Gülce and I arrived in Mendoza on Sunday morning after a half-hour flight over the Andes from Santiago. We’re making all of our journeys on this trip on LAN Airlines, save for the segment between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, thanks to LAN’s unbeatable South America Airpass (which gives serious airfare discounts to foreigners in South America who’ve flown down to the continent on select airlines). We’re combining that with hostel stays in the cities of Mendoza, Argentina; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Montevideo, Uruguay.
Over the course of our two days in Mendoza, we found ourselves constantly comparing Argentina with Chile in more ways than one. We don’t feel like we stick out as much as foreigners here in Argentina, probably because there’s a significant number of tourists in Mendoza and because the Argentinean population as a whole is more European than that of Chile. The Argentinean people in general are much more full of life and a bit more outgoing than their neighbors on the other side of the Andes.
That said, we’ve been seriously confused about basic issues such as the correct time. From what we learned tonight, various parts of Argentina have different time zones based on their geographical locations and their ties with the national government. Something like that would be unthinkable in Chile (for both geographical and institutional reasons). Even my computer, connected to the internet, is mistaken as to the correct time in Buenos Aires. Very strange.
The food has been incredible; from the $10 per person all-you-can-eat buffet we went to on our first night in town (which resulted us in eating about 90 cows between four people) to the ravioli dish I had last night that has got to rank as one of the top Italian dishes I’ve ever eaten, the quality and price of food is seriously impressive.
Mendoza was a perfect introduction to Argentina. It has a metropolitan area of about 800,000 people, making it sizable but not too huge. Every street is lined with shady trees, plazas and parks abound, and classic cars fill the streets (there were basically zero classic cars in Chile; strange contrast). While not consuming entire cows, we passed a lot of our time aimlessly wandering through the city, browsing various open-air markets, and we spent much of the day on Monday walking to and exploring Parque San Martín at the western edge of the city.
Despite the hot temperatures, we managed to cover a good 7-8 miles during the day, which included a visit to the seemingly abandoned soccer complex used for the World Cup, last held in Argentina in 1978. We also climbed Cerro de la Gloria, a big hill at the eastern edge of Parque San Martín with great views of the Andes and the city of Mendoza. At the top is a series of statues and monuments to General San Martín (an independence hero in Argentina and Latin America as a whole) and the Army of the Andes.
Those familiar with Mendoza are probably wondering why we didn’t hit a single vineyard during our brief stay in the city; to be honest, Gülce and I had experienced enough wine producution during our excursion to Curicó and Lontué back in Chile in September. We had learned in depth about the process of producing wine, we had purchased high-quality, cheap wine, and we had consumed it, too. There wasn’t much novelty in doing it all over again on the other side of the Andes.
Earlier this evening, we arrived in hot and humid Buenos Aires, where we’ll be until Sunday, when we head to Uruguay. I’ll try to update more frequently, but there’s so much to see and do that I don’t want to spend all day writing about experiences instead of having new ones.
Below you will find an embedded slideshow of photos of our adventures in Mendoza and Buenos Aires. Photos are in chronological order.