Mendoza was the exact opposite of what we had regularly done the whole trip. It was a backpacker town filled with group activities that backpackers were doing together. We were hesitant about this at first mainly because we had been fighting tooth and nail against the "backpacker" image, but eventually just gave in. We did ditch our suitcases in favor of backpacks so that was the end of that, there was no escaping it. When we were in India we didn't want to go to Goa because it's not the "real India". What's the point of going to India to hang out with other white, perfect English speaking people, eating western food? When we ended up in Varkala for a night, which is basically a mini Goa, we began to understand the need for these little travelers respites. It provides a much needed break from keeping it real in what ever place you may be in. Its a chance to just relax, turn your brain off of foreign language mode for a few seconds, and meet other people which is not as easy as you may think when you don't stay in hostels all the time. that being said, we had a ton of fun in Mendoza and it ended up being one of the definite highlights of the trip.
We took and overnight Cata bus from Buenos Aires, which was actually pretty luxurious. The food was crap but how often do you take a bus ride where there is a stewardess who serves you food? And Cata brand wine? The seats reclined a full 180 degrees so after dinner and a movie we stretched out and dozed off. What we didn't know was that a sauna was included in our bus ride because we both woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, thirsty and gasping for air due to the relentless heat that was blasting out if the vents. I took my long sleeve shirt off, socks off, threw the blanket on the floor and bill opened the curtains to the windows hoping the cool glass would offer some relief. What we saw then was probably the single most spectacular thing I've ever seen in my life. The sky was FULL of stars. You're hearing this from two people who have lived in New York City for a long time. I grew up in Philadelphia, Bill in Long Island. We had never seen something like this. Not even when I went camping as a kid do i remember seeing stars like this. There were billions of stars in the sky, and I could even see the faint glow of the milky way! The freakin milky way! That's something ive only seen on tv and I was seeing it with my own two eyes, craning my neck to get a better view out of the bus window. How is this something I've been missing my whole life? We resolved that the next vaca we take should specifically include star gazing. I watched the sky until the stars began to fade with the impending dawn and fell back asleep.
We arrived around 11am, strapped our backpacks on and walked to our hotel. Taking a cab was out of the question at this point because we were over budget and cabs would only be used in emergencies going forward. It was a 15 minute walk and we saw half the town. Mendoza isn't a great town for general sightseeing. Its tiny. After checking in, eating super ponchos, and wandering around to see the rest of the town we started to investigate our options of adventure activities in the many tourist offices spattered around town. We settled on mountain biking, it looked hard but not too hard. I'll tell you about how hard it was in a sec....
Let's fast forward to dinner that evening. We picked a cheap, nondescript place that had a little bit of everything, including the worst waitress that ever walked the planet. It started off well, I ordered my food and a beer. Then things got crazy. She brings over my beer and as she's setting it down she looks at me and asks me if I'm pregnant. I thought I heard her wrong, que? "are you having a baby?" she asks as she points to her stomach. What?! Wtf?! I looked at bill and back at her and was like, um no. Then she apologized and walked away. First of all, who the hell asks someone that, and if you thought I was pregnant why are you serving me alcohol? I had on an oversize crop top, if that makes any sense, and skinny jeans. I knew I had let myself go a little bit on the trip but had I become so completely gross that it warranted a pregnancy comment? Maybe it was the over the counter Spanish birth control, or my upcoming period accompanied by the emotional roller coaster probably caused by the over the counter birth control whose instructions were in Spanish and I couldn't read them.... but I started to cry. And when I went to comfort myself by taking a sip of my beer there was a chip in the glass. So when the waitress came with the food I showed her the chip. Then she came back with a new glass and dumped the beer in which made it spill and foam all over the table, then she apologized some more while throwing napkins on the table. I just kept crying because now I was fat, had no beer and couldn't get this stupid bitch away from me. Bill just had a look of fear on his face. We ate in silence, tears dripping into my pasta, when I blurted out "why don't you make a joke or something?! Why aren't you trying to cheer me up?!" and he replied with a very hurried answer about how he had no idea what to do in this situation and there's no handbook for men with the answer for what to do when someone calls your wife pregnant when she's not pregnant and he was panicking. To his credit, he had tried to make a joke earlier but it flopped. The whole thing ended with me just throwing money on the table and running out of there like a bat out of hell, then calling her nasty names on Facebook. I guess that's what kind of dinner you get for 20 bucks in Mendoza.
Anyways, I was super determined to mountain bike the shit out of my body the next morning, we got up bright and early to eat the somewhat awful hotel breakfast and the adventure company picked us up right on schedule. In the van ride to the "adventure complex" we met some Australian travelers, a couple and another girl traveling on her own, and immediately began comparing notes on the places we had been. They were going rafting and horseback riding so when we arrived at the place we went our separate ways. Bill and I were the only two mountain bikers and when the guide asked us if we had any experience we said no. None whatsoever. I think he didn't expect us to be as bad as we were, but that was HARD! It started off ok, biking through little patches of forest, but then got serious. I mean, we were in the foothills of the Andes and so obviously we were biking up really steep inclines at certain points. We also went down hills over some rough terrain, and I completely wiped out at one point but only walked away with some scratches so I think I did ok. Our efforts were rewarded with some truly breathtaking views of the mountains and a lake. Is it possible that I was turning into an "outdoorsy" person? Nahhh... As soon as we got back to the base camp we grabbed some beers, reconvened with our Australian friends and relaxed until our ride back to town was ready.
Coming up next: wine tours and horseback riding!