A Travellerspoint blog

It's Christmas!!!!

Mendoza, mmmm yummy wine


So, it's been a long time since my last blog and I'm very out of date so I may forget the details of the past couple of weeks but hopefully I'll cover the main things.

My last update finished at the estancia. The following day was Christmas eve, bug chris's birthday and a long day driving to Mendoza, where we would celebrate Christmas with the other truck.

Mendoza is famous for it's wine, particularly malbec, which is pretty yummy so we were all prepared for a good one.

The drive was very pretty, Argentina is beautiful so despite the long drive, there was a lot to look at. We arrived at Mendoza early evening and were greeted by a very over excited and very friendly rasta, who owned the hostel where we would be staying for the next 3 nights. The hostel was a tighter fit than we were used to but I manage to blag the extra bed in with our crew, jonny and Claire, so despite staying in what can only be described as a cupboard under the stairs, I didn't have to experience the 6 person multiple sex dorm which contained approx 6 really bad snorers. I would later discover that jonny is also one of them. Very little sleep was had here!

We had been promised a pizza dinner to be put on by the hostel, but the rasta had obviously been smoking something when he agreed that (and the Christmas day BBQ) so he let us down and we ordered the worst pizza I have ever eaten. One of them came with 8 eggs, one for each slice. One of them came with a surface layer of ham. One with glacé cherries. All kinds of wrongness.  We Ate what we could in our little vine covered courtyard before deciding to go to the other hostel and check out what the other truck were doing.

As we were only popping out for an hour or so, I went in my truck trousers and t-shirt, which for all intents and purposes are pyjamas.  Quite inappropriate when we walked in on the others having a three course dinner which then turned into a full on party.  On the way to meet the others, ryan managed to fall in a two feet deep drain at the side of the road.  A very funny moment, made funnier by the fact that he doesn't always have the best sense of humour, he came out with rubbish stuck to his wet bum, but did manage to keep his bottle of wine in tact. At the time when randoms were throwing themselves on the bar having tequila drunk from their belly buttons, I decided this really wasn't for me and headed home. 

The next day was Christmas day - yay!! We arranged to make a nice big cooked breakfast with champagne which was pretty yummy. We sat around drinking that all morning while people tried to make calls back home to family. Noriko gave me a lesson in origami and then we went off to meet the other truck in the park for general Christmas drinking and eating and games. We had a lot of fun, a few mild injuries, a couple of minor fall outs and a lot of wine. We played cricket, northern versus southern hemisphere, to which we won and managed to annoy the aussies amongst us. We stayed there all day, before heading for a macdonalds (without the BBQ we had little choice) and then heading to bed to listen to jonny snoring for another night!

Boxing day was a bit slow starting, but nice and chilled. I went off on the hunt for a pair of the local trousers that the gauchos wear, dragging little Sarah with me. We had a ginormous ice cream (they do great ice cream), walked around the city looking to replace my camera, failed, got hot and sleepy and then headed back to the hostel to chill out. Quick argument with capital one so that I could get myself some money and then the BBQ finally happened.  The rasta put on a great spread and with another tour company and or other truck there, it was a lot of fun eating and drinking.

Probably not the most conventional Christmas but whilst everyone was missing people back home, we had a great time.  Definitely one to remember.

Posted by selson 14:16 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Estancia in rio ceballos

Rider off


Oh my god the heat on the drive to rio ceballos was ridiculous. I was properly melting. Argentina is really hot. The air is hot, the wind is hot. Bring back the cold showers of Colombia!

We stopped along the way on our drive for a visit to the quilmes ruins, a good little hike up to look around and see the cactus with hallucinagenic properties. Didn't fancy giving them a lick very much. Not with all the wine.

We arrived at the estancia at around 4pm to a lovely welcome from the other group. It felt nice to be back together again if only for one night.

After pitching our tents (being close range water bombed) and getting showered up, we could finally chill out in the shade and start celebrating claire's birthday. That night kevin, the
Owner treated us to an argentinian BBQ with homemade
Empanadas and drink as
Much as you can wine. They were incredible hosts.  After the BBQ we took the party up to the games room where rupert played guitar for u and we had a bit if a drunken sing song.

The following morning we had to say goodbye tithe others as they started the drive to
Mendoza. The rest of us on truck carmen, were to meet our horses and head out on a ride to the waterfall.

I'm not the biggest horse lover in the world and was freaking out while we waited to be given our horses. Quite typically I was given one of the biggest ones, lady, who I'd eventually bond with. I was put to ease by being told she was a biter. I was feeling so happy about this whole experience.

After being shown how to control the horses we headed off for our ride with the gauchos. We rode over the roughest terrain over hills for about 2 hours before eventually arrive at the waterfall. We had lunch there and swam in the waterfall for a couple hours before heading back again. I started feeling a little more relaxed on the way back home I actually managed the odd smile occasionally.

One of the horses rode into a hornets nest and reared up and scared everyone a bit but all good so far for me and lady.

That night we had a wine tasting. The owner of the estancia is a massive wine buff so invited us into his house and entertained us with cheese and wine. He told us all about the wines and how he ended up inviting dragoman tours to his ranch. The ranch is actually an upscale holiday location too but he built a relationship with drago and he's carried on letting them
Take passengers there, although we camp by his home rather than staying at the lodges. He doesn't allow any other tours to stay there, not bad considering he has been punched by a previous passenger.

Anyway we drank way too much wine at the tasting and finished off all the empties after before heading to bed.

Another ride the next day, this time to the cattle ranch to try our hands at lassooing. Needless to say it was much harder than it looked. Only one of the group managed to lassoo the tree and we all failed at getting ourselves a cow.  After we were shown how it was done properly by the gauchos, we got back on our horses for the ride back home.  

The gauchos sped us up a bit ad we brined into a trot and a canter a few times. Bouncing around on my horse, I couldn't stop laughing.  I'm definitely nit converted on this riding malarkey but I did really enjoy that ride.

In the evening we had a local
Musician come and play guitar and sing for us. More wine. He was very funny and it was a great night that ended up going on far too long. Our group can put away a lot of wine. Just my kind of people :-) we said our goodbyes to Ellie and Antonia who had been looking after us and went to bed before an early start and a 16 hour drive day to
Mendoza where we would spend christmas with the other group.

Posted by selson 14:07 Archived in Argentina Comments (3)


Cycle and wine tasting


We had two nights camping in cafayate with the sole purpose being to hire bikes and create our own cycle tour of the vineyards, doing lots of wine tasting and cheese eating.

After a very late night the first night following a couple of failed attempts by cook group to cook rice that didn't look like mash potato and taste worse, we took to town to get our bikes And finally taste some of the local fare.

We decided to head to the furthest vineyard first which was at the top of a hill overlooking the town, we wanted to get the hard cycling done first and take some piccies at the top.  The bikes we hired were pretty rubbish and even the first flat bit was tough to cycle. It was really hot that day. And by the time we were halfway tithe first vineyard i thought my head was going to explode and my lungs would pop out my throat. It was hard. The group had split up a bit but we cycled on. We arrived at what we thought was our first tasting tombs told we
Could buy but not taste. Oh no no no, this is not how a wine tasting tour works. They told us if we carried on there was another one at the very top that would let us taste. At this point some of the group still hadn't caught up. The testosterone filled among us didn't really give a shit and carried on despite the worry that was settling in for the remaining few who stayed behind and waited for them. And waited and waited. When they finally arrived, one of the girls was pretty delirious and was clearly totally dehydrated and was beginning to lose her vision. We made her drink our water and some rehydration salts, sat her in the shade and a couple of us went on to get more water.

By the time we reached the top I was ready to die (and gagging for a glass of wine), there was no way I could cycle straight back down again to replenish water supply. So we sent a couple of random italians back down to them with 4 litres of water and the message to head home and not to try to cycle
The rest of the way. 

In the mean time the rest of us started our wine tasting. We had three wines to taste here. Torrentes which is a White wine, which I really really like. Then a malbec, and a cab sav. I liked them all. Good start! Then some of the others ordered a load of cheese and meats and we sat enjoying that and the wine we bought on the veranda of the vineyard.

Next thing we know, we have a random running up to us saying
Our friends have been waiting but she was passing out and needed to go to hospital but we need to go back and help with the bikes. Apparently our message never got to them to turn back. We all felt pretty guilty so paid up and raced back. Fortunately it was all downhill so it didn't take to long for us to find the bikes and a shaken Irene waiting for us.  We started off with a couple people with two bikes but soon enough tour leader Claire turned up
With Kerry and we all cycled back together.  Claire brought news that tanith was ok and now sleeping it off so we left her to it and continued on our tour. It was a really nice lazy afternoon and was finished off with a curry back at camp. Another overland group arrived to everyone carried on until the early hours. 

We left beautiful cafayate the following morning for the drive to rio ceballos where we would be staying for three nights on an estancia (cattle ranch). We would also meet back up with the other tour group here and we'd be back together as one group for the night.

Posted by selson 14:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)


Queuing and Rafting madness


As we would be camping at salta rafting (google it, you'll see where I stayed) we had to do the usual trip to the supermarket to stock up on food. We all got a little bit excited and went a little overboard buying wine, cheese and pate. Already things were looking up in argentina! 

We arrived at the campsite mid afternoon so we had a leisurely set up of our camping before
Making decisions over what activities we all wanted to do. The majority of us wanted to go white water rafting the following morning but a few decided to try out the zip wires that day. Whilst they were doing that the rest of us made camp with our picnic and got on the wine. We had full view of the zip wires and it was pretty cool watching everyone come down. We were in the middle of nowhere and for the first time in a long time, had time to properly chill. Perhaps a little too much. By the time our Argentinian BBQ (put on by the camp site) was cooked we were all well on our merry way. Half a cow and many wines later things were pretty good. Everyone had a wicked time. Except perhaps the massive frog that joined us and wet itself when jo picked it up for a closer look. Such a brilliant night and I had a tent to myself for the first time too. Pure luxury!

The next morning was White water rafting morning! We donned our swimsuits, got helmeted and lifejacketed up before signing our lives away and being given the rules - paddle forward paddle backward, in the boat and how to make a rescue should anyone go overboard. I knew this was a fairly gentle rapid but it's fair to say at this point I was a little bit freaked out, how I stayed for the next 3 hours!

The start of the river was very calm we just floated down and enjoyed the blazing sunshine whilst occasionally water fighting with the other rafts. The rapids were pretty cool in the end, nothing too technical and as
Usual all that could be hears was my laughing and screaming. Especially when irene tried to paddle in the rapids, completely oblivious to the fact she was just flicking all the water into my face.  

At one point we were all given the chance to squat down at the front of the raft through the next rapid. I said no then decided to man up and took the challenge on.  At one point I thought I'd never breath again, I had so much water on me, but it was great fun. And I didn't have to paddle :-)

At the end of the big rapids, we all abandoned ship and got into the river to float to the end. We took all the equipment to shore and took the bus back to camp where our lunch of nachos awaited us.

After lunch we collected photos and then hit the truck for the short drive to cafayate, a small town very famous for it's wines, this was going to be good!

Posted by selson 14:02 Archived in Argentina Comments (2)

Out of bolivia....

Into chile, out of chile into argy

all seasons in one day

After an amazing offroad drive through the San Pedro de Atacama desert viewing the amazing landscapes, lunching at hot pools with flamingos and making lots of photo stops, we finally exited Bolivia via the hut that is migration and drove for an hour through no mans land before entering chile for the night. This was our most difficult entrance to a country yet. So far we've had no bag checks at Borders but chile has strict import rules and therefore we had to begin the long process of emptying the 20 backpacks from back locker and taking a customs official through every storage space on the truck. A bit pointless when they turned a blind eye to all the fresh food in the fridge despite the fact that that was what they were looking for. After a bit of a kerfuffle and some anger over us buying some snacks before being officially accepted into the country, we were finally let in and were making the short journey to our campsite in the border town of San pedro. 

After pitching up, we headed to town to get ourselves some
Chilean money and some dinner. The small town was a million miles away from Bolivia. It was easy to tell that we were heading towards the far more modern and wealthier parts of south america.  This was a cute little town with lots of amazing restaurants. No bars though due to some weird law that you can't open a place to sell alcohol unless you serve food (and I don't mean pork scratchings and crisps). We had a brilliant dinner, I had noodles cooked in merlot, but owing to a wine shortage in our restaurant, this visit to chile was not going to offer me a taste of the good stuff. We were all shattered after a long drive day so we headed straight back to camp for a sleep before another early start and long drive the next day. 

The following morning saw us heading straight back to the border to head into Argentina, destination salta. We exited chile easily but the entrance to
Argentina was absolutely ridiculous and topped the previous days border by far. The argentinian border control had no clue what to do with us and how to get us through. We were sent back to sit on the truck a few times whilst they figured it out but after setting up, preparing lunch and eating at border control we finally lost patience and stood forced them to process us.  Eventually they agreed to scan our bags and let us in but they were really difficult throughout the whole thing.  Whilst all this was happening one of the girls fell off a kern and seriously damaged her ankle just another bit of excitement to add to an otherwise frustrating day.

The drive to salta was very long and not very interesting. Argentina is very beautiful but when you're tired and hungry it's hard to appreciate it, that would come later.

Owing to the lack of currency exchange at the border none of us had any currency with which to buy food or drinks. We managed to scramble together enough money to get through the toll roads but by 11pm we hadnt found anywhere to eat that would accept card payment. At around midnight we finally found a service station that would take cards but as nowhere takes MasterCard and my visa is currently living with some random bolivian in potosi, yet again I had to beg and borrow. All for a coffee and a beef and tomato sandwich.

At around 1am we arrived at our hotel, got told off for making too much noise and hit the sack.

The next morning we had a small amount of free time to explore the city. What actually happened was that I went on a hunt to replace my camera. Sulked for a while when I couldn't find it, then tried to get some money out as after queuing at several atm's for about 3 hours finally admitted defeat and accepted that MasterCard is worthless over here and borrowed more money off of big chris. Needed retail therapy so returned to the camera shop and wasted £500 on a compact camera that I don't actually want in an attempt to at least get some decent pictures to show for my trip!

We finally left salta at lunch time, had to leave Claire behind who has been my roomy now for a couple of months, as she is off the trip over christmas whilst her boyfriend visits, then we were on our way to salta rafting where the Argentinian fun would finally begin!

Posted by selson 13:52 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

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