23.08.2009 - 31.08.2009 31 °C
First stop in Argentina: Mendoza, just over the Andes from Santiago de Chile, and centre of the region resposible for two thirds of Argentina's wine production. Malbec and Tempranillo are the two most important grape varieties. Around the town itself are concentrated the vines and production facilities for numerous outfits, large and small. The most popular tourist activity in Mendoza must be touring of the many vineyards by bike, a semi-organised activity in which motley groups are rented even motlier bicycles, given a sort of map and a push in the right direction, and left to their own devices. Having teamed up with a brace of English travelers, we set off unsteadily on our ill-maintained iron steeds into the grape-filled expanses.
First stop was the Rutini bodega, the self-proclaimed 'most visited winery in Argentina'. It's certainly one of the largest I've ever seen.
26600 litre barrels (26.6 tons of wine each!):
The area is suitable for winemaking due to its low (and consistent?) rainfall. The area felt semi-desert, with the outline of the Andes visible through the hot dusty air. Biking around the avenues:
At 'Tempus Alba' vineyard: a selection of red wines:
The seasoned wine taster:
A super-comfy (and expensive) night bus whisked me across the breadth of Argentina to the country's capital. I reflected, while eating my three course dinner with wine on the bus, how in Bolivia the death road boneshaker had taken more hours to cover less than half the distance.
The streets of Buenos Aires, as seen from the balcony in my hostel:
And a street-level view:
The different areas or barrios of Buenos Aires each has a different feel. I stayed in microcentro, the most central district, filled with imposing colonial-era administative buildings such as the Palacio del Congreso:
Nearby was Puerto Madero, an area of docks for cargo ships constructed at the turn of the 19th century, and obsolete within 10 years of operation. Recently the area has been regenerated and hosts ever more hotels, trendy apartment blocks and glass-and-steel skyscrapers.
La Recoleta is an affluent residential district, full of leafy plazas, parks, street cafes and other features described as 'European'. It is also home to a vast cemetery of the same name, laid out in streets on an irregular grid pattern:
Itinerant cats preside over the scene, guardians of the underworld:
Each tomb belongs to a family, the larger ones containing several tiers of caskets. Everybody visits the tomb of Evita, or Eva Perón, wife of president Juan Perón in the 1940s, herself an actress, campaigner and politician.
La Recoleta is also home to Floraris generica, a 23m-tall metal sculpture, whose petals open and close with the sunrise and sunset each day:
Sunset in barrio Palmero: