Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How to Hitchhike from Mendoza to Cordoba

A lot of people have been asking me how to hitchike from Mendoza to Cordoba and avoid having to pay the 500 pesos for a bus.  Argentina is a hard place to hitchhike.  Its not like Canada where you have the number one highway that runs across the country and is your best option.  In Argentina, there are endless amounts of highways that splits the traffic up into all sorts of different directions and picking the right one where you will find a ride is hard.  I picked the wrong one but it was what god willed and it led to a great adventure.

First you have to leave the city of Mendoza.  A city of three million people in Argentina is hard to leave because its sooooo big.  Plus the outskirt towns are usually flavalas and not safe to try and hitch a ride.  So I paid 180 pesos and took a bus to the next big town in San Luis.
In San Luis there was a giant street market and food was cheap so i ate.  

I also bought my first musical instrument in many years a small electronic piano for 30 pesos.  I stayed in Pupy Hostel which is definitely the best hostel in all of San Luis.  Owned by Italians and a luxury house converted into a hostel with a big backyard.  There had been a bmx tournament in town and i became friends with some of the best bmx riders in the country.  Ezequiel Helmriech from Villa General Belgrano, Cordoba was one of those guys and he had won the tournament that weekend.  Check out this vid he made:

He is only 18 years old and in a special school for youth in sports.  He wishes he didnt have to go to school and could just practice BMX all day long.  But in the end he told me about all sorts of cool projects he works on in school and he enjoys.

From San Luis I took another bus to Merlo.  75 pesos.   Except I lost my ticket and had to pay twice so 150 pesos.  Again San Luis is a big city and a hard one to get to the outskirts so I paid for a bus.  I ended up in Merlo which is a touristy town in San Luis Province Argentina.  I ended up staying here two nights.

 Merlo Phone Booth
Hippy Baclyard in Merlo

Unfortunately there was no Merlot Wine.  So after two days I had no more reason to stay.  Off next to hitchhike to Cordoba.  From the town of Merlo I had to take a public bus to the highway costing 10 pesos.  I waited there for much time with no luck.  There were no cars and the cars that were going by did not stop.  After about an hour, and nearly about to quit, a guy stopped and took me to the next town.  He was a chocolate salesman.  In the next town I had to walk for about half an hour to the next edge of town and another guy gave me a ride to the next town.  At this pace I was never going to make it to Cordoba... just crawling across the country town by town.

After buying a avocados, bread and cheese and having a good lunch I got to the side of the road and stuck out my thumb.  When a guy stopped and offered to bring me to the next town, I turned him down.  I wanted to go far!  People kept coming by and telling me I had a bad spot and I should go back into the middle of town.  But I didn´t quit.  Eventually someone stopped in a pimped out 1969 Ford Mustang.

My saviour!  He was going all the way to the town right before Cordoba.  He was on summer vacation and driving back to Buenos Aires over the course of two days.  Just my luck!  It turns out he owns a tango bar in Buenos Aires that I really wanted to visit... Catedral.  He gave me a card for free entrance with a plus one.

Along the way we drove through some beautiful mountains with great views.  It was a beautiful summer day.

I made it to the town of Alta Gracia (home of Che Guevera) where he dropped me off and I had to pay another 20 pesos to take the bus to downtown Cordoba.  In total I paid 360 pesos on transportation, not including piano, food and hostels.  It was expensive yes but it was an adventure and I got to see many small towns along the way that many tourists pass over when travelling.  But I wouldn´t suggest hitchhiking as a way to save money.  Just a way to see the country differently.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mendoza, Argentina for Wine Festival

 Many people asked me how I got vortexed into Mendoza, Argentina for 2.5 weeks.  Its not the most fun city.  There's no night life like Buenos Aires and Cordoba.  Its so friggin hot at about 38 degrees on a bad day.  But I found this city quite charming.  The Wine Festival was going on and there was lots to see and do.  And about five times I made delicious asado with friends from the hostel.  Always I was the Asador (the cook).  In Mendoza, rather than using Carbon, they always use wood which you light on fire and wait an hour for it to turn into coals.  Sometimes the process of starting the fire and cooking the meat can take up to three hours.  One Asado we didnt even eat until 1am.
 Me and my French Canadian Brother Jules.  Jules visited Oshawa, Ontario for work last year.  He loves Canada and often wears his Canadian Hoodie.  He is in Mendoza for the next six months to study.  We both showed up to the same hostel on the same night and after that Asados and good times galore.  I am wearing my Mickey Mouse Golf Club Shirt.  Its not a real Golf League, just a Mickey Mouse League.  But I am an official member.
 Ampy from Usuya.  Works in a refugio near Mendoza.  She invited me up to the refugio for a couple days with her friends.  Very relaxed.  Drank fernet and cooked asado and had dance parties in the refugio until wee hours of the early morn.  Unforuntately there was lots of clouds so I couldnt see too much of the mountains.  Vallecitos Mountain REfugio is the name of the place.
 On the walk out from the Refugio beautiful trees, rivers and streams...oh how i love you Argentina.
 Back to Mendoza and the Wineries.  This one is famous and has been around for more than 100 years.  Very good high quality wines if you get a chance to drink them.  They wanted 80 pesos for the tour and the tasting but in the end we didnt pay... Nieto Senetiner you just got out-gypsied.  You have to try their Tardia Semillion which you can buy in the grocery stores in Carrefour.  Their Malbec is to-die-for as well... of course.
 Family loaded up in back of truck to head down to Plaza Independencia and check out the free concert.

Here is footage of the party:


 Just Relaxing in the Carrefour Grocery store having a picnic in the lawn furniture section with my friends Yohan (france), Clara (BsAs) and Lea (France).
 Here at Lopez Winery, the trucks roll up with grapes and are weighed.  The driver is paid for how many grapes he brings.

 The Door to Bodega Lopez.  Huge winery and 100% of the wine is dranken here in Argentina.
 Just a few of the grapes.
 These casks full of wine can hold up to 15,000 Liters.
 Here the wine is bottled by robots.
A street protest one fine Friday in Mendoza.  Lots of these, the people in Argentina are so political.
 24/7 non stop electro techno pool party beginning at Noon.  Unfortunately the hostel staff kicked us out from behind the bar.  This was at Banana hostel.  A great place in Mendoza with nightly dinners, a pool and very friendly and fun staff.
 The beer truck sits unnattended for anyone to come up and steal the beer.  This proves how safe of a place Argentina is.
Bike Lanes are not made for pigeons.  Not the most bicycle friendly city in Mendoza.  Not too many bike lanes.  A decent place for skateboarding though.  Everything is on a slight grade and you can cruise until your hearts desire.

What to do when the hostel beer is too expensive and nobody has the energy to go on a wine tour.  Make youur own tasting day.  Everyone brought a bottle and we sampled many different delicious wines.  Fabian on the right is a professional wine Maker from Switzerland so naturally he was our Tasting Leader.

All in all, Mendoza is a great place.  Imagine the Okanagon of BC in a giant Metropolis with rich history and beautiful parks, plazas and archictecture.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Aconcagua or Bust

Before starting this trip the one thing I was very excited about was seeing Mount Aconcagua... more than Machu Pichu.  I knew I would not be able to hike it though because it takes up to 21 days with acclimitazation and costs roughly $2000 for a permit, not including donkeys and gear.  That being said I needed to lay my eyes upon this beast.  At roughly 7000m tall it is over 3km higher than Mount Robson (the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies).  And only less than 2000m shorter than Everest.  It is the tallest mountain in the Americas and also the tallest mountain not in the Himalayas.  My adventure started when I left Valpraiso for Los Andes in Chile.

In Los Andes I found a nice hotel named Arunco.  I told the owner Patricio my plan to make camping near Aconcagua and he was intrigued.  There was no free rooms in his hotel, but he was very nice and let me sleep on a spare bed in a room that they usually dont rent out... for free.

From Los Andes I hitchiked to the frontier of Argentina (in the picture above following the arrow to Mendoza).  It took three different rides from three different truckers and they dropped me off in a small town called Horcones just barely in Argentina.  From here I was close to the mountain.
Me waiting for a ride at the Argentinian border.
Horcones was a small town with not a lot to do and very boring.  But i had to rent a hostel here for a night.  Hostel Nico is 150 pesos and offers great breakfast.
The markets in Horcones attract drivers making the haul from Valpraiso to Mendoza and vice versa.
Street dog lounges.
This natural sulphuric bridges has been used since the time of the Incas.  A British company did build a hotel here in 1905 and you can see the remnants.  The hotel was destroyed by a rock slide in the 1960's and abandoned.  This is also a tourist site in Horcones.

The town of Horcones itself is at 3000m and some of the regular mountains nearby are beheamoths too.  This one isnt even Aconcagua.
This one is Aconcagua!  Every morning in summer you can see it clearly but by afternoon it starts to get cloudy.
I made it.  Its difficult to deal with the bureacracy of getting into Aconcagua when coming from Chile.  First you have to do your paperwork for leaving Chile.  Then about a 100km later you have to do your paperwork for entering Argentina.  Then you have to turn around 3km and go backwards to the park entrance to Aconcagua.

What a fucking beast man!!!
So big I cant believe my eyes.

And other beautiful greenery and lagunes nearby.  This laguna is called Laguna Horcones.  For 20 pesos you can go here for the day and walk around and explore.  If you want to make Camping for 1-3 days it will cost you 200 dollars American.  Because its late in the vacation and I have lack of funds I chose the first option.