We arrived at the Mendoza airport less than an hour after takeoff from Santiago. As promised, when we exited the small airport, a driver was waiting to take us to our hotel in downtown Mendoza. Carol and I stayed at El Portal, right on one of the city’s plaza squares, Plaza Chile. These open spaces were built after an earthquake in the 1860s as a place for people to congregate during future tremors. Plaza Chile was named so in respect to neighboring Chile’s aid in helping to rebuild the area.
After getting settled in, Carol and I asked the receptionist what her favorite restaurant was. She suggested lunch at Marie Antoinette. It is definitely a “chick place” with lots of salads and vegetarian dishes, but I found some meat on the menu to enjoy.
Later we met Steve Rosberg, our Argentinian host, and our fellow riders in the hotel lobby. Along for the adventure was Steve’s friend Cora Silberstein, and Eric Hahnfeld from Fort Worth, Texas. After introductions, Steve led us off to the Plaza Hotel for a ceremonial welcome drink with the team and then to dinner at Siete Cocinas, or Seven Kitchens.
The chef of Siete Cocinas is Pablo del Rio, and he came out to visit with us and explain the menu and theme of his restaurant. The seven kitchens are the 7 regions of cooking and the various flavors of Argentina. Truly a fantastic concept carried out flawlessly, serving food that we passed around and shared among us. Definitely a repeat when back in Mendoza.
The next morning, our guide Rolo (short for Rolando) arrived for breakfast and then accompanied us back to our room for the obligatory gear check. We passed thanks to Carol, who had taken the list and made sure that we bought and collected every single item on it. Following gear check, we were off to the camping store to pick up the sleeping bags and ground mat both of us had rented. Carol had the option of a -15 degree Celsius sleeping bag or a -25 degree Celsius sleeping bag and was adamant about the -25 degree one. She roasted. More on that later.
After loading up our sleeping bags and the carabiners that we needed to secure our water bottles to the saddle bags, we left Mendoza and drove to La Morada, about 90 minutes south for lunch. La Morada is a spectacular vineyard developed by my friend Steve Rosberg, who is also the instigator of this Andes crossing. Upon arrival, we enjoyed a real Argentinian BBQ. After gorging ourselves silly, the requisite siesta was much appreciated by all.
Later in the afternoon, Steve walked us around the vineyard. He and his investors have transformed 300 hectares of arid land into an oasis of vines loaded to the maximum with sweet, ripe grapes. Steve is raising nine types of grapes:
Reds: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and Pinot Noir.
Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Gewurztraminer.
We had the chance to sample many of the grapes on the walk around the vineyard.
That evening, we traveled a couple miles to a neighboring vineyard for dinner. The place is out of this world, and is called the Vines of Mendoza. Dinner was over the top, and one of the appetizers was one of my all-time Argentinian favorites, grilled provolone cheese. The décor of the place is perfect and the lighting amazing. You can see how they lit the grape arbors and surrounding terraces. The soft light was enough to guide, yet still allow a view of the stars, which were amazing. I would find out the next night on the trail what amazing stars really look like. The evening over, we adjourned and drove back to Steve’s clubhouse and spent our last night in a nice, comfortable bed for a while.