Sometimes, the very best thing to do is sit by the pool in the sunshine and read a book. Reader, we loved it.
There is definite survivorship bias in this blog. Amazing experiences get glowingly written up, even more so if we were surrounded by photogenic landscapes, critters or people (or penguins – one must never forget the penguins). Truly terrible times get post mortem-ed in extraordinary detail, most often with a healthy dose of “one day we’ll look back at all this and laugh”. And we do. Drab days, however, get ignored – nobody wants to hear about 24 hours on a slow internet connection trying to Expedia the best route through Western China (even typing that bored me). And the last time I wrote about the joys of laundry days there was a real live knife fight involved.
So please forgive me for bringing up Mendoza. We were loitering in Argentina waiting for Carnival and had been enticed to Mendoza in the expectation of a few days wine tasting (it is one of the largest wine producing areas in the world, after all) and a few days hiking (Aconcagua is just down the road). And we ended up doing, well, not very much really…
To us, wine tasting involves hiring a couple of bikes (or, in an absolutely ideal world, a tandem – I steer, Lucy provides the power). You spend a happy day cycling from winery to winery, choosing an excellent bottle from the day’s selections to accompany a pack lunch eaten in the shade of a tree. There is exercise to burn off the booze, and there is definitely no drink-driving. Hiking, on the other hand, involves staying somewhere in the mountains, waking up after a long night’s sleep to a hearty breakfast, then bashing along trails through the hills with the occasional nice view. Ideally there are also nice country pubs with good English beer which appear around the corner as soon as it starts to rain (although we recognized that this might be a stretch in Argentina).
Well, no. And no.
Mendoza is hot. Like really, really hot. So hot that no-one in their right mind cycles anywhere. Besides, most of the wineries are too far apart to cycle to. Then there are the Argentines – they are so proud of their wine that they insist on you touring their (identical) winery for at least an hour before tasting any wine. Also, few allow walk-ins – most people go on organized minibus tours (ugh). Oh, and they close on Mondays. You know the expression “he couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery”? Well, Lucy and I tried really hard in Mendoza for a good three days, and ended up pretty darn sober.
So we decided to try hiking. We hired a car and went to the main tourist office in Mendoza. Interestingly, they did not recommend hiking anywhere near Aconcagua – you need an expensive permit, and the mountain is nearly 7,000 meters of pure bloody altitude. To be sure it looks great from a distance, but the foothills seem to be blasted slopes of arid shale, deeply uninteresting for the average day hiker. No problem, thought we, as we headed in the other direction. Only … there don’t seem to be any paths, anywhere. Or much to see – the mountains round here are mostly blasted slopes of arid shale. And no amount of driving hundreds of kilometers from park to park trying to find some nice walks seemed to change this.
Grumpy? Us? How could you accuse us of such a thing? And so, trying not to be overly chastened by the experience, the best part of a week later we are sat by the pool, reading a book in the sunshine … and having a simply lovely time.