On the eastern side of the Andes, precisely in the northern-central part of Argentina, travellers driving along ruta nacional 7, the main road connecting Buenos Aires and Santiago (Chile), will bump into Mendoza and probably fall in love with it, as happened to us. Pretty tired of several days hitchhiking the Country, we decide to spend here a few days in order to get some rest and to recharge the batteries.
Immediately, we realize that Mendoza has a lot to offer since it seems to be a common stopover for climbers on their way to Aconcagua or adventurers looking for some rafting, horse riding, hiking and many other outdoor activities of this kind. The city is the capital of Mendoza region, worldwide known for its fine wine production (here Nicola Catena Zapata, considered the pioneer of high-altitude growing, planted the first malbec vineyard at about 1500 above sea level) and astonishing sceneries.
We arrive very late and we spend the first night at Hostal Internacional Mendoza, so excited to have reached our destination and looking forward to exploring every hidden corner of it. The next day we change hostel (Hostal Mendoza Backpackers) ‘cause we meet our old dear friends, Phil and Charlotte, who came here last week and never moved again. This place seems to be a magnet for every traveller that stops here just for a few days and stay longer than expected. So, 4 days pass by quickly, resting, having good time with the other guys in the hostel, playing ping pong, enjoying the great breakfast provided by the guesthouse and wandering around the city. We visit the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno that hosts an interesting exposition of Picasso’s graphic artworks and the many squares Mendoza is full of, we walk around to admire the lively street art decorating buildings and walls, we taste good red wine and go to the cinema where we see “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, not that good, pretty poor in narrative in fact but definitely inspiring for its breathtaking photography of Iceland beautiful and rugged landscapes.
We definitely have a great time here, Mendoza is a place so familiar and cosy that makes you feel at home. But everything has to come to an end, we feel like moving. So we take our backpacks and leave to feel the asphalt under our shoes once again. Next stop? Chilean border.
• Hostal Mendoza Backpackers is really nice with WIFI, shared kitchen, private and shared rooms/bathroom, a huge common room and a sunny terrace, great continental breakfast and a very nice staff (70 ARS per day/person breakfast included).
The first hostel is more expensive, around 110 ARS per person/day, so not really for backpackers.
• Don’t miss Argentinean legends. On our way to Mendoza, after hitchhiking for several hours from San Juan region and surviving the inundation of a river (we find the road interrupted by 2 meters of water and all the people living in the neighbourhoods busy in finding a way to cross it. We eventually manage to do it, jumping in a track taking us on the other side of the stream save and sound), we meet a nice couple who drives us till our destination and makes a little detour just to inform us about one of the most popular myths of the Country: la Difunta Correa. According to what people say, she was a woman whose husband was recruited during the Argentine civil wars, became sick and then abandoned by the Montoneras (partisans). In an attempt to reach her sick husband, Deolinda Correa followed the tracks of the Montoneras through the desert of San Juan Province with her baby child. But when her supplies ran out, she died. Her body was found days later with the baby still alive, feeding himself from the deceased woman’s ever-full breast. She was buried in Vallecito, in the Caucete Department of San Juan, where her grave has become a sanctuary visited by thousands of people asking for a miracle.