After spending about a week in Buenos Aires it was time to move on, we headed to the bus terminal for another night bus to take us to Mendoza. We arrived in Mendoza about 10.30am and headed off to find the hostel. On the way we found the Liverpool pub and we felt drawn to pop in for a quick coffee not knowing his own strength, Paul sat back on a chair and the back broke leave Paul in a heap on the floor quite embarrassing.
We got to the excellent Emperdado Hostel to be advised that there was free tea & cake between 4-5 pm, and free wine between 7-8 pm every day, could you ask for more?. The hostel was homely and had activities you could sign up for everyday from wine tours, horse riding to classes on how you make the traditional empanadas, it felt think a nice place straight away. We decided to sign up for the horse riding its something I’d wanted to do whilst we were in Argentina and this was going to be the last chance before we left for Chile.
We left at lunch time from the hostel, there were 6 of us in total going, Natalie from Australia, 2 girls from Denmark and a tourism student from Mendoza. The journey took about an hour as we headed out of the town to the lower part of the Andes to a small ranch where we met our horses for the first time. There was no safety talk or equipment provided, it was just assumed that we would all be fine even though me & Paul haven’t ridden much (probably only 1 time for each of us before) so both of us were to say the least a little bit nervous!
Horses are mysterious creatures in Paul’s opinion so he tried to build a bond with his straight away – the horse wasn’t interested. It was going to be a long couple of hours if things didn’t improve. We started out riding up into the Andes the weather was on the chilli side and I was glad I’d worn my hoody and trousers, Paul however was a little less prepared wearing shorts, which he later came to regret as his horse had a tendency to go in any direction it wanted and that usually meant brushing up close to very sharp bushes which meant his legs were cut to shreds. Paul’s horse also felt the need to stop and eat every few steps, leaving Paul miles behind the rest of us, this meant the guide had to keep looping back to encourage the horse to get a move on, Paul on the other hand was more than happy to let the horse do as it wanted, he thought that by allowing the horse to do as it wanted meant he would come to no harm. After 3 hours we headed back for a well deserved Barbecue which had been prepared whilst we had been riding, lots of red wine & good Argentinian meat with garlic potatoes it was lovely.
We planned to leave Mendoza on the Wednesday but when trying to book the bus ticket to Chile we’d been advised the border was closed due to bad weather and they couldn’t advise when it was to be opened so we could be stuck in this lovely place for a few day which turned out to be the case, its a hard life being stuck in one of the world largest wine producing cities.
We eventually got to leave Mendoza 3 days later than planned, we’d booked the front 2 seats on the upper level of the bus. This bus journey is well known for its amazing views and we weren’t disappointed. A stunning mountain vista graces the early miles in the distance. The trip between Mendoza and Santiago takes about 7 hours and about 3 hours after leaving Argentina we were right in the middle of the mountains that had been so distant earlier on.
We were a little scared at the top, it had snowed heavily leaving us stranded in Mendoza but now we were on the front seats of the second floor of a double decker staring straight at the white powdery stuff that had cast itself into icy sheets on the road underneath us. Heavy duty Pan American lorries flanked the highway queuing for miles, obviously after also getting stranded in bad weather. Our driver had a knack of overtaking the queueing lorries at speed.
The border crossing took about 90 minutes, Argentinian immigration, Chilean Immigration and then customs. In customs we had to line up with our bags in front of us as a sniffer dog walked the line. WE crossed without question or arrest and carried on into Chile. Portillo ski resort was located just after the border crossing at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters) above sea level, we could also the impressive Mountain Aconcagua as we descended towards Santiago.