hilario his new ‘scoot’.

We walked in to the local square and met up with Marcelo – it was wonderful to meet him for the first time! – and went to buy carne (meat) for the asado that evening; rib steaks, blood sausage, chorizo, skirt steak (diaphragm and very yummy), and intestines – all were very tasty with only salt added directly before cooking on the open fire. As we walked, it was hard to miss the canals – acequias – running along side the streets.  Mendoza is famous for its irrigation which was initiated by the Huarpe natives before the Spanish even arrived.  The lushness of the trees would be impossible in this semi-arid desert without the acequias.

Jasmine also drove us into Mendoza for a quick tour of the main square and we visited the oldest shopping mall with a lovely stained glass ceiling. Marcelo’s father lived in the elaborate apartments over the mall as a boy. The Ortiz family goes back to the 1740’s and his distant grandfather was the representative of the Spanish government in Mendoza. They owned much of the lands in the area at that time.  Michael captured some the town murals – a theme you will see crop up through the trip.  The Vendimia contest was in full swing – where contestants from every region compete for the title of Vendimia queen.  Posters abounded, and we even spotted a couple of the girls in limousines riding around town attending events and waving to the fans.  We continued to see posters even in Buenos Aires, but the contest this year is in Mendoza, so lots of activity!

That evening we had a fantastic meal back at Marcelo & Jasmines with the mandatory Mendozan wine and some beer also along with the asado. Bautista struggles with bad dreams – so I tried to teach him Patrick’s trick of controlling your dreams and ‘beating the bad guys’.  Not sure if it will work for him, but we sure slept well that night!