Days: 355-357 (15 June 2015 – 16 June 2015)
Total distance travelled: 78,211.86 kilometres (48,578.8 miles)
Roughly forty hours in transit from El Calafate to Mendoza… having lived it, it’s ridiculous to think how tiring sitting on ones arse actually is!
We’d avoided rain and hail, but certainly copped plenty of shine, not to mention snow on the opening leg from El Calafate back to Rio Gallegos… and that’s where the second leg began to unravel.
In a ridiculous stroke of bad fortune, the bus we’d expected to take (a direct service to Mendoza) was booked out, an unexpected situation at this time of year, meaning we needed a new plan.
Instead, we’d now need two buses to reach Argentina’s famous wine region, so we found ourselves headed overnight to Comodoro Rivadivia, where we’d then catch another bus onwards to our final goal.
We also soon learned why our original bus had been sold out, as a troupe of thirty or so school kids and their families suddenly flooded the terminal where we waited.
They departed on ‘our’ bus, as did eventually we on our new, now circuitous route.
At some point during the night, our bus ground to a halt, our tired eyes suggesting that it was probably around five in the morning.
In our tired stupor we have vague recollections of the conductor making an announcement, but he was soon gone, we were not due into town until around 8am, and we were soon both back asleep.
Hours later we were in Comodoro Rivadivia, grabbed our belongings and made our way off the bus.
It was with a little shock that the conductor received our luggage tickets.
You see, that early morning announcement had in fact seen several people transfer buses, as well as our packs, for an earlier bus into town!
What the fuck!?
Having no idea where our bags may be, it was with some relief that they were located in a terminal office where they’d been kept since the buses arrival and nobody had claimed them!
We had some hours to kill, so spent our time seeking out a supermarket for some supplies, as well as having a brief explore of this pretty austere town, although in its defence, it was a Sunday.
Soon enough, our bus arrived and we settled ourselves in to our new surrounds for the 2,700 kilometre journey that lay ahead.
The journey was fine but for its duration, although things did get a little tough on the second day after the air-conditioner ceased to work and the temperature climbed to over 35 degrees (celcius)!
Eventually, sometime after 6pm and the sun had set, we arrived in Mendoza.
Probably one time it would have been nice to have a hostel already booked, although had we arrived on the original bus (as we’d planned), we’d have had plenty of time to find somewhere.
Still, we found a place, then sought our first hot meal in a few days.
With few options to be found, we ultimately found ourselves eating what turned out to be pretty shit pasta… but at least the beer was nice and cold.
Queue our first beds in a couple of nights, even if they were in a dorm.
The following morning we had two pieces of business that needed attending.
First came dropping off some long overdue laundry, the second even more important task was to find ourselves a winery tour for the following day.
We checked out a few, but ultimately chose a company called Trout & Wine (who we later learned we’re #1 on Tripadvisor, not that we put too much stock in that anyway) who were certainly not the cheapest of our options, but they sold it well, and we were really looking for a full experience, not some bullshit half day bicycle tour like the hostels ran (we wanted to indulge, not puff our way between wineries).
With our business attended to, we spent the rest of this lovely day taking in the sites, and finally locating some money changers who could give us the ‘blue rate’.
We in fact made the most of this day and (after a lunch of cheap empanadas) walked ourselves for somewhere between fifteen to twenty kilometres, an invigorating experience after our couple of days aboard buses, as well as to get some credits in the bank before our boozy day tomorrow.
With its autumnal feel and many parks, there was a feeling of familiarity with this place, something of a cross between Melbourne, our home city and Australia’s capital, Canberra.
The following morning we woke ready to breakfast before our tour, only to discover that breakfast wasn’t there (the hostels delivery of bread and croissants had not yet arrived), so we settled for a tea.
We had company in the form of Jesse, a Canadian and when we got talking about our day ahead, he was most eager to join.
It was only minutes prior to our collection, we explained the price we’d paid in cash (as it was cheaper in $US), then after a quick phone-call from our driver once our transport arrived, he was part of the tour.
Two couples would soon join us to bring our party to seven, four Americans, one Canadian and ourselves (two Australians).
First stop was the Domino del Plata winery, where after a brief tour of the winery, we got down to business.
We wandered into an elegantly set dining room, which to our surprise, had in fact been set for us.
Our first tasting for the day, was to be a matched food and wine experience.
It was good fun, helped by the quality of the four wines before us, although the fourth, a sweet wasn’t really to our liking.
This is where the paired food and wine experience came into its own, as the bitterness of the rocket worked well as a companion to the sweet in taking a little off its edge, whilst the beautifully creamy dulce de leche, a sweet treat itself, also played a similar role.
A decision by our hostess to bring out a bottle of their 2009 Malbec vintage, the Nosotros was both well received and proved a masterstroke as despite its hefty price of $880.00 pesos (about $100.00 US), a couple of bottles of this delicious drop were soon sold!
For now it was time to go, and in short time we found ourselves touring the grounds of Renacer, our second winery of the morning.
With its duck pond and mountain backdrop, it was certainly a lovely setting, but how would the wine stack up to the first, regarded by all as an impressive start to the day.
Promptly enough, we were all seated at yet another dining table, although in this instance, the food was absent, replaced by equipment more at home in a science lab.
Okay, so it wasn’t that elaborate, but we did each have a large measuring tube with which to play, in this case, to make our very own blend.
It was a novel concept, good fun and could have been great, but for the fact that the two wines we had to mix were in truth pretty shit… at least their bottled wines weren’t as bad.
They paled for mind compared to the first winery, the white especially, but they had a couple of reds that went down nicely enough.
Our third stop was looked forward to by all, for it was here at Tapiz winery that we would be indulging in lunch.
Four courses of food, matched with wines from their collection.
Consisting of two starters, a main and dessert, we were able to enjoy a confit of trout matched with their Torrontes, and a sun-dried tomato and ricotta green salad, washed down with a Syrah from the Tapiz collection.
The main, it was a deliciously rare rib-eye steak with a peppery Malbec, whilst we polished things off with a crème brulee and their surprisingly good Rose.
It was a truly delicious meal, and one that had us all looking forward to our final winery, although in truth, few of us really needed any more by then.
We arrived quickly to our last winery, although in reality it may not have been all that quick, but rather felt that way thanks to the effects of the already imbibed vino.
The journey itself felt far more rapid than our entrance here, as we stood outside an old warehouse for many minutes before a figure finally answered the door.
Once finally within, we were presented with an industrial chic interior and more quality wines.
We were taken on a tour of their facilities below, a labyrinth of tunnels used for both wine storage, and in our case, for our ultimate wine tasting of the day.
This was Benegas, the final winery of our day.
Nestled beneath the surface of the earth, we settled down to complete our days affairs.
Of the wines little can be said, as the senses were surely dulled by now.
Still, we obviously thought highly enough of them that we made our first and only purchase for the day, and the memories that we do hold suggest that Benegas was regarded well enough at the time that we considered it the second finest visit of the day (Dominio del Plata with their Nosotros remained a clear highlight).
And just like that, our day was done, although the kind people at Trout & Wine had one final surprise for us in the form of an additional bottle of wine, a gift for our booking with them.
In an act befitting our condition, rather than stay an additional night (for having stayed two nights, our hostel had offered a third for free) we decided that we’d be better served heading on that very night.
By 7:30pm, we were on board a bus, still slightly pissed (drunk) and cruising our way towards Cordoba…
* Our journey from El Calafate to Mendoza took around 40 hours and required 3 buses. From El Calafate to Rio Gallegos cost us $336.00 pesos per person.
* From Rio Gallegos to Comodoro Rividivia was another $580.00 pesos each.
* The final bus from Comodoro Rividivia to Mendoza was a hefty $1644.00 pesos per person!
* Our wine tour with Trout & Wine cost us $150.00 US per person (this was a discounted price for paying in cash, in US dollars), which covered all transportation, guide, wine tastings and lunch.