I began coming to South America in my late teens and viewed 20 hour, $3 bus rides as a right of passage, as a way to prove myself old and valiant. Those days, it turns out, are gone. Up until the last second I thought that there was still some worth in the endeavor. That was, until every single last living soul around me looked at me stupefied when I mentioned my next plan of action – to take a bus over the Andes. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve done this journey in this way, and so it came as a surprise to me, that this isn’t the way… to do it.
I buckled and took the flight from Santiago Chile to Mendoza Argentina. If my memory serves me, which it seldom does, I flew right by the point where the Uruguayan rugby team crashed and died and ate each other and so on.
The flight is a furious one. The highest peak, Aconcagua, points at 22,000 or so feet. The plane takes off, it goes up, it goes down. There is no plateau. There is no movie. There are no bathroom brakes. Up. Down.
Feeling somewhat still alive, I got to Mendoza, picked up my steel toed boots and my old cell phone from Norma, whom I normally live with down here, and set about buying shampoo, electric converters, coffee and croissants (media lunas- fantastic), and getting into contact with various folk.
The “champagne” harvest has started- Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier done sparkling. Norma’s brother only drinks sparkling wines (no liquor, beer or still wine), a detail that has proven, in my mind, that he is brilliant. The Torrontes isn’t far off…