|At the thermal baths in Cacheuta|
|La Cordillera once again emerges from the clouds|
|Long roads, false flats, for once decent pavement|
|In the Uco Valley, in perfect conditions|
|Also in the Uco, when the skies threaten|
|This is one of the better ones ....|
|Small, family owned, organic methods: Andalhue|
|Tasting straight from the fermentation tank--$3, well spent|
|Compare this to the mega-producers|
|What you see is what they own|
|Do I really want to spend $18 for a tour of Chandon Argentina (yes, the same guys as Moet-y-Chandon)?|
|Or do I support the co-op that gives these people a job?|
|The wine co-op of 70 members in La Consulta. I learned a lot here.|
|The co-op's wine shop. $18 bought two fabulous bottles.|
|Outside of the co-op. Nope, this is not high tech.|
And by the way, I'm just enjoying a $45 dinner.
|No, that's not the dinner--but it's representative of the yumminess of Argentine cooking, I mean, grilling|
|More thermal bath activity in Cacheuta|
|Final view of the Uco Valley after climbing from Tugungato|
|Pop art in Manzano Historico--an unforgettable `100K ride|
|Colores del otono on the way to Manzano Historico|
|Ciclovia in Mendoza|
|Stay fit! Ride the ride! Don't be like those fat Americans!|
|Maybe not the most idyllic place for a picnic, but the Dutch are not choosy either.|
|Bottles are flying (girl on the left), arms are raised in greetings, and the whole clan is having a swell time!|
|OK, let's bunk out in the abandoned tunnel, just in case it rains and we need to save the fire ...|
|If you look closely, you can see all the parked cars and certainly the fires all the way up the valley|
|Wide open roads and little traffic outside of the cities|
Trash collection: Anybody who has been to Central and South America has probably seen the baskets in the streets into which residents place their trash. No, not what one would call a waste basket, but rather a dog- and cat-proof basket or other receptacle that is made of wrought iron, or is simply a cut-in-half metal barrel. Some have lids, most don't, and if all else fails, one can just put a nail in the tree in front of the casa and hang a trash bag from it. Eventually, the collectors will pick it up. The overall amount of trash in the streets is fairly low, on par with what we see in Lubbock. No, it's not Switzerland.
Water: In Mendoza Province, you're never very far from it. This is a dry area, just like West Texas. (Uncannily, elevation, rainfall, soil structure, and temperatures/ sun intensity are almost identical. We just don't have the neighborhood hillocks.) But thanks to the Huarpe Indians, who populated this part of the world before the early Spaniards arrived, there exists this complicated and intricate irrigation system that makes the Maipu and Uco veritable oases. The acequias are lining many roads and highways, and it seems there's always the sound of running water somewhere. Mendoza has parks and fountains that cool down the city during those hot summer months. In La Consulta, almost very street that I rode on had an irrigation ditch beside it. And then there are those rivers coming down from the mountains, Rio Tunuyan and Rio Mendoza. In some ways I'm reminded of the gardens that we saw in Granada and Cordoba. The sound of running water is such a gift.
Dogs: OMG, where do all those dogs come from? Sure, stray dogs are a common sight in Latin countries (and most other non-western countries that I have been to), but the numbers down here are staggering. They are everywhere, in the cities, out on the roads, away from all civilization. Most of them are shy and scared for their lives, tucking their tails between their legs and slinking away if one just glimpses at them. I said most, because, all of a sudden, one of them will decide that it is time to chase this bike, this car, this truck. No rhyme or reason to this--the ones that attack the cars will not even look at the bike, and vice versa. Whenever I walked by them, especially when they were in packs, I tried to mentally project how I would kick in their teeth if they were to just peep. That helped; I think they sense it. Still, I was uncomfortable but didn't have any real close calls. If all fails, bend down and pick up a rock (or pretend to do so), and that will take care of the situation.
|The line for an ATM that works|
|The Apart Hotel Nueva Era in La Consulta, to the left of the ice cream shop|
Selling things: Maybe it's a function of the years and years of astronomical inflation, but outside of established grocery stores like Atomo or Carrefour none of the fruit stores, bakeries, roadside stands, and many, many other places that sell stuff will display any kind of pricing. Occasionally there may be a signed propped up against the eggs advertising their price, or a sign betrays today's special of 50-cent choclos--corn-on-the-cob--but overall you mostly have to ask what something costs. Bread products, by the way, are always priced by their weight.
|No obvious pricing for anything|
Beer: In general, it's crap, pure and simple. The local mass-market brews (Andes, Quilmes, and Brahma) are the same kind of German-influenced swill that Coors and Miller are. They are being sold in cans and bottles ranging from 375 ml all the way to the big ones, just shy of a liter (970 ml? Why?). But surprisingly, there is a burgeoning cerveza artesanal movement that seems to sweep across Argentina. I had a chance to try a few craft beers, and I was reminded that "craft" does not necessarily mean "quality." There were a few real losers where advertised style of beer and actual taste had nothing in common with each other. But a few were quite nice. On my first night in Mendoza I happened to run across a tiny place that was refilling growlers, and I had a chance to sample eight different beers of which two were OK, the rest totally forgettable. But they are trying. On my ride to the Cacheuta thermal baths I saw two cervecerias artesanales, but unfortunately both were closed. At the hot springs I had an abominal red ale from a Mendoza-based brewery. A lot of work remains to be done.
Siesta: No doubt about it, the Spanish influence is dominant! Not much moves before eight in the morning, and things don't really get rolling until two hours later. The first half of the day will be closed out with a leisurely lunch, and at 14:30 hrs nothing and nobody stirs. Commercial life comes back around 17:00 hrs, and restaurants don't open for dinner any earlier than 20:00 hrs--but nobody shows up before 22:00 hrs. Eating a big meal an hour before midnight or at midnight is not unusual, rather the norm. And what happens after that is something that eludes me since I don't tick like that.
|Restaurants don't start hopping until 10 p.m.|
|The "adult only" pool in Cacheuta|
And with this I better conclude this overly long blog entry. I wanted to jot down some of these observations because they are not just meant to inform you, if you should have read this far, but also to remind me somehwere down the line of what I saw and experienced. After all, this blog is as much a personal journal as it is your passport to the world.
Thanks for reading!