Somebody…help the animals in this zoo!

I get on a night bus to Mendoza and the next thing I know, I’m getting shaken by the bus driver to wake up. Everyone has gotten off and taken their bags already and the luggage guy is waiting on me, so I put on my shoes quickly and run out to claim my backpack (before someone else does). And there I am, in a new city at 7AM.

Let’s get started.

I walk through the Mendoza bus station in a zombie like manner to find a place selling tickets to Santiago, Chile, where I will be going next. 30 pesos? Cool. Leaves in the afternoons. Right on.

So I coger a taxi (I’m gonna start throwing random Spanish words in my speech now so you all can learn with me) and have him take me to an internet cafe, or as they call it, a seeber (which used to be cyber cafe, then cyber, now seeber). There, I check to see what hostels are in the area at hostelworld.com and have another taxi take me to a promising looking hostel. It supposedly has a pool, free internet, cable and fans in the rooms, and that’s not too shabby. When I get there, I realize that it was no lie, and they do indeed have all that stuff.

But it’s hot in Mendoza, as it’s an Argentine desert, and when the owner shows me my room, it’s nearly suffocating. The fan blows over the other two guys, sleeping in pools of sweat and I can tell…it’s gonna be rough to get to bed at night. But no worries, it’s probably gonna be 50x worse when I get to India, so I might as well get used to it now. I check in, get situated and join a few other people downstairs for breakfast.

I talked with this one girl from I don’t remember where (it’s a neat place – you should visit) and she told me about how she and her boyfriend rented a motorcycle in Santiago and drove through Chile and Argentina for four weeks, and it sounded incredible. For $80 bucks a day though, compounded with the fact that I don’t have much time left in South America, I don’t think I’ll be doing the same any time soon. What a shame. So after breakfast, I got a shower and joined everyone out at the pool. I met Karen and Jimmy (who I swear is like 9 feet tall) from Sweden and we talked about where we had been and where we were going. Although it’s kind of annoying to explain your story over and over again to everyone you meet, it’s worth it in that you get to find out a lot of information about where you are going next from people who have been there. Sometimes, recommendations from others are the only way you can enjoy yourself in a city, as you get to learn from others’ mistakes.

So after the pool, I took a walk to the center of town to check everything out. Mendoza is built on a desert, but everything is still very green in the city.

From what I hear, they do a pretty good job of diverting water from the mountains and getting it from the ground, which means plenty of trees and shade throughout the city. They have quite a few plazas and parks with fountains and people relaxing on the benches or selling things on the sidewalks and there is also a street that is blocked off and filled with stores and restaurants for your walking pleasure. I grabbed some lunch and checked my email and then headed back to the hostel where I went back in the pool (what a great idea this pool was) and chatted with Karen and Jimmy again. They were going to see Lord of the Rings and I had already seen it, so I guess it was just going to be a night of hanging out and watching TV for me. I ended up going back to the town center that night, getting some pasta, having a few glasses of wine, and reading the paper before heading back to the hostel and going to bed.

But yeah, it was hot. And there was also bar in the hostel, which kept the music thumping until about 5AM. I had several dreams that I was in a concert, and when I woke up (in a pool of sweat), I wasn’t all that refreshed. At breakfast, I chatted with another Swedish guy in my room and we ended up renting mountain bikes and taking a tour of the city and the huge park (which is several square miles large) and also visited the zoo way in the back of the park.

I have never seen such a sad zoo…the foxes had mange (or however you spell it), the elephants looked as though they were about to die of dehydration, the monkeys were banging on the side of the cage for water and were given some only after the caretaker felt their tongues, the polar bears and tigers walked obsessively back and fourth in their small areas, and the camels humps were actually falling over (yeah, it was really weird). You could see the areas where water was at one time but there was none or very little (and green at that) in the pools for the animals and people were feeding the monkeys and apes popcorn and candy despite the signs asking not too (and there was nobody stopping them!!). We left the place in disgust. It was really big, but man, did they have problems. What a sad zoo…

At the end of the day, we met up with everyone else in the hostel at the supermarket (this was prearranged) and the six of us got the fixings for a pasta dinner (salad, snacks, pasta, plenty of wine) and we went back to the hostel, cooked dinner, and spent the night chatting, drinking and swimming. The dinner was awesome and I think we all really enjoyed it.

The next day we got up early and went and rented a car to go to La Puente del Inca which is a natural land bridge over a river, and lots of natural hot springs flowing through the area. I drove (which was really fun to do again, especially with a stick shift) there and back and we really enjoyed ourselves. It ended up costing us 60 pesos each after rental, tax and gas, which comes to about $20 US and it was worth every penny.

When we got back though, exhausted and sweaty (despite the AC in the car), Kristofer (the Swedish guy I toured the city on bike with) and I packed up and took off the plaza to get some food and leave for Santiago, Chile.

Our bus was to leave at midnight and after some trouble finding the right bus (they switched companies on us) and fending off a drunk homeless guy looking for money, we were off to Chile!

Mendoza was fun, although I didn’t get a chance to tour the wineries. I figured that I was pretty short on time as it was and I have seen plenty of wineries in California. I just settled for getting some good wine and promising that I would buy a few more bottles of it to try it out before leaving South America. If you don’t mind the heat (it was like So Cal in the Summer), you will enjoy Mendoza and there is a lot more stuff to do there than I ended up doing (rafting, paragliding, tour’s, and stuff like that). I recommend Puente Del Inca as the drive up there is incredible, and one could easily spend a 5 or 6 days there checking everything out. Too bad I only had time for two though.

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