So, as I had mentioned in my last blog, I did indeed make it to the beautiful and tranquil Mendoza, Argentina and can’t stress enough how lovely it was! Hillary and Julian (the two other Quilpue volunteers) and I ended up buying tickets last minute, as we weren’t sure if we were going and headed out on a night bus last Thursday night. The trek took about 7 hours or so, including a fairly long border crossing stop in the middle of the Andes(the longest continental mountain range in the world), but even in the night time, the mountains looked amazing. We ended up meeting a random, but awesome German traveler on the bus who quickly joined our little posse.
We arrived at the bus terminal bright and early on Friday, so we grabbed some coffee and then set out to find a hostel. Being that it was Semana Santa(Holy week/Easter) and everyone and their mom travels during the long weekend for Semana Santa, we were a bit scared that all the hostels would be full(as we didn’t have a reservation). As we walked around inquiring in hostels, alas we discovered that they were indeed all full… After checking about 3 with no luck, we were walking through a park and a woman walking her 2 cute dogs asked us(of course, in Spanish) if we needed a place to stay. She directed us to her friend’s house, who apparently rented a room out of her house. We followed her slighty sketchy directions and rang the bell of the house she recommended(yes, just a random house, not a hostel). A smiley woman in her 60’s came out and immediately let us in and offered us all coffee.
She showed us around their adorable two-story house and we were very pleased with the little patio terrace, a room with 4 dorm beds just for us, and a great overall feel. After meeting her husband(who totally looked like the Argentinian Morgan Freeman) and talking and laughing in Spanish, we definitely agreed to stay and pay the $15/each a night. We then relaxed at our little Argentinian house for a bit, then headed out to explore the town and to meet up with another of our volunteer friends, Rachel, who was also in town with her mom and a few friends. After exploring a bit, I came to the conclusion that Mendoza is a pretty, fairly chill little town that caters to tourists but not in an in-your-face kind of way.
After wandering around for a while, we headed back “home” and sat and chatted with our little Argentinian family in Spanish and sipped mate(a strong tea very popular in Argentina) and ate bread and cake. They also had 2 Chilean women staying with them, so we had a great time comparing Chilean Spanish to Argentinian Spanish to normal Spanish and so on… As the Argentinians do, we then headed out for dinner at about 11:00 pm to a little local place down the street. Everyone else ate steaks, which were supposedly really good, while little veggie me had some mediocre pasta. If the meat would have looked appetizing at all, I may have indulged(eh, probably not), as they do say the meat in Argentina is phenomenal. We then went out on the town with Rachel and a few more of her friends, going to a touristy bar and then another posh one, where the ladies got to drink free champagne. At about 3:30 in the morning, we headed to an Argentinian dance club of sorts where we drank fernet and sleepily danced until about 5:00 am!
The next morning, we woke up a bit later, ate breakfast and had tea(courtesy of our lovely Argentinian host fam) and headed out on a few bus rides to Maipú, a little town outside of Mendoza known for it’s many amazing vineyards and delicious wine. When we got to Maipú, we rented bikes from what was literally a local family and started on our little bike trek through the vineyards to a museum/vineyard, then to a chocolate factory, then finally to a beer garden. The landscape was beautiful and green, with vineyards all around us and the warm sun shining down on our faces as we rode was a sweaty pleasantry. The wine was amazing, the chocolate was delicious and we had killer dark beers and caprese empanadas at the beer garden – a spectacular day all around! When we returned our bikes, we ended up playing foosball against the kids of the family that lived in the house that owned the bike shop(that’s a mouthful) and ate snacks and drank free wine with some other nice tourists. Sa-weet!
We headed back that night and got to check out the awesome and cheap artesan fair in Mendoza where I bought a little trinket for my real host family back in Chile. We then spent the evening with our Argentinian family eating once(again pronounced own-say), drinking wine and chatting, until we were too sleepy to sit up! The next morning we woke up bright and early to catch the bus back to Chile, during the day, as the views going through the Andes are absolutely amazing. We passed Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the America’s and saw some truly spectacular scenery. After returning to Quilpue from Mendoza, my host family and I said goodbye to their former volunteer, a super sweet person named Heather, who is heading back to the U.S. after 2 years in Chile.
The rest of the week has been pretty phenomenal. I’ve been playing lots of games with my students(educational, of course), I started my English Club at the school, and even sang for the music teacher while he played “Killing Me Softly” on the piano. The volunteers and I also headed to Valpo yesterday for some walking and some drinks – a lovely little Wednesday afternoon trip. All in all, I am pretty much high on life right now, with the exception of still struggling with the Spanish language… however, I, of course, learn a little bit every day!
P.S. Buena onda literally means “good wave” but it’s an expression here in Chile(and in other Latin American countries) that means “cool” or “good vibes”, more or less!