Week 11 - A week in Mendoza and Arrival in Chile.
A day by day account of the first week in our 2022 travels through South America, Mexico, USA and Canada.
Thursday 14th April 2022
Online teaching for us both at 8 - 10am.
Today Augustine set me off on a little project of my own in order to help me apply the information he was giving me on sculpting the polystyrene and the vacuum molding techniques. So I spent a good amount of time measuring up a viola case, to fit two violas, and then marking up and cutting a piece of polystyrene to match. I then marked it up with measurements that would include all the curved edges and opening points and started to sand away the unwanted material. The aim was to get a perfectly smooth, geometrically sound version of the wood case that I was working from. The hardest part of this was including all of the curved sides and edges that were to give the case its strength. As I did this, Megan kept up to our side of the WorkAway deal by washing the couples' 4x4, a kind of car essential for the terrain in this area.
Later in the day, following Etu's yoga class,she drove us to visit the local, beautiful village of Chacras de Coria, where we wandered around the village square.
Friday 15th April 2022
After a conversation the last night, we had made a plan to got up into the mountains and visit the famous Potrerillos Dam in Dique Potrerillos. Following Megan's online lesson 9-10pm, we made sandwiches, packed our bags with our video equipment and swimming attire and headed into the hills by car. The road was long and winding, with incredible views all along the drive up. With it being a national holiday here in Argentina, the route was a lot busier than it usually is with families and friends making BBQ and enjoying the scenery on every stretch of the road. Eventually, you go through a tunnel which opens out to one of the best views we've ever seen. It took us completely by surprise, with the mountains all being the same shade of brownish-green. As you near the end of the tunnel, you are met with the most bright blue lake you can imagine, with the mountains stretching out behind it, it was like something out of a painting. We stopped soon to go down to the water and felt that 'once in a lifetime' feeling again. We make a few stops around the lake, one of them including a traumatic drone incident where we very nearly lost it forever. Luckily it was just a close call.
As soon as we had asked Etu if it was possible to swim in the water, we knew we didn't want to leave without doing it. Even though nobody there was doing it because the water was pretty cold, we were determined. We managed to find a pretty secluded place for it and braved a jump in. It didn't take long for us to be shivering and as the clouds started to roll in, we climbed out. We already knew that we would remember this day forever.
On the way home, we stopped for some wine to have with dinner. With it being a very famous area for wine and it all being made locally, you can buy it so cheap. Two bottles of wine for the same price as a big bag of Doritos (so naturally we bought 2). When we got back, Agus grilled up some famous Asado (Argentinian BBQ). The meat was cooked over flames for 3 hours, meaning that it had a great smoky taste. We had it with potato and egg salad, as well as tomatoes. It was so so good. After food, we spent the rest of the night exchanging our favorite videos of music performances until being full from meat and wine sent us to bed.
Saturday 16th April 2022
We had originally planned to go to the Vineyards today but with it being the national holiday (and us not being overly prepared), the bike rental places were booked up. Instead, we spent the day getting caught up with some jobs. I taught 9am - 10 while Megan had a lie in. When she got up, she made us scrambled egg for breakfast and we got our heads down. I headed up to the workshop where I continued working on making a mold for the viola case. Meanwhile, Megan sent out some messages on WorkAway to see what opportunities we might have in countries moving forward. Our vaccination validation was also complete, meaning we could go ahead and book buses to Satiago, Chile for Wednesday morning. Luckily for us, the restrictions were eased on April 14th so it looks like we aren't going to need PCR tests or quarantine on arrival. We chose Wednesday to head to Santiago as we both had lessons on Monday and Tuesday morning and decided we should take the opportunity to stay in a place with many rooms and really good Wi-Fi until then to complete them.
That evening Etu & Agustine's neighbors invited us all round to their house for an evening eating and drinking in the garden. When we arrived we noticed that it was more of a spiritual gathering with them banging bongo's and chanting while baking ceramics on the fire, which is'nt really our thing. As the evening got darker and the full moon showed itself, we thought it best for us to retire early and get a good nights sleep ready for our full day of wine tasting tomorrow.
Sunday 17th April 2022
After we had been into the mountains and experienced the amazing landscapes that Mendoza has to offer, we had one other thing that we really could not leave without doing, and that was cycling around the wineries. We decided on today to do this, after we had realized how busy it was going to be on Saturday due to us being here over Easter weekend and a time that many Argentinians come here for a long weekend. Our hosts, and the bicycle rental places, both told us that Sunday was going to be a lot easier for us.
We walked the 9Km early morning to Chancras de Coria as the old buses and our modern phones didn't seem to sync up. The walk was actually really nice and with it being relatively early and a Sunday, the streets weren't too busy. We got to Chacras at about 11 and rented a couple of bikes. We spoke to lady who runs it in parts English and broken Spanish, and she mapped us out a route around the vineyards in the area. She mapped out three, but due to the nature of the beast we only ended up getting to one... We got to the first one, which was 'Viamonte' and the setting was so amazing that we decided that it would only be right to enjoy it and have a bottle. This passed about an hour and a half before we moved on. On the way to the second one we passed by a small restaurant that looked very welcoming so we thought we would call in there for a drink in between vineyard's. 'Roja' beer is very popular here, especially the 'Andes' brand for obvious reasons, so we ended up having a very large bottle each. The bottle at the first place and this impromptu stop along the way meant that we had left it quite late in the afternoon to get back on the road, this in turn ended up meaning that we turned up at and got turned away from the two others on account of it being past the last serving times. So we had quite a large ride all the way back to the bike rental place in order to return them on time for 6pm. Once returned, we went into the beautiful main square of Chacras and shared a pizza. Following that we started the long walk back. As we got near to our neighborhood, we noticed that a bar/restaurant that Etu had recommended was open, so we popped in for a drink and a snack. We were immediately welcomed and made to feel very important by the management and the staff. They sat us down, took our order and pulled us in a giant, smoldering brick in from outside as they could see that time off the bikes coupled with the sunset has left us a little chilly. We order a couple of bottles of red wine, direct from Mendoza and enjoyed the evening. They brought us complimentary nuts, empanadas and pizza. We walked the rest of the way home and relaxed.
Monday 18th April 2022
After a full day of drinking yesterday and this fundamentally being a 'Workaway', it was time to do some work. Following our online lessons we spoke to Etu and Augus about what tasks they might want us to do and where we find the tools to do these tasks. Etu was not too bothered about how much work we did, as they also take people from couch surfing, who literally do just that, but with my concrete brain, I would not be able to rest until we had kept up to our side of the bargain. Etu conceded and gave us a couple of jobs to do, that she said she had been meaning to do, but would help her if we took care of them. It was also important to us that we kept up with our Youtube channel, our forward planning and our weekly blog, therefore me and Megan agreed, that if I could manage the day's jobs on my own, she would edit, plan and write, as I worked. I mowed the garden (a giant of a garden, i must say) and cleaned the drive. The day's jobs would have been completed a lot earlier in the day had it not been for the 1-5pm siesta and no-noise policy that had to be adhered to. I had to resume and finish off that garden at 5 before the sun went down.
Tuesday 19th April 2022
This morning was a very upsetting one as when we got up, Etu could not find her oldest cat, unfortunately during the night it had passed away. We were not sure whether it had had an accident or been killed by another animal. We spent an hour looking for it before Augustine took the ladders and looked over the fence into a neighboring lot and saw it laying motionless in the grass. He climbed over to check and it was apparent it had been dead quite a few hours, she was stiff and had dried blood around its stomach area. I had never handled a dead animal, but in seeing how upset Etu was and with Augustine was, I kind of just went into auto-pilot. I took ‘Pancho’ over the fence and into the garden where she was to be buried. Following this, we felt very aware that we were in someone else’s house and someone else’s space. It felt a little intrusive of us to just hang around, so we told them we were going to take a long walk in order for them to spent some time alone and interact privately with each other and their other animals who were obviously aware that this had happened. We walked a few Kilometers to the nearest supermarket and got a selection of ingredients in order to be able to cook dinner for them tonight. Due to the ingredients in the house, coupled with the ingredients we could find in the supermarket, we settled on Taco's. We took a very long walk home and then spent some time with Etu during the afternoon as she had taken an early finish from work. We made Taco's in the evening and spent the night discussing language, sharing music and generally enjoying each others company. It was a nice way to end the day and was good to feel like we could give them a little back in the way of cooking them a good meal.
Wednesday 20th April 2022
Today was another travelling day, 10 hours on a bus from Mendoza to Santiago. Usually, such long bus journeys have to be endured to some extent, but this one was an absolute pleasure. Going between Argentina and Chile, it is almost impossible to avoid the Andes. We took in some of the greatest views that we have every been lucky enough to see. Our bus was at 08:30 from the center of Mendoza, so we got up at 06:30 as we were about 45 minutes to the south by car and just like everywhere else in the world, the school run has to be factored in to any morning journey. We got through our back repacking routine and cleaned our room. Etu made us our final coffee and gave us time to say goodbye to all of the pets, it had only been a week or so, but we had our favorites and we were going to miss the constant interaction with them. We said our final goodbyes to Augustine who was staying at the workshop and gave him a massive thanks for all that they had done for us and all the things that he had taught me, and we were back on the road. We shared a little moment remembering what Cato had told us when we left him in Tigre, he said ‘if you live this life you have to learn to be able to say goodbye’ which is very true and it helps. We arrived at the station, said our goodbye’s and thanks to Etu and boarded the bus. We spent the day taking in the wonders that lye in the Andes in amongst long boarder checks. I would estimate that we only spent half of the journey time actually on the road, the other half was document and baggage check’s on the Argentinian side of the border and the same a few miles later on entry to Chile. Its impressive how accurately they factor all this into the journey time, as when it happens it feels like there is no real organization or planning to the whole thing. Below is a small selection of the views that were all around for the whole journey. We arrived in Santiago as the sun was going down and walked the 20 minutes or so to our hotel. It’s a lottery on how you will be received as a foreign traveler in hotels, unfortunately the manager of this hotel couldn’t have made us feel more unwelcome if he tried and to be honest, I think he was. We hadn’t had chance to get any food while we were on the bus, so we had made one bag of crisps and a packet of cookies last a very long time. In our hunger on the bus, we had started discussing how amazing an Indian curry with starters would be and how much we miss that, being away from home. On arrival at the hotel, we got on Uber Eats and found a place called ‘Khana Khazana’, We ordered more than we could handle and I went to pick it up. We spent the night eating and watching TV.