Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015: Mendoza to Tupungato, Argentina

It is just crazy how it is dark until 8:00 am, but until we were ready and had breakfast, it was 9:30 before we started visiting a few sites in Mendoza.  Our hotel is in the very central part of Mendoza, so we walked to Independence Square in the center of the city.  A few blocks out on all 4 corners from the center square are 4 other squares.  We walked to two of them today - Chile Square & San Martin Square.  We also walked pass the San Francisco Basilica where we made a detour – the inside was nice, but not overly ornate. 

San Francisco Basilica

San Martin Square

General San Martin

The Central Independence Square

Nationalistic Baby Blue Water Fountain

Chile Square

Independence Warriors San Martin and O'Higgins

The downtown of Mendoza is very retail oriented.  Retail shops with clothing, shoes, leather, etc. etc, coffee shops, restaurants and hotels.  It was a very busy place last night, and we wondered if it would become quite at night, but it did.  At 5:00 am trucks carrying cargo to downtown shops began rolling through the streets.

By 11:00 we were on the road.  We are driving south of Mendoza to where we will be staying tonight, but we are not going there directly.  We left town on the main north-south road.  After we were out of the city, we left the main road for a smaller tree lined road, driving right beside the vineyards. Our first stop was at the Norton Winery.  We only tasted two wines as Cal is driving! And I have to navigate!

Norton Winery

Part of Norton's 1600 Hectares of Vineyards

We are in South America during their winter, which as we know, winter is not the prettiest time of the year, even in Iowa.  The leaves are falling everywhere, but the street sweepers are going and city workers are out sweeping up the leaves.  All of the parks are tidy, and it is interesting to see shop owners sweeping and washing the sidewalks in front of their shops.  We cannot believe all the large (huge) Sycamore trees that line the streets in Mendoza.  In the vineyards most of the vines are absent of leaves. Due to it being winter, and they have very little rain, the sandy soil is dusty. There are a lot of vineyards as well as orchards – fruits and nuts in this area.  All of the orchards and vineyards are irrigated with water coming from the mountains.  

South of Mendoza, is one of the main roads going west - crossing the Andes from Argentina to Chile – often at this time of year it is closed due to snow, but right now it is open.  It is about a 3 hour drive to the Chilean border from here.  We drove on this road for approximately 1 hour before turning around, passing a reservoir, and following a river until the canyon narrowed.  At noon we stopped at a little restaurant at the only little town along the road.  This is where you normally turn off the main road to the ski resorts in the area.  However, so far this winter there is no snow so the little restaurant is struggling. We were not completely sure what kind of sandwich we had ordered, but we were sure it had ham, and eggs and…  We did tell him to not include tomato and lettuce.  We have not refrained from all veggies and fruit, but in remote locations like this, when we are sure water treatment is not the best, we are definitely refraining. We do not have time to be sick!!  

On The Road to Chile - Andes Mountains Ahead

A new Reservoir - 2011

Rafting on the River
Newly Planted Grapes

Vineyard under Netting

Cristo Rey Overlooking the Valley

The Valley from Cristo Rey
By midafternoon we were back on the main road going south of Mendoza – we are at least an hour south of Mendoza city.  We turned west off the main road toward our accommodations, Tupungato Divino.  However the directions we had were not the best!!  After a struggle, as there are very few road signs and hardly any numbered highway signs, we finally made it!!  We are on a vineyard, set back from the road in a long lane with grapes on both sides of the lane.  Within 15 feet of three sides of our accommodations (a set of 2 duplexes) there are grape vines.  Just to the west are the Andes Mountains.  When we arrived it was at least 75 degrees.  We immediately made a cup of coffee/tea and sat outside on the patio, enjoying the surroundings.  But after a half hour the wind changed direction and the temperature began dropping – a storm is moving in over the Andes.  You can see that it is snowing at the higher elevations.

The restaurant here at our accommodations did not open until 8:30 pm. But oh, what a wonderful dinner we had.  Our waiter used the translation app on his smart phone to communicate – it worked well. We also had Malbec wine – the wine of this region. 
Our Winery Hotel - Tupungato Divino

Our Duplex & rental car

View of the Vineyard and Mountains upon arrival

Wonderful Restaurant and Dinner

The valley in which Mendoza is located has lots of vineyards and wineries, but we drove south far enough that we are in another wine valley.  Grape vines are everywhere, but they also have fruit orchards.

We have found the people in Chile as well as Argentina to be extremely friendly, even if they do not speak English, at all, or very well. We are definitely out of the prime tourist locations, thus finding someone to speak English is more difficult, but we are managing.  Usually those at accommodations do know sufficient English.

We have TV tonight.  Cal is watching an American Baseball game in Spanish – Oakland & Detroit!! We also have BBC (British TV) to catch up on some news.  

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