Sunday, December 10, 2006

And one more thing...

I never really told you about Mendoza. Sorry about that.

Imagine wine country as far as the eye can see, grapes ripening under celestial blue skies that are sunny almost all year long. Natural conduits carry fresh mountain water from Rio Mendoza to the vineyards, and the dry climate keeps almost all the insects away, so grapes can grow nearly free of pesticides, practically organic.

This was Mendoza, our first stop after leaving Buenos Aires. A solid twelve hour bus ride brought us to this beautiful part of the country and the foothills of the Andes - a short ride from Mendoza takes you to Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Americas. That means North America, too.

We nabbed another tandem bicycle and sped off into wine country to taste and explore. We took an official wine tour in a bus the day before and decided we'd rather venture off on our own. We bought wine directly from the owners of most vineyards and took TONS of pictures. Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most popular types of wines in this region - white wine grapes grow better in the northern parts of Argentina. Merlot grows really well... somewhere else.

And back here in Patagonia we enjoyed a lazy day of lounging in the park with a picnic lunch, taking spectacular pictures of the mountains and planning our next sojourn. We'll let you know how they go!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Patagonia is more than just an outdoor store!

It's true, we made it all the way down to Bariloche, Argentina which is in Andean Patagonia, a gigantic area of mountains and glaciers and other cool things the size of New England. We're smack in the middle of the lake district and spring has just arrived. It's cold and windy sometimes and warm and summery other times. It's 9:30pm right now and it's just a little after sunset and still bright outside. As Emily says, it's probably the only place on the planet worth a 20 hour bus ride sitting behing British backpackers having a farting contest.

Somehow we timed our kayak/mountain biking trip today just right and ended up being the only people signed up. This meant we had just the two of us and our guides for an entire beautiful day. We biked along gravel roads with stunning views of the Andes, ate a picnic lunch on the edge of Lake Gutierrez and kayaked all afternoon. It was absolutely delightful, and our guides were topnotch. Marisa and friends started their own guide business three years ago taking people kayaking, biking, hiking and trekking all over the place. We asked if they needed partners.

Yesterday we telefericoed to the top of Cerro Otto, a small mountain close to Bariloche with a great view of the mountains and lakes. A teleferico is what you take when you miss the trailhead to climb a mountain and walk an extra unnecessary 4 miles along a busy highway with no shoulder. Some would call it a Skytram if you've been to Six Flags Great Adventure or Disneyland. The ride was great, we were just a little bitter about missing the path up. We spent the better part of the day enjoying the views, taking pictures and eating dried fruit.

Since we're staying in a Swiss Chalet (Bariloche was settled mostly by the Swiss in the late 1800s which is why they have incredible chocolate), we are now headed downstairs to have some cheese fondue. Yep, we are pretty excited too. Until next time!