Arriving in Mendoza in the evening, we were happy to arrive and meet another milestone on our trip. We camped at Camping Suizo, northwest of the city center, which turned out to be an awesome little place where we met a couple of other travelers who gave us some helpful tips about the road north
Because there was a bit of a mix-up with where they wanted us to camp, the owners even did our laundry for free, and they projected movies on a big screen for the entire campsite to enjoy at night.
Our first day in Mendoza we had a few errands to run, first and foremost, a stop at an internet café for Wolf to wrap up a few work-related needs. It was a nice way to check out the city as well, wandering through the city center and taking in the grid of wide, leafy boulevards. Afterwards, the next order of business was getting an oil change and, ideally, finding a mechanic who could maybe give the car a once over and check a few things for us. We’d found some recommendations for a good mechanic and we thought we may have found the place, but it was siesta time so they had shut down for the afternoon and there wasn’t much signage… so we moved on. We stopped in at a few other promising looking mechanics and auto repair shops without much luck, until finally someone directed us to the local version of Jiffy Lube. The super nice owner saw our plates and chatted with us about his trip to California, while also gently assuring us that he would take good care of our baby, which he did.
Wolf monitored the whole process closely and was super happy with their work. Errands accomplished, we enjoyed a relaxing evening back at the campsite. We had enjoyed Mendoza’s vibe and were excited about a bit more exploring the following day.
I’m ashamed to admit that our first stop the next morning was Walmart. We thought they might have an item or two we needed for the car, but we ended up finding only a car wash (which Wolf was very excited about) and a few basic staples.
Our guidebook, along with many other travel bloggers, had convinced us that all the cool kids were heading to the Maipu region to rent bikes and cycle around for a self-guided winery tour. Since wine tasting in Mendoza was certainly on our list, and since Wolf is always excited about bike-related activities, we decided to give it a shot. We rented bikes from Mr. Hugo, and set off, maps in hand. My frame of reference for wine tasting is Napa Valley, where the whole experience is generally a bit upscale, the parking lots are crowded with limos or private drivers, and the beautiful lanes are manicured and clean and picturesque. Maipu was a totally different story. We cycled through little neighborhoods, all of which felt slightly grungy, pedaling creaky bikes next to big semis spewing fumes in our faces. We certainly weren’t in Napa anymore.
There certainly were some nice sections of tree-lined lanes along the vineyards, but for the most part, we were a bit surprised by the whole vibe.
We ended up only going to two wineries: Di Tommasso and Tempus Alba. Neither blew us away, but the tour at Di Tomasso was interesting – showing some of the historic elements, although the experience was still a bit weird.
The vibe at Tempus Alba was a bit more in line with our expectations, with more of a Napa vibe.
The whole thing turned out to be decently fun, despite our initial impressions. We had fun laughing about the bikes and the varied scenery.
After the wineries we stopped at a microbrewery to sample a few local beers and round out the experience sitting in the nice beer garden full of plumb trees.
Since Wolf would be driving later, I got to do most of the tasting all day, which was just fine with me. Our last stop was Tierra del Lobo, a distillery run by a Swiss transplant, where we were excited to take home some interesting Piscos and a few other liquors.
We cycled back with a basket full of alcohol, all smiles, having made the best of a weird day.
Our campsite that night was a total zoo and a really interesting experience, due primarily to a huge grassy area with a massive pool that was completely packed when we arrived. By the time we set up shop the pool had closed and nearly everyone had cleared out, leaving us to figure out the barely functioning showers on our own. We prepped dinner with a view of sunset and vineyards, and enjoyed the cool of the evening after another sweaty day.
For after-dinner entertainment we watched Touching the Void about an ice-climbing disaster in Peru – watching experienced climbers trying to survive, I was glad we chose to watch it only after our volcano climb :)