Our first overnight bus in South America actually went much quicker and easier than expected, it was due to leave Rosario around 8pm, but it didn’t arrive until an hour later. Within five minutes, it was fully loaded and we were setting off towards Mendoza for the twelve-hour journey.
We got on, immediately they started a game of bingo and the winner got themselves a bottle of cheap Argentinian wine, after this, a Spanish film came on, that was actually an American film, dubbed in Spanish and then with Spanish subtitles also.
Then dinner and wine followed, yes, we’re still talking about a bus here. Dinner wasn’t bad actually, pasta with chicken and beef in, slightly strange but not too unappetising, and a couple of very small cups of Malbec, followed by all the lights being turned out for the next nine hours whilst every person on the bus slept continuously. The Argentines are clearly used to this type of travel, and we were the only people on the bus who’s first language wasn’t Spanish.
We arrived in Mendoza about 8 in the morning, walked from the bus station to our guest house in the centre, they told us we could leave our things, but the room wouldn’t be ready until 1pm. Strangely for Argentina, they didn’t speak a word of English, and we already thought this place might have been too good to be true, after looking at the pictures and the price.
This was confirmed when they showed us the room, it was disgusting, filthy, with dirty bed sheets, the door to the shared terrace, which could be accessed by anybody, didn’t even lock, it was nothing like the pictures.
We told them we weren’t staying in that room, they said they had a nicer one, but people were still in it until 4pm. We went looking elsewhere, found something on AirBnB, went to look at it, booked it, and went there instead. We went to pick up our things to move them to the new place about 5pm. People were still in the other room they’d promised us, and the owners had gone out, so they clearly weren’t going to move us rooms.
Mendoza is different to Buenos Aires and Rosario, in almost every way. The culture is a little more formal, less European, maybe less friendly, there are more indigenous people in this area, so even the food is different.
The area outside central Mendoza is full of wine regions, but is quite industrial, it looks nothing like you expect a wine region to look. In the area we visited, there were more factories than fields, and main roads connected the wineries rather than dirt tracks like in Australia or New Zealand.
We visited one of the huge wineries here in Mendoza, it was quite awful really, the free tour and the winery is impressive, but they’re producing twenty million litres of wine per year, they have ‘oak barrels’ that hold 38,000 litres, that’s not an oak barrel, it’s a huge container. Clearly, the wine wasn’t great, and their tour included a tasting of what we can only describe as a ‘wine for people who don’t like wine’, an low-percentage sweet white wine, that tasted more like fruit juice than white wine.
We also went down to the closest wine valley to the city, hired bikes and cycled around the vineyards there, a couple of the wineries were fantastic, but the cycling is just up and down one main highway, with huge lorries passing every few seconds, terrifying at times.
We did buy a couple of bottles though, and hiring the bikes included one hour of free wine in their on-site bar at the end of the day, which was nice, obviously 🙂
The rest of the time in Mendoza was spent visiting the local parks, eating good food and drinking nice wine, a few evenings we ate in a locals place that clearly had never seen a tourist there before, but they cook a terrific steak and salad for about £5 each. The wine was about £1.50 for a jug of local Malbec, and was also great.
On our last night we had a couple of drinks in a bar, and were just leaving when a couple asked us where we were from, I’d helped them with their non-existing Spanish to order a couple of times, and they decided they wanted to buy us a drink. They were from Belfast, and for the next few hours persisted on buying us drinks over and over again, we think because they needed more company than the other people who they were doing their shared trip with. We forgot about the very long bus we’d have to take the following day, and woke up the next morning with awful hangovers, but we survived.
After Mendoza, we got an even longer bus, down in to Patagonia, to a town called San Carlos de Bariloche. Patagonia is the land mass shared by Argentina and Chile, in the south of both of the countries, Bariloche is in Argentine Patagonia, a town in the mountains, known for being similar to an alpine ski village.
The bus left Mendoza in the evening, and took around 19 hours to get to Bariloche the next afternoon. The journey passed much quicker than we expected, the seats were comfy and had TVs with films in English.
The weather was fine for most of the journey, until we got close to Bariloche where it got dark and began to pour with rain, it turns out this is normal here, because we stayed in Bariloche for the next four days, and it didn’t stop raining once, until the morning we were leaving.
It was cold, rainy and miserable the whole time and we pretty much saw nothing of the town. Fortunately our apartment was a nice place to be, because we spent most of our time in it, waiting for the rain to pass, but it never did.
The morning we left, we woke up to sunshine, walked down to the lake, and noticed the Andes mountains right in front of us, in the four days of rain, we didn’t even know how close we were to them, because you couldn’t see them at all, the view when the sun came out was stunning. It didn’t get any warmer though.
We did manage to eat some amazing food here though, so the long bus was worth it just for that, we found a restaurant that we ate at three nights in a row, had steak every night, and it was without doubt, the nicest steak we have ever eaten. I would do that bus all over again today for that steak.
Our last stop in Argentina, before going over to Chile was a small town called Villa La Angostura, close to Bariloche, and close to a large nature reserve and Bosque Arranyes forest with great walks through nature, and some amazing views.
We only stayed for one night, and spent the afternoon walking through the forest, on this walk, we saw one of the prettiest views we’ve ever seen in our lives. A small viewpoint, a couple of kilometres in to the forest walk, right at the top of the hill, had a stunning view of the lagoons and mountains in the distance. We stood there for around thirty minutes, in silence, just admiring this amazing view. Here’s the picture if you don’t believe me 🙂
Argentina is so varied in its landscape, it is such a huge country and has so much to explore, and we probably could have spent a full year just here without seeing it all. It has been amazing, and one of our favourite countries ever, amazing people, amazing food, and amazing sights, it’s a must do!
Next stop is Chilean Patagonia…
To give a sense of scale to Argentina, we took a nineteen hour bus from Mendoza, south to Bariloche, but to get to the very south of Argentina you would need to do that length journey another twice. On top of that, Mendoza isn’t even in the north, it would take more than a full day on a bus to get to the northern border with Bolivia from there. East to West, Buenos Aires to Mendoza is 12 hours or more by bus. Internal flights are horrendously expensive, so everybody travels by bus, the result of this is that you have no chance of seeing more than a small part of this country in just a few weeks.