400 days to travel the world…only stopping to eat, drink, and everything in-between.

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Day 391 of 400: Andes Mountains and Aconcagua National Park – Argentina

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After a quick breakfast of homemade bread/jam, we spoke with the owner about where to go and how to get there etc. He said there were some nice hiking trails in the area but that we needed to get going because it gets hot during the day and dark early.

We packed a quick day pack and were on our way driving through what felt like a picture on route 7, the highway between Argentina and Chile. This was one of the routes used by General San Martin to drive the Spanish Empire out of Chile. The landscape was arid and mountainous with almost no people in sight. We saw a sign marking a trail so pulled off onto the windy gravel road and parked the car. We made our way down the trail and walked right into an old bridge made of rocks. We had fun climbing it and posing for the camera until a couple other people came over to the bridge and pointed out that it was a monument in honor of the army of the Andes and General Jose de San Martin. The bridge wasn’t actually used when the troops were walking through the mountains (which took them approx. 25 days) but was built as a monument in their honor…we really were not supposed to be climbing it-oops!

After our modeling shoot in the middle of the mountains we continued on our way until we reached the Aconcagua Park which consisted of 175,444 acres and of course the main attraction, Aconcagua Mountain reaching 13,123 ft high…the tallest mountain in the Americas.

We parked and walked inside the visitor center to listen to some information about the park and get a map showing a nice walking trail with view points including a glacier. We had dressed for hot weather but it was chilly and windy so we grabbed our jackets and walked onto the trail. It was nice and peaceful and we casually meandered along the path eating an apple, breathing in fresh air and admiring the backdrops of snow-capped mountains, green grass and a small lake. The walk took us close to an hour and then we decided it was time to find some dinner and get back to our little dome in the middle of no where.

On the way back, there was a group of vendors selling trinkets on the side of the road so we stopped briefly to take a look but didn’t see anything of interest. For dinner, we sat at one of the few restaurants and ordered grilled chicken which was served on our own hot grill. We ate and relaxed from our day of sight-seeing before arriving back at our place for the evening.

Aconcagua National Park…and Picheuta River Bridge



Day 390 of 400: Uspallata Valley – Argentina

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Today we are driving a couple of hours outside of Mendoza deep into the Andes Mountains to an area called Uspallata Valley. We had found a place on airbnb.com which looked really cool…they were white dome/tent-like things in the middle of no-where, surrounded by mountains and specifically mentioned star-gazing. It was only about $90-100 per night and we thought it would be fun to explore/hike through the mountains.

On our way out-of-town, we stopped at a little deli to get picnic stuff for the road…we weren’t sure if there would be places for food once we were out in the wilderness! The people in the deli of course did not speak English but we managed to get our orders in…we got various sliced meats, cheeses, bread, water and chips.

The drive was beautiful…very curvy through the mountains which were both green but also arid. We also drove by a crystal blue lake, it was nice to get some fresh air and get away from the difficult job of wine tasting for a couple of days.

After a few hours, we saw a small town with a few restaurants and decided to stop for some food before checking into our place. It was a parradilla (or open fire) which was a common type of restaurant known for its grilled meats. We sat out on the porch for an hour or so in the small mountain town eating our meat and salad. Back in the car, the navigator said we were pretty close to our “dome”. As we drove down an open road, and knew we were within a mile of our place…we saw a couple of white domes sitting literally in the middle of nothing…no civilization, no neighbors, no nothing except mountains and rocky ground. The wind was really whipping around since the domes were located on a very flat area. We pulled into the dirt driveway which was labeled 3 frutas and were greeted by the owner. He and his family stayed in the large white dome and right next door was a smaller one, which was our new home for the next 2 nights. Thankfully there was a toilet, shower and bed. It reminded us of an igloo minus the cold. He explained there was no refrigerator but showed us a reservoir near the driveway which was basically a cold water stream underground. He had tied a long rope to a bucket which he then slowly put down into the water to keep whatever was in the bucket cold, we of course placed a bottle of wine in it.

He also told us there was a pool down the path…we walked down rocky/grassy path to find the world’s smallest pool…it could not even be called a kiddie pool and it was ice-cold-no thanks.

Being out there was such a drastic change from being in civilization where you could drive a couple of minutes down the road and be shopping or eating etc. It forced us to slow down and appreciate the scenery. The owner explained there were some hiking trails nearby but that it would need to be tomorrow b/c soon it would be dark. He asked us what time to have breakfast ready which would be homemade bread and juice. He also took out his big expensive telescope and placed it outside our dome so we could look at the stars later in the evening.

We relaxed in our dome, ate our picnic stuff for dinner and then when it was dark, sat outside in simple chairs looking up at the gorgeous open sky full of twinkling stars. The telescope was heavy-duty and it was the first time we saw the planet of Saturn and its rings/moons as well as the craters of the moon. It was quite an experience to look at a planet or star…then stop looking for a minute or two to find when we went back to look at that same planet, it wasn’t there. And that was because we needed to move the telescope over a bit…the earth was turning and therefore we had to change our viewpoint. It was so interesting to see with our own eyes the impact of how fast the earth was spinning.

After entertaining ourselves outside in the cold…we moved into the dome to get to bed early. We want to be up early and get a head-start on hiking before it gets too hot.

Day 389 of 400: Ruca Malen Tasting Lunch and the MegaDegustacion in Mendoza – Argentina

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Last night we arrived at our new hotel in Lujan De Cuyo, La Villa Mansa (http://www.villamansa.com/home.html). The area is well-known for its wine and our place was minutes from the village. We were having a lot of fun exploring all of the different wineries in Mendoza and in particular enjoyed the long lunches paired with tastings. That seemed to be a specialty of the area…most of the big wineries had a multi-course lunch by reservation to pair each of their wines. Twist my arm…I have to eat 4 courses of amazing food while gazing out at the countryside and sipping Malbec!

We heard Ruca Malen (http://www.bodegarucamalen.com/) had a good lunch so we made a reservation for today to tour their winery which was followed by lunch on the property overlooking their vines.

We arrived a little late and the tour had already started but they let us sneak in and join the rest. The tour was pretty quick b/c the warehouse was not so big and unfortunately, we were disappointed with it after some of the other in-depth experiences we have had in the area. They basically just walked us around to look at the tanks and barrels and talked briefly about their equipment…nothing special.

For lunch, we joined the other 25 people on the lawn and sat at a table set with many wine glasses and a menu of what we would be eating. Lunch was good as all these lunches are multi-course and farm-fresh food but we would have to place this one at the bottom of our list in comparison to its competition. We had much better food, wine and educational tours at other places. Nothing was bad per se just not memorable.

After our long luncheon, we went back to our hotel and relaxed a bit while checking out the property. When we arrived last night it was dark, so today got to check out the hotel…which was very nice with a restaurant, pool, wine cellar and rooms with free internet.

The hotel gave us a map and we chatted about various wineries and events. Tonight in downtown Mendoza was a wine festival or as they would say a Mega Degustacion which consisted of various vendors selling hand-made goods and then a whole section of local wineries giving tastings of their wines. Basically you buy drinking tickets which includes a wine glass and then you go around and pick which wines to taste until the tickets are gone. We looked for wineries we hadn’t been to yet and enjoyed tasting amongst the crowd of people while chatting with the actual wine makers. We also ate a late night dinner as we people watched…everyone seemed to be enjoying the music and booze.

We stayed out until early morning and then got back to our hotel after a long day.

Day 388 of 400: Wine Tour and Tasting at Bodega Tapiz – Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina

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The winery tour of Bodega Tapiz started out in their vineyard…the tour guide had us take a close look at the grapevines, how they are watered, the soil they were planted in and then of course how the grape tasted straight off the vine.

We followed the guide towards the huge warehouse and stopped to listen briefly as to which piece of machinery was used for what during the wine making process. Once inside the building, we saw tons of stainless steel tanks holding all kinds of wine and we listened to the details of aging wine…in fact, the tour guide gave us each a wine glass and had us taste “grape juice” which had only been in the tank for a handful of days vs. the same grape juice which had been aging for quite some time in a different tank. We had never gotten to taste the juice out of a tank that early in the wine making process and were very impressed by how much we were learning in this particular tour. For example, when we tasted the grape off the vine, it was important not to chew the seeds nor the skin of the grape which have all the tannins in them…just the juice to see how sweet it was.

After our tank tasting, we walked over to the room in the back filled to the ceiling with oak barrels. There was a women outside of the room standing in front of a line of barrels with gloves on and what looked like a long piece of wire with a white tab on the end of it. The white tab was lit with a match and started burning like incense, she then placed it inside the barrel. The white tab was actually sulfur dioxide and they were using this method to keep the barrels clean when there was no wine being stored in them. The sulfur keeps the oxygen out which keeps out things like bacteria and mold.

The guide pulled us into the room stacked with barrels which all contained wine being oak aged and pointed out how the walls were filled with small rocks in place of standard insulation…they did this to keep the room cooler than the rest of the warehouse. He gave us tastings of the various oak aged wines before the tour ended and then we found ourselves in the small shop looking for something to buy.

We ended up buying a case of wine…the quality paired with the price placed Club Tapiz as one of our top favorites in Mendoza.

After our tour, we stopped in the little town to pick up some ice cream from the local Heladaria (ice cream shop) and placed a to go order at a small neighborhood restaurant. We took all our food back to our hotel where we ate, drank and chilled out for the rest of the evening.

Day 386-387 of 400: Wine Tour and Tasting at Clos de los Siete – Valle de Uco, Argentina

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Over the past couple days we spent a lot of time lounging around on the B&B property…making food, catching up on our blogging and staring out at the vines,  There was also the cutest little puppy who decided to make himself at home in our room.

Of course, we also spent time drinking wine but also visited Michel Rolland’s property.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Michel…he is one of the best known names in the wine industry, a world-renowned wine influence.  He owns vineyard properties in many places including France (which is where he’s from), Argentina, South Africa and Spain.  He has a specific style and through his consultation, helps 100s of clients achieve oak influenced and fruit-heavy wines.  Just by putting his name on a bottle of wine…will help sell it.

In Argentina, we saw his vineyard, Clos de los Siete was nearby right in Uco Valley so drove over without an appointment in hopes to taste a few of his wines.  Vineyards always seem to have the most beautiful landscapes and this one was no different…with about 2100 acres of planted vines sitting on the foothills of the Andes mountains…it was gorgeous.  We parked and were greeted by a women who agreed to give us a tour of two of the five wineries that were on the property.  Basically Michel got together with 6 of his friends and they each divided the vines to make five wineries.  Each owner runs their own winery and wine making but all contribute some of their fruit to put into one bottle of wine called, Clos de los Siete.

The property was so large that we needed to drive through the dirt roads between vines to get to the two wineries we were touring.  The tour guide jumped in our backseat and directed us to the first stop, Cuvelier Los Andes.  The wineries themselves here in Mendoza are so dramatic in both size and technology with amazing architecture.  She gave us a quick walk through pointing out the fermenting tanks, and barrel rooms before getting us over to our second winery, Diamandes

The Diamandes uses a gravity system (most of winery is underground) and technology to keep things like temperature control efficient.  Even though the soil looks rocky/sandy, the altitude is high and the weather is extreme…this family found their “diamond” in the rough because the wine region of the Valley de Uco produces some of the best wine in Argentina (in our opinion anyway).   The tour guide talked through the architecture (same as the O’Fournier building) as well as the specific process followed from picking grapes to fermenting.

After our tour, we drove back to the guest building where we picked out a couple of wines to purchase, one being the wine made from all properties (Clos de los Siete) and one of Michel Rolland’s nice (and expensive) bottles for our wine cellar.  We drove back to our place to find some dinner and get things packed up since we are leaving for a different part of Mendoza tomorrow.

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