Saturday, May 30, 2009

Adventure in Mendoza

(After getting into tussles over editing each other's words, we now have Jamye write in italics and Dave write in standard script)

Winter is in the air in Argentina, and so no more lounging around sidewalk tables till 11pm... people are reading the news and getting pumped up for Politics...lots of demonstrations, strikes...... we were ready to get out of town and saw an add for a trip to Mendoza for 5 days and four nights... travel/lodging/most meals/and a trip to the andes for approx 3oo bucks....

The above photo taken from the bus, with about 10 minutes of grace time hooking up with friends on the south side and this is the tail end of maybe 400 metal workers near the palace of the pres. who assembled in the intersection one block ahead. bus stop, cab stop, car stop, bicycle good. everyone on the bus just kicked their feet up and focused on their walkmen. after ten mins. of wait, we got off, walked three blocks, found a cab and were only ten mins. late, very prompt by local standards. at least two demos per day, frequently in front of the pink house. some of them are, like part demonstrations. for instance, the bank workers union struck for two days in a row. the first day, from9 am to 1 pm, the second day, from noon till three. go figure.

Mendoza is the third largest city in Argentina... about 2 million. Its a twelve hour bus ride from BA, through miles and miles of flat prairie/cow country.... but as you get near the Andes and Mendoza, there are miles and miles of grape farms.... these had a shade cloth over them.... more wine is produced here than any other city in the world....

And as you get nearer to Mendoza, you start seeing more and more olive orchards also....

some of the high tech olive oil dudes are starting to process an ultra triple virgin double hubba hubba quadruple expensive oil wherein the olives hit the press within one hour of harvest in a 48 degree plant, bottled in very dark brown glass, and sold refrigerated. haven't bought any yet.

There are only two cities in the world that still have a system of aqueducts to bring water to folks and Mendoza is one of them. This area is really a desert, but you wouldn't know it with the amount of farms and trees. Every house and business has set hours and days when they can open their gates and get water. The city is known for being clean and tranquil.... businesses still close down for siesta and we saw no garbage or graffiti.... but we also didn't see any great art, or find any good music.... cant have it all i guess....

these canals run at maybe a gallon a second in the dry winter, but wait for the spring melt from the andes! every property has a street side valve, allowing this water in to the garden, the extra tank for laundry, car washing, the pool etc. it's probably perfectly potable, but the folks in charge want to be sure that it has it's proper dose of chlorine etc. before it hits the regular water supply.
We did find some great food and wine... thanks to guidance from two texan transplants to Mendoza, Mark and Kristi Addington. We met via the Internet Argentina blogger's world....they took us to their favorite restaurant for an amazing lunch...

These desserts were to die for... the three sorbets were lavender, mango and maracuya... with flaming scorched sugar crisp decorations

dining with serious oenophiles was pretty cool. a fine restaurant, to be sure, with two sommeliers and a list of twenty plus pages. two pages of california, three of france, four from patagonia and the rest local

The Grand Grand Colorful Andes Mountains...

part of the tour package, a long, but far from boring ride up the Andes to a view of aconcagua, the tallest peak in the western hemisphere. this photo ain't it. aconcagua was totally clouded in on this particular day. not to worry, looking at these mountains is comprehension boggling. this first shot, not so clear, is a rock slide that must have happened all at once. the little rocks are house size, the others, city block size. didn't have time to walk close for a sense of scale so just trust me.

I just was awed by the variation in rock and color of these mountains... i cant wait to paint some of these landscape snaps... every corner brought a different view.

somehow, all these different minerals, types of stone, geologic anomalies, became really stirred up eons ago and probably erupted like a pimple in this long, 3,000 miles, rift that makes chile look like it's about to take a swim to new zealand. must hike and do some photos of at least part of this. better upgrade photo equipment. the steep cut bank in the foreground is normal high water for the spring melt but it, obviously, goes over this some years.

this certainly looks like a jamye painting but, it's just another ho-hum moment of the extremes.

different formations every mile, it seems. this seems like a soft sand stone from this distance. again, must walk into some of this. i have no doubt there's gold in them thar hills, silver too.

same spring river bank in foreground. what's on the other side of that ridge?

The Grand Andes continued

seen enough andes photos yet? not me, but enough commentary, we'll press on.

We stopped at this old hot springs resort, now out of business after a huge slide that took out most of the lodge and made the site unsafe... you can see the old church that the slide missed in the distance... right beside the railroad track that used to go between Argentina and Chile.... it was a very narrow gauge railroad...too bad the advent of the automobile made it defunct.

way out in the country, folks still sometimes make their roofs out of straw.... this fancy example on a roadside restaurant/store was probably more for tourists....

and here is how it looks inside the store.....

this valley seems to go from a quarter mile wide to 10 miles and just keeps on going up, as jamye so effectively displays here.

horses, dogs, steaks and those wide open spaces

By far my favorite part of this trip to Mendoza was the day spent out of town in the foothills of the Andes on an estancia.... The estancia's gravel "driveway" was at least a twenty minute ride through sagebrush and rocks... the tour company that organized this trip had helped the gaucho who owns the estancia build the two buildings below.... you can see that the thatch is of a courser all of us tourists pile out of the vans ready to jump on a horse and GO...the gaucho and his helpers very subtly slowed us all down, has us mingling with each other, getting our bearings, first readjusting each horse's gear, then slowly matching a horse to a person, talking a bit to each person.... Then we all set off for a great trip.

the small rustic barbecue shack for the tourist horse riders. us two oldies and two dozen plus less than thirty year olds all had a perfect time. my absolute first time on a horse. the horses are so well trained and easy that i became stupidly confident in the first ten minutes. but no injuries. jamye, the experienced rider, was very kind about not laughing.

look out clint eastwood, we're a comin'.

could have brought this cute dude home.

the gaucho's home had chickens, very hairy pigs, cattle, goats, stock pens, the works near the tourist campsite.

not too bad for a beginner.
(when dave first tried to get on his horse, all of him with over to the other side. luckily the goucho was there to stop him from landing on his head. after that he did great for a "virgin.")

and, the more seasoned, experienced look.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

This and that, part 1

just another look at regular food. that's a serving spoon laying on top, for a sense of scale. very moist chocolate cake with argentina's favorite topping, dulce de leche, between the layers and on top. dulce de leche is creamy caramel, incredibly sweet and gooey and everywhere. americans tend to be the hate it or love it type for this particular sweet. by the by, this is off the lobby of a small hotel in our zone. these little hotel cafes are frequently outstanding for quality and price both.

one of the serious side effects of our thursday night socializing in the name of political awareness is that after umpteen bottles of wine, and no one's understanding, the spanish/english conversation breaks down to, of all things, politics. you can see how seriously slurred the specific points of highly intellectual discourse become in the hands of experts. free drinks next week to whomever can recall two or more points presented.

a small cafe right in the heart of the business district. all formal black suited business types fill the place by 12:10, order one of a dozen daily specials, served promptly as opposed to the average argentine restaurant, dig in and discuss, what else?, futbol. this particular spot, la portal, the hallway, is maybe 15 feet wide and 60 feet deep. plenty of room for rubbing elbows. the business man´s cafe´s are pretty affordable and the quality is a nice B+. we, thank goodness, rarely have to venture to this over crowded section of the city. a half hour on packed, narrow sidewalks is quite exhausting, but, it´s the only place to get some things done.

This and That, part 2

Most thursday nights you will find us with the other Buenos Aires members of Drinking Liberally. I found out there are Drinking Liberally groups all over the planet that meet together to socialize, and this one has been our main source of comrade. The Buenos Aires group had been meeting in a club down town, but the volume of the music kept going up and all of us were getting horse from shouting. So now we meet at Sam and Nadie's house in Palermo. Through this gathering, we have met Texas oil people, students from all over the world, film makers, lots of computer geeks, expats from all over, and of course PorteƱos (Buenos Aires folks).

This photo is for folks up north that picture Buenos Aires as having a steaming tropical climate... note the yellow leaves and the shakey focus due to my shivers... It's now still dark at 7am, and dark by 6... was it just a few months ago that it was cooling off by 9 pm and we would be walking around in tank tops in the light? Seasons happen fast down under here... i have just bought gloves and one of those knitted hats with ear flaps.

Dave asked that i take a shot of this great old truck. I took it in the dark without a flash, and when i lightened it, there appeared this man...

the 49 studebaker lives! not so many old cars in buenos aires, but a few. don´t have a photo, but perhaps you remember the citroen 2CV? seem to be quite a few. mostly in perfect restoration, new ragtops, fresh paint, and looking very cool.

The Chineese Gate was not at the entrance to China Town a week ago... and its huge and made out of steel and concrete... in fact I just found out that 20 years ago, there was not even China Town...We come by here often cause its the main Belgrano bus and train stop, has great grocery stores, restaurants .... and Dave´s favorite old man bar is right across the street. this concrete entry gate is just the core. it´s being faced with terrific red granite and, i´m guessing, gold leaf will be added to the details. love this neighborhood. always bustly.

Now this may just like like a regular pigeon to you... but its not! Its a Paloma Picazuro, the size of a chicken, and our new pet. Every morning it waits for bread along with other smaller birds on this tin roof out our kitchen window.