Week 88 - Christmas in Mendoza
It didn't take us too long to get to Mendoza on the Ruta 40, and we'd found a place called SosaHaus Hostal owned by a guy called Sergio and his very child out dog called Wilson, who looked like a blonde seal. Sergio clearly had a love of Star Wars with lots of Star Wars related things around including two large wall pictures made out of computer boards and bottle tops, which were quite cool.
We'd managed to get a really good deal booking online, and we even had Air-con, a small private bathroom and secure parking... Amazing! Also, we weren't a massive walk away from the centre of Menzoza, which was very handy, especially as one of the main reasons to be there was to be able to change some USD in to ARG Pesos, which was much easier in the big cities. We'd actually planned ahead a bit for once due to Christmas and knowing that everything would likely be booked up, and it seemed a nice place to chill for a week.
On a little walk about we found a little restaurant with some outdoor seating so we could do some good people-watching, and even better, they had bottles of wine for 120 ARG pesos (about £2.50). They also did some nice food and they were super friendly, so we stayed and relaxed for a while before heading off to find the cambia (money exchange). It was a little different to Salta; rather than changing the money on the street the cambio guys on the street took us in to a little shop like a gold selling place, and we did the change there. They had proper money counting machines and it was all worked out quickly. Given that we had a wad of cash on us we decided to make a beeline for the hostel.
The other great thing about being in the city is great quality food and having something different to the local Menu Del Dia. We'd grown to really enjoy the various Menu Del Dia's on our trip, but in the city there was usually a much better choice. The other establishments also made for a nice treat like the beautiful Italian Gelato shop near the square. We visited this place twice during that week and savoured every lick! It was such a treat and Mendoza was quite hot so we reasoned that a Gelato was good idea.
Having access to more shops meant I could finally replace my sandals, which were falling apart, and there was a huge supermarket called Carrefour with so much great stuff, that we stocked up our travel pantry as well as some good quality ingredients to make some home made dishes while staying at the hostel. That is one upside of staying somewhere with a kitchen for a few days, you can buy more ingredients and make dishes requiring more than one pan.
I then got talking to Aida and Paul (Life Unloaded RTW) who we hadn't seen since Cusco many months previously. They were also heading to Mendoza and staying with some people outside of the city, but decided to come and spend Christmas with us at the hostel, and luckily for them they'd had a cancellation so they were in luck. It was so great to spend Christmas with some friendly faces, and we made full use of the supermarket. Paul is a decent cook so he took control of the Christmas Day and Boxing Day menu. It was super tasty with an awesome BBQ dinner on Christmas Day, with Wilson keeping in close proximity at all times, mouth watering.
On Boxing Day, Sergio decided to get the oven changed, which was a bit of a pain, and probably the worst time to do it, but never mind. The replacement took so long that we changed our dinner plans and decided to get stuff for another BBQ, which was again very tasty, but even better, Paul made a really scrumptious and rich beef and red wine stew the following night, which was our last night at the hostel before heading out.
On a little more exploration of the local area we found the old trains, which made for a good little outing and the guys has a clamber up in to one of the engines. They even had one of the old turn-table platforms there which was really cool, and some of the carriages and engines were still looking really good.
Our Mendoza stay flew by pretty fast, and like many other city stays involved very little motorbike riding, lots of food and drink consumption, and stocking up on essential supplies. We'd also decided to spend the next couple of days after leaving Mendoza with Paul and Aida, even though they would be going in a different direction to us eventually; we were headed South towards Patagonia and they were heading East towards Buenos Aires to fly to Europe, but we planned to check out a couple of cool places together and then go our separate ways. It was going to be an awesome mini adventure!