Christmas Time, no Mistletoe but Wine

Salta

After one of the most spectacular bus journey’s to date Grace, Catherine (Irish girl we met on the salt flat tour) and I arrived in Salta. After dropping our stuff off at the hostel we headed out for dinner which Mike was particularly excited about – Argentina produces some of the best beef in the World so naturally steak was Mike’s choice that evening, and it didn’t disappoint.

The next morning we headed to a tiny ranch on the outskirts of Salta where we were greeted by possibly the friendliest man on the planet. Enrique was in his 60’s but for the last 7 years he opened up his family home (our room was a homely double with actual furniture and ornaments), ranch and 25 horses to tourists looking for riding adventures. We were both pretty nervous as it had been ages since Grace had got on a horse and for Mike it was his first time. We needn’t have been – the horses and guides (or Gauchos as they are known) were fantastic, we were cantering and galloping in no time. The scenery was incredible, the mountains provided the perfect backdrop for our outings, riding through dry river beds, across streams and through dense woodlands.

After our morning rides we came back to the lodge exhausted, only to be greeted with endless bottles of wine and the best BBQ ever with limitless filet steak cooked to perfection…Mike was in heaven, demolishing 6 of them. Grace even jumped on board and was soon finishing glass after glass of the red stuff.

The hard part was to follow, after we had nearly eaten and drunk ourselves into a coma we found ourselves putting our chaps back on and before we knew it we were atop our horses and cantering through the undergrowth again…suddenly any sense of nerves had gone and by the end of day two we both at ease on a horse, Mike even ended up in a mini race.

Our night at the ranch was spent drinking red wine and chatting Spanglish with Enrique- it was great fun. We also made friends with his two family dogs, who had been trained to escort people to their rooms at night so they felt safe. We loved them so much we tried to put an offer in but Enrique told us we could have his children and his wife but never his dogs or his house- devod!

We said our goodbyes to Enrique and Catherine (although she would be joining us 24 hours later) and headed back to Salta before our epic 20 hour bus journey to Mendoza.

Mendoza

Mendoza is one of the most famous wine regions in the whole of Argentina, with over 1000 wineries in the immediate area it’s easy to see why. It also happened to be our home over the Christmas period, for this reason we decided to check into a slightly nicer hostel with a pool – great decision as temperatures can reach a blistering 37 degrees…

Except for wasting nearly a full day trying to get hold of Argentinian pesos at the ‘blue market’ rate we spent most of our days relaxing by the pool and wandering around town. In the evenings we explored the many bars and restaurants that surrounded our hostel drinking wine and eating good food.

Argentina typically celebrates Christmas on the 24th for some reason – so come Christmas Eve everyone from our hostel and a sister hostel joined together to celebrate in typical style. We had a massive BBQ with ample amounts of wine and ‘Champagne’ and then watched some fireworks. After getting thoroughly smashed at the sister hostel we retired back to our digs for a pool party! We all jumped in in our undies (unfortunately Grace forgot about the money in her bra – opps!). It was great fun but it did mean we were seriously hung-over and extremely tired for Christmas day!

Despite the serious lack of sleep (3hours or so) the heat woke us up early so we crawled out of bed, opened our cards and the tiny presents we had gotten each other and then talked to the fams. It was nice to hear from home and was the only part of the day that really felt like Christmas (except for the Santa hats).

The rest of the day was filled with naps, sunbathing and swimming – perfect hangover cure. In the evening we all headed out for a group meal and some drinks. We carried on back at the hostel before crawling into bed at 6am – perfect preparation for our wine tasting tour tomorrow…

The wine ‘tour’ simply involved us renting bikes for a day and cycling from vineyard to vineyard. We arrived at our first stop bleary eyed when 3 large glasses of wine each (Grace, Catherine and I) were thrust into our hands. We soon forgot about the hangover and cracked on with the tasting. Grace (not liking wine at all) battled through like a trooper and polished off all 3 glasses, effectively a whole bottle to herself. Each vineyard worked in a similar manner apart from Trapiche where we were also given a tour, as you can imagine, our cycling abilities soon diminished to that of a 5 year old. We stopped halfway through to eat lunch, a selection of cheeses, meats and lasagne was provided, and of course – more wine!

After our brilliant time in Mendoza we caught the bus out on the 27th, next stop Santiago and Valparaiso for New Years Eve (we even managed to drag Catherine along with us).

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