Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back to Mendoza, Argentina!

Location:  Mendoza, Argentina.
Rundown:  Back to wine country with the Famila de Pash over Easter break!

Loaded up Pepé the Peugeot and drove five hours over the Andes with the Pashouwers right after school at the start of our Easter break.  The drive up the pass was breathtaking... I think the passengers were all holding on too tight around the switchbacks to take pictures.

Sauntered around the sunny parks and plazas of Mendoza during the sunny days.  After the town was leveled in the 1860's by a massive earthquake plenty of plazas were rebuilt into the city.

Sauntering is a lot of work.  We had to stop and rest.  It was actually a relief from the constant movement in school to sit and take in the city, people, and buen clima.

Wide street leave ample room to walk.  Cafes scattered along the cobble streets are great for long lunches under the leafy trees.

Toured several bodegas, or vineyards which surround Mendoza.  Very pretty with long rows of vines and the eastern side of the Andes in the distance.

Some are still mom-and-pop style, others have exploded with visions of grandeur into swanky, high-tech, enterprises.  I liked the simpler ones, personally.

Mendoza's climate is apparently perfect for Malbecs, so we pretended to be wine snobs.  Nice to have several to compare at the same time.

Made for a fun couple of days wandering around the vineyards, hearing about the history of the area and sampling the fruits of the Argentine clime.

No definitive favorites despite our profound research.  However it's safe to conclude that vineyards around Mendoza are good to the last drop.

Got our fill of being posh and tracked down the Minas de Paramillos, outside of nearby Uspallata in the foothills of the Andes.  The mines were first started in the 1600's and have been worked until a few decades ago.

The mine was out in the middle of nothing, had to take a truck out to it.

Pretty bouncy ride, but eventually we made it to the hole in the earth where the Jesuits originally dug for harvesting the ore.

The mines have four levels, including a completely submerged one that they hold cave diving excursions to explore!  I'm coming back!  The upper level was originally dug by the Jesuits.  The first level was penetrated by a series of sketchy holes and metal ladders.  

Along the walls of the tunnels glittering seams of silver, lead, and gold are still in the walls.  The area has been protected by the Argentinian government, and continued mining has been prohibited.  So the mine is still rich with ore.

The guides spent a lot of time discussing the history of the mine and the technology used in each time period the mine was in use.  I stole a bit of the silver ore when the guide wasn't looking.  I made $0.34 pesos!

I suppose I should have given it back to the mine to keep up the safety equipment.  In some parts, age old wooden beams held the walls and ceiling up.  In all fairness, the guides and mines were extremely safe.

At one point we had to repel down the main mineshaft, some 30 meters into the dark.  The first time repelling for the Pashouwers and they did awesome! I'm used to having more room to jump backwards during a repel.  

Tunnels parallel to the seams run east-west just because of geologic processes.  Once a seam tapered off, miners cut perpendicularly into the rock until they came to another seam to follow.  You can always tell your direction in the mine.  Glittery-walled tunnels:  east-west.  Plain walls:  north-south.

Pretty cool experience.  Lots of good history and got a good repel in to boot!  (muddy boot)

Got out of the mines and dug into the wine back in Mendoza.  The town has great nightlife, great restaurants and bars.  Easy to get around, friendly people, not too expensive.

Did I mention good restaurants?  Argentine steaks are pretty fantastic.  I felt like a caveman for most of the week; slurring my speech and chawing on big hunks of flame-grilled meat.  Ug.

Couldn't help ourselves.  Took another excursion before we ventured back over the mountains.  At the end of the road where the car could go no longer we found horses.

Rode West up in the high plains towards a deep valley.  John and I got fiery horses which were all too happy to get up and go, running until their coats were slick with sweat.

Rode into the canyon, the walls rising above us sheer.  Several sections you could reach out and touch the rock face.

Eventually we left the horses at a river trickle and continued on foot to the base of the spring.

Spent a little time poking around the canyon before mounting up again and riding off into the sunset.  And then driving off into the sunset.

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