Mendoza, Argentina Backpacking Eight Months On the Road By Bus Through South America
By David Rice
Page Twenty Two
Mendoza Wine Country
From the falls I went across Paraguay and took an all-night bus ride that stopped at a few stations on the way but had as a destination Asuncion, Paruguey.
The border is notorious for masses of people going through trying to smuggle goods in an attempt to avoid sales tax and I inadvertently got in the wrong line. I was a tourist heading to Argentina and had nothing to declare but I found myself in a huge line and later discovered that it was the wrong line.
After waiting 45 minutes I finally found the proper line and I moved through customs quickly.
I spent the night in Asuncion the capitol of Paruguey. I was just passing through the plains to the south, a region of rolling hills, on my way to Mendoza Argentina via Tucuaman.
From Tucuaman I went to Cordoba and I spent a day waiting for a bus in an interesting square with lots of activity A European-feeling city, I enjoyed it as I waited for a bus to Mendoza, the heart of Argentina's wine country.
Once I reached Mendoza I checked into the Hostel International where other backpackers from all over the world, the Europeans, and off course the inventors of travel, the English, were ensconced for some serious wine tasting.
The British travelers are everywhere and they are brave and intrepid. I am sure if I was flying off the edge of the Devil's Throat Falls there would be an Englishman flying beside me.
The town's streets are lined with sycamores forming near tunnels of foliage much like the roads in Provence and likewise this region is now producing some great wines.
Spanish speaking and European in feeling, the city has its own ambiance and is not necessarily European. Great cheese shops and great bread shops, and beautiful parks and plazas with tiled sidewalks and shade trees on the avenues make this region different.
I would go to the bread shop and buy a small loaf of bread, go to the cheese shop and buy cheese, perhaps a cheddar, and then go to the wine shop and buy a bottle of red wine such as a Malbec or Merlot blend that they labeled "Malbec/Merlot," and then I would go to one of the parks shaded by sycamores for a picnic.
The good wines in the area cost about five dollars a bottle and with the great weather in October, early Spring in the southern hemisphere with warm days and cool nights, I could picnic almost anywhere. The nights would get cooler as I moved south even in what is their mid summer, a season which includes December and January.
I spent three days in Mendoza enjoying the wines and breads and their amazing chocolates. Mendoza makes candy animals, chocolate bars, and candy treats of all kinds made with chocolate. After a day of filling up with chocolate, my fourth day in Mendoza, I caught a bus headed to Santiago Chile.
Bearing west out of Mendoza, I crossed the Andean Cordillera which includes some of the worlds tallest mountains, and includes the tallest mountain in the western hemisphere Mount Aconcagua. On the Alta Montana Route we had a magnificent ride over the mountains and then we crossed the border between Argentina and Chile. Oddly enough we did this crossing in a tunnel with a large underground chamber that includes an immigration stop. The area was a huge vault where they checked everything in the luggage. The officials were looking for goods that people try to smuggle to avoid sales tax, goods such as electronics and textiles.
In an attempt to duck the required duty payment, passengers would have children's shoes tucked in their dresses, computer gear stuffed in a bag, and textiles wrapped around their bodies. I had nothing to declare so I breezed through but some passengers had their luggage confiscated and had to pay a duty payment to retrieve it.
On the rest of the trip south I crossed the border between these two countries many times as I went south but this crossing was the most heavily policed.
The bus crested the mountain and we entered Santiago where we were surrounded on three sides by high, snow-capped peaks. I hoped to be hiking in mountains like those that surrounded us before too many more days.
Soon I would be in Patagonia.