November 16th, 2018
We had a plan to stop enroute for a night but the place we had in mind did not pan out well (sucky internet) so we got to the hostel Christine had suggested and settled in. Hostel Wineries is a small hostel into whose back parking area we just fit into and Gabriel show us around and got us a power hook up and the internet password. It’s rather small and not all that pretty but we’ll give it a night and then let Christine and Mark know if we decide to move.
Well we did not sleep well at all. The hostel’s dog is left out all night and constantly joins in the dog symphony throughout the night. Doug wanted to walk to El Centro to pick up his new eyeglasses that he ordered before we left Mendoza a couple of weeks ago and so Fran stayed behind and work on the internet. We let Gabriel know we’d be leaving and decided to move onto a pricier location about 5km away. We’d been chatting with M & C and told them to we’d check it out and they suggested another one.
BTW we’ve since discovered the beers of Argentina; the most popular is Quilmes followed by Isebeck, Andes and Brahm from Brazil. We’ve checked out the first and third (not to our liking) as well as Warsteiner (a German pilsner by the brewery that makes Isenbeck) and Fran liked that one.
We checked out the winery C & M suggested we might be able to camp at, but they wouldn’t let us park/camp there so we moved on to Posada Cavieres – the pricier one. Hans is a Belgian who runs a small hotel/hostel/restaurant and allows two overlanders (no tents) to park in his further lot. There is power there that functions from dusk to dawn, and we had use of the swimming pool, Wi-Fi (that was not great and hardly reached the parking area so Fran bought a data package to use for the three days we were there), and there was a really nice full bathroom by the reception area for us to use with a hot shower, toilet, sink and a bidet! He also rents bikes to guests.
There was already a van with Michigan plates here; Melissa (American) and her British husband, Edward, were here for one more night and Hans bent his “rule” to allow us and Christine & Mark to stay as long we weren’t bothered by six of us sharing one bathroom (as well as restaurant guests during meal times). Doug negotiated the price down a bit since we wanted to stay three nights.
The winery part of Mendoza is called Maipu – you could spend days here in order to hit them all!
We got set up and later we met our above neighbours but they took off again to visit wineries before Christine & Mark arrived.
We enjoyed a nice happy hour under the shade of the parking area we were parked next to but couldn’t fit under and it was nice to catch up.
Sunday, wineries are generally closed so we hung around the hotel (but did walks) and Christine & Mark rented bikes for a bit before another cooler happy hour in the shade. Temps in the city of Mendoza were reaching into the 30’sC / 90F but here at Cavieres, we had a lovely breeze which helped a great deal – we are on the south east side of the city in the Maipu distract of vineyards.
That night we went for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant to enjoy some Argentinian meat (not Christine & Mark as he is a strict vegetarian). At dinner we were seated with a young couple of Medicine Hat, Alberta (Heather & Kyle), an English couple (Ollie and Sally) and an Aussie name Felicity. The other table had six Brazilians so there was an English group and a Portuguese one that night.
We were served several types/cuts of beef and sausage and given salad fixings. Doug enjoyed a couple of Isenbeck beers and Fran order the vineyard’s young Malbec and was able to take the remainder of the bottle back with us to the camper. The meat was excellent, the company interesting and we enjoyed our first “parilla” in this country.
Monday was a holiday but the wineries were supposed to be open. We took off on bikes before noon and the first place on the itinerary was closed but the second was open. El Cerno is a small family run winery that began in 1994 (the building they are housed in was built in 1905). Doug is not a wine drinker so he sat in the main lounge using internet and the three of us joined a Brazilian girl and just as the tour started, Felicity joined us.
The tour included not only learning the wine making process but more about the philosophy of the family and the naming of their wines – it was a bit long winded but it was “soothed” by the tastings. The three of us chose two different wines each and shared them. They were decent pours.
We then moved on to another one called Mevi where they served some food so we enjoyed cheese, salami and bread plates while tasting five wines. We invited an American woman named Nicole who appeared to be alone to join us. Nicole is here from Chicago on her own.
We returned to the campsite for a bit and Felicity and Doug stayed there while the three of us, went to find one more winery to end the afternoon. It took a couple of tries but we did find Carinae and here we chose a selection of five wines to try (tastings are priced by the number you want to try) but the lovely Alejandra, let us try seven and topped it off with a taste of their homemade olive oil on fresh bread. (There are a lot of olive groves in this area as well). Christine & Mark bought a bottle of bubbly wine and we returned in time for happy hour.
During last night and today, as we met guests at the hotel, we invited them over for Monday’s happy hour. Heather, Kyle, felicity, Ollie and Sally joined us as well as another British couple, Paddy and xxx. We had a grand time sharing bubbly, bottle of the vineyard’s Malbec and conversation.
Tuesday we left Mendoza; we went west and Christine & Mark went south to continue their journey but not before presenting Fran with a little gift:
We’re hoping we’ll meet up again in southern Chile in late January.
We then stopped for groceries in the city and returned to the little campground we stayed at before Mendoza last month and thought we’d stay here a few days; their pool is open and it’s pretty quiet. We are not in a hurry to get back to Santiago as our flight to Easter Island is not until Dec 4th.
Wednesday, after a nice lie in, we got up and worked on doing a cull on Tigger of things we could return to our storage unit and/or get rid of. That took a couple of hours before lunch and then we walked a bit and chilled in the heat as best we could. Today was quite hot and the forecast is for cooling somewhat (from 34 down to 23) and we’re looking forward to that.
Thursday, we did laundry and chores before spending a quiet afternoon. The temps cooled down today and it was much more pleasant to walk and when necessary, be inside Tigger (it can turned into a boiling hot tin can at times!).
So Friday morning after some doing some online Black Friday shopping, we began heading to the border.
Before we reached the end of the Rio Mendoza reservoir
we came across a car being pushed going in the other direction. We stopped and asked the two guys if they needed some help. They’d run out of gas and if they could just make it to the top of the slope, they could coast into Potrerillos to fill up. We offered to push them and Doug maneuvered Tigger in behind the car and gently touched it with our front tire and got them to the top.
Then we saw two other guys walking towards us and it was their buddies who also ran out of gas and their car was a little further down the road; so again, Tigger pushed another car up the hill.
We had a few stops we wanted to make at places we’d not seen on the way into Argentina knowing we were leaving on more or less the same highway we’d come in on. We made our way to Uspallata (for the third time!) and gassed up before going to check out the oddity that is their museum; our guide book said it was a “dud” as far as museums went, but the structure was absurd.
We then looked into staying at a campground here in town, but the one we had in mind had tripled its price since the last person on iOverlander checked in (probably as it’s now summer) so we moved on to another only to see them setting up a stage with huge speakers; that did not seem conducive to a good night’s sleep so we drove into town and found a small city park where we parked on the edge and spent the night there.
Saturday, we drove further west stopping at Puente del Inca
This natural bridge is located at some hot springs that have been known since pre-Columbia times. The water ranges in temperature from 93 – 100F and contains a high concentrate of salt and CO2. In 1917 a luxury hot springs hotel was opened here with a 2 m wide tunnel to the thermal baths which were believed to have medicinal properties. In 1965 a major landslide caused a great deal of damage to the site and it was closed. The provincial government declared the bridge unstable after this and restricted human movement across it.
Then the provincial park of Aconcagua – we’ve posted picture previously of this mountain as seen from a distance. It’s the highest peak in the world outside the Himalayas at 6960 m / 22800 ‘. The park charges an entrance fee and you can take a short walk to a lookout right near the visitor’s centre or you can take a longer walk further into the park that passes by two small lakes and a better viewpoint of the headliner itself. We opted for the latter, paid our fee to do the longer walk which is less than a km and made our way into the park.
The top of the mountain never completely cleared of clouds but the walk was pleasant and we saw many birds and ducks. The name is derived from Quecha and means “stone guardian”. The hanging glacier is said to 300 m thick (but who knows how long ago that sign was made and with global warming…..).
We had thought we might camp in the park’s parking lot for the night but the altitude (almost 2900 m / 9500‘ was beginning to get to Doug so we moved a few km’s back down the highway where we were 200 m lower and spent the night outside an abandoned looking ski lift building. It was still just off the highway but we felt safe enough but could still hear the traffic some. It got much colder than we’ve been getting used to and dipped into the single digits C over night!
So Sunday we returned to Chile. The plan was to now take the route over the mountains instead of the tunnel we’d take to get here but after make it half way up the Argentine side, we hit too much snow. Now we had researched this pass and their website said it was “open to all traffic” but it would seem maybe nobody actually drove on both sides?! Who knows.
About a third of the way up, we met a solo cyclist, Harry, and after chatting a bit, did encounter some snow on the left hand side of the switchbacks.
Then we hit a spot where the snow was both before and after the switchback and reasonably deep right at the turn. We planned our route through it and aired down. Doug took a stab at it but it was not meant to be so he backed up some to a wider spot in the road, we turned around and went back down.
At the bottom we aired back up some as while driving down we had the idea that okay, we can’t drive this side of the mountain up the Christ the Redeemer statue at the border but maybe we could tackle it from the Chilean side. We carried on through the tunnel (customs and immigration are 3km beyond the tunnel) and found the turn off up to the monument. The road on this side was in better condition and we did not encounter snow BUT Tigger began struggling with the altitude (that dang fuel pump issue again) and we felt it might be pruduent to turn around again.
Back on pavement we made our way to the border offices, got checked out of Argentina, stamped into Chile, handed in our Argentine TIP, received the Chilean one and then came the inspection for contraband food. Having done this before, we had no fruit, veggies, cheese or meat (but we had hidden some butter in the back of the freezer and some nuts in the storage boxes on the back of the truck) so the inspection went smoothly and the entire process took less than 45 minutes.
We continued west to a gas station where we’d read you could spend a quiet night, gassed up again, and parked next to a small river – made for nice breezes and we hope will help block out traffic noise for the night