Thursday, August 28, 2014

Buenos Aires, Rosario and Mendoza

The next morning I took the international ferry from Colonia to Buenos Aires. This is all relatively straight forward and you can swap any left over Uruguayan pesos for Argentinian pesos at the terminal. Don't take them with you cos no one wants them, although you might be ok swapping them in BA since lots of Argentinians visit Uruguay. 

Since I already spent a fair bit of time in BA on my last trip I was not planning to stay and instead, jump on a bus directly to Rosario. However, my South Korean travel buddy Yuna from our Venezuela days was here, so I decided to stay overnight and catch up with her.


Walking around, I'd forgotten how much I like BA. It's such a nice city. It also has great vegan food. There was a new vegan restaurant (Vita)  that I went to for lunch. I liked it so much I made Yuna go back there with me for dinner. It was excellent, although it had a weird ordering process. Plus, despite being open until 8pm (which admittedly is not dinner time by Argentinian standards) all the food was pretty much gone. So definitely go for lunch to maximise your choice.

The next morning it was absolutely pissing down rain. Thankfully I remembered my way around on the metro and where the main bus terminal was. Last time I couldn't find it cos the train station was in the way and I couldn't see it.

I found myself a bus to Rosario and booked a ticket. It's a good few hours so worth taking some food with you. Picnic does an excellent selection of vegan takeaway meals, so I recommend going there before you get on a bus.

Rosario

Rosario is quite nice and very easy to get around. It's basically all grid streets and logically named. Because of this, getting a bus from the terminal to your hostel is not difficult. There is a tourist booth in the bus station and they will help you out, in English.

Rosario's premier tourist attraction is the flag monument. As the name suggests, it is a monument to the person who created the Argentinian flag.

That said. It's pretty fancy for just a flag.




It's worth paying the dollar or whatever to go up the lift for the views.




There are a few veggie restaurants in Rosario. I met up with my travel buddy, Josine, from our Panana days and we went to lunch at this place

Mmm, vegan carbilious!



The juices/ smoothies were also really good. It also has a grocery section so you can stock up veggie food while you're here.


On my second day, I had lunch here. It was also really good.


I also love that I saw vegan graffiti on the footpath in Rosario!


It was so hot when we here. I think there was a heat wave going through the Southern Hemisphere cos I remember all my Aussie mates writing on Facebook about how hot it was over there too. I was sharing a room with one other girl, but she worked nights and was never there until the morning. Since I had the room to myself I pulled my bunk to be directly under the industrial sized fan in the room but it's still too hot to sleep when it's 36C at 1am. Anyway, Josine told me that a popular activity here is swimming in the river. However, a few days ago they had closed the beaches since piranhas were in the water. Normally they don't come this far down so you're fine, but the high temperatures had driven them further south. Scary.

Argentina has an interesting currency. Last time I was here there wasn't such a black market for USD and I remember just using ATMs. However, this time your holiday was about a third cheaper if you swapped money on the black market. Basically if you search for the blue dollar, you will get an idea of the going unofficial rate. BA is the best place to change money but you can still get some decent rates elsewhere. And it's not like Venezuela where there're guys openly changing money on street corners. Here, they do it in cuevas (caves) so you need to find out where they are. Usually the hostel employees, or better still, other backpackers can tell you where the best ones are.

For example, this was the best one I went to. 


There's usually a process too since they are not advertised so you wouldn't know how to find them unless someone tells you. At this one, you had to look for the shiny window to the left of the gate and then ring the buzzer and tell them you want 'cambio'. Then some woman comes down and lets you in. Then you go up some stairs into an office and the guy will change your money. Then you get led back out again. I heard the ones in BA have goons as well since they are dealing with so much (illegal) money trading. Generally, you will get a better rate if you have fifties or one hundreds, since obviously, they are easier to carry around than tens or twenties.

I should have changed more money here actually, but there is a tradeoff. Since no one wants Argentinian pesos, you will get a much worse exchange rate if you have too many and need to change them back at the end. So it's generally better to only change what you think you'll spend and get more if needed.

More Rosario photos.




I really like the detail on this building.


I also like this one.


If this was a country I would totally want to live there.


My plan after Rosario was to go to Cordoba. However, all the other backpackers at the hostel told me it was really boring and I should just night bus it all the way to Mendoza instead. 

So that's what I did.

Mendoza

Before you read anything else, you should watch this

Even though McBain is referring to Senator Mendoza it still seems relevant. In case you want to watch the full McBain movie, here it is and it's pretty good. I recommend it if you have a spare 4 minutes.

Righto, back to Mendoza the city.

It was so nice being on an air conditioned night bus after not sleeping for two nights in Rosario. This bus also had games. Like bus bingo, where you won a bottle of wine. Good times!

An Aussie guy in Rosario told me about this hostel. He already stayed there and was coming back 24 hours after me. It is a good location, being walking distance to the bus station and the city centre.

Mendoza is quite a beautiful city. I really liked it. There's parks and trees and fountains everywhere.




There's a massive park you can get to walking or by bus. It's called Parque General San Martin and it has a great monument at the top.



If you're walking, it's a fair hike (like 5-6km I think). There's also the easy way and the hard way. Obviously I went the hard way. But you are rewarded with some spectacular views. When I got to the top, I saw the other way, which looked much less difficult and the way the bus goes.




Hmm, this boob looks like it's been felt up a lot.


There are quite a lot of veggie places to eat in Mendoza. The Argentinians I met in Salvadore highly recommended this place and I really wanted to go there. Sadly, it was closed for renovations for a month but I'll assume it's open again now.

Since Mendoza is the wine capital of Argentina it seems wrong not to do a wine tour. To get the most out of this you need to make some friends. I rounded up Marta, a Polish girl in my room, and then Scott the Aussie when he arrived from Rosario on my second morning. Basically he got off the bus, checked in and then Marta and I said "do you want to go cycling around the wineries today?". The obvious answer to that question is yes.

So, at about lunchtime we head off to the bus station. The place we needed to get bus tickets from was shut. Then the ticket place next to the bus stop didn't sell the cards. After about half an hour of dicking about (and wasting valuable drinking time) then going back to the tourist info booth (which kept steering us in the wrong direction), we found another window that sells the cards. Basically coins are no good on the bus you need to take, so you have to buy a card and then stick some money on it. You only need one card though and you can just load it up with the right amount of money for however many people you've convinced to come along. I think we donated our card to the hostel after, so it's worth checking with your accommodation first cos that will save you some time/ money if you can get the card for free.

The wineries are about half an hour out of Mendoza so you can't really walk there. You need to get the bus or go one some inclusive tour. If you're taking the bus tell the driver you want to get off near 'Mr Hugo'. He will stop for you at the closest stop. All the drivers know Mr Hugo. The map on the back of the flyer (which all hostels have) also has a map on it, so you can work it out.

Mr Hugo is the cheapest bike rental, but there was another one that bailed us up on the road when we got off the bus. It was about the same price but we went with Mr Hugo anyway based on reputation. However, we met a few people while cycling around, and they said you get a free glass of wine at the end of the day with the other one. Mr Hugo only gives you juice or water. Doh!

So you get your bike, a map, and some recommendations from Mr Hugo or his staff and off you go. 

Now I lived in Adelaide for 1.5 years and I spent a lot of my weekends going to wineries in the the Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale. Drink driving in Australia is not on. In fact, your chances of being pulled over for an RBT in these places is pretty high. The police can also give you an RBT if you're on a bike and you can lose your driver's licence if you're over the limit.  

However, this is South America where drink cycling is not only encouraged, people's livelihoods depend on it!





If you don't have any friends when you arrive it doesn't really matter. One girl on her own asked if she could join our group at the second winery. Obviously cos we were the best group and looked the most fun. Then an English couple from the hostel turned up and they joined our group too. So we doubled our size from the time we arrived.



Job done!



 There's also a micro brewery here, which is nice if you need a palate cleanser.


Although the wines were really good, the only thing I didn't like about this was you have to pay for all your tasters. In Australia you can basically get drunk for free just by drinking tasters at each winery. Although this shouldn't come as a surprise since nothing is free in South America.

At the end of the day you return your bike to Mr Hugo and get the bus back into Mendoza.

The next morning was an early start for me. Most internal Argentinian flights are quite expensive, but I'd found one at about 7am on a Sunday to Bariloche, which was quite reasonable. Plus it meant I didn't have to get another night bus. Yay!

Next stop: Another place I didn't get to last time, Bariloche.


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