Start: November 13, Londres, Argentina
Finish: November 20, Mendoza, Argentina
Consecutive Nights Camping: 26
Walmarts Visited: 2
Nights Spent Grilling: 7
From the rainy town of Tafi de Valle, we head back over the mountains and work our way ever southwards. Our goal of having epic charcoal fires and grilling ridiculous amounts of prime Argentinian beef continues unabaited.
We hit Mendoza extra stinky and ready for a few days break. And rendezvous with some old and new friends, we sample entirely too much wine, a load of unhealthy yet delicious foods, and start planning our Thanksgiving feast.
Our first stop was meant to be Belen, but the campground was so nasty that we decided to carry on to Londres. The camping area we found there has a huge irrigation canal running through the middle of it, which aside from being a hazard to drunk people, was quite wonderful at drowning out the sounds of screaming children every night. And trust me, there were plenty of screaming children.
We hung out in Londres for a few days before making our way to the supposed spectacular National Parks to the south. The scenery continues to be vibrant red rock formations and desert scrubland. Jared's favorite.
We arrived mid-afternoon at the Parque Provincial Ischigualasto, don't bother trying to pronounce it. They have a mandatory escorted tour and a fancy campground with water that is reportedly hauled in from 80km away. Unfortunately the entry fee and tour fee are all lumped together at a whopping price of US$30 per person.
We said no thanks, and carried on south to San Agustin de Valle Fertil.
We easily found a delightful little campground. It was empty, had hot showers, and in the middle of it all, a merry-go-round. The more you drink the more fun it gets! Unfortunately, around 5pm the Frenchies started showing up. Our peaceful spot was invaded by a caravan of four trucks. Oh well. At least they couldn't take away my merry-go-round.
The next day we moved on to San Juan. We picked a camp spot way out in the woods, as far away as possible from the Argentinian camping necessity, the boom box. Sadly, just before dinner Jessica's third chair of the trip decides to give up on life.
<imgalt="Skewers for dinner" src="/images/stories/articles/arg-3/5-argentina-3.JPG" height="347" width="520" />
Dinner is epic, yet again. Tenderloin skewers that had been marinading for 24 hours in chimichurri served with baked potatoes, skewered onions and carrots. It was delicious, even though I had to eat it while standing up.
On the way out of San Juan we notice a Walmart on the GPS. We can't resist. They may suck back in the States, but here they are one of the best places to buy camping gear. New chair, here I come.
As we're wandering aimlessly through the aisles looking random things we've been trying to find since Boliva, Jared comes around the corner and proudly exclaims, "I found clothes pins for 4 pesos!" To which I exclaim, "I found ones called McPussy!" He just about falls over laughing. We all know, I won.
We have spent the last year attempting to decipher the cuts of meat in Latin America. In Argentina, it doesn't really matter so much, it's all good! But still, sometimes you want to know the difference between hoof and tongue. Who said shopping at Walmart is not educational?
After consulting the beef cut diagram we settled on the trusty asado, a cut of ribs and a few loin steaks. To balance our diet we served it with whole onions and potatoes wrapped in foil that were baked in the embers for about a hour. Have we had enough meat yet? Ummm no.
We arrived at the Mendoza campground to find our friends Mark and Sarah, who have undoubtedly already scoped out the wine scene, our old friend Mike on a motorcycle who accompanied us to the Lima food festival, and two new friends, Eveline and Ben, from Holland and Australia respectively.
Together we share a few kilos of beef, a few bottles of wine. Except for Mike, who seems hell bent on converting us to Argentina's vile national cocktail, Fernet and coke. Sometime during our drunken meat-filled gathering, we realize that Thanksgiving is a mere four days away. There is a slight intermission to explain what Thankgiving is to our European and Austrialin friends, but then back to the food.
Everyone agrees that a turkey is impossible. Haven't seen one of those in months. But then Jared, in a stroke of genious, says "hey, but I did see a whole pig a the butcher yesterday." And just like that Pork-a-Palooza 2012 was born.
The next morning we head to the Maipu region, a bit later than planned. Maipu is just south of Mendoza and is home to many vineyards, olive farms and countless shops offering samples of the finer things in life. Our first stop is the vineyard of CarinaE.
On the wall in the office we find this convenient poster showing all of the aromas of wines. Kobus says he recognizes hints of oak, wild flowers and wet rocks. I can't smell a damn thing, but who cares. Jared on the other hand keeps saying "yup, tastes like wine".
Twelve samples of wine later Kobus and I end up dropping some serious coin on two really good bottles. Somehow I think Jared was the smart one here.
From the vineyard we stumble across the road to a olive oil factory, to eat some food and hopefully sober up. There is a small museum attached to the tasting room that has some crazy old olive oil presses. We did learn that green and black olives are actually from the same tree, the black one is just left on the tree for longer. The more you know...
Thankfully the tour only lasted about thirty minutes before they brought out a delicious spread of food. Green and black olives, olive oil, olive paste and sun-dried tomatoes. Needless to say, it was Jared that talked us in to spending a big wad of cash here.
Next stop, one of Argentina's most popular vineyards, Trapiche. This label produces about 7 million liters of wine a year, and the tasting room showed it. Polished hardwood and glass floors, very expensive looking furniture. Despite the fancy show room, the tasting was disappointing. Three very small glasses of the cheap shelf wine. I guess we just aren't high class enough for this.
Fourth stop, the chocolate shop. Homemade liquors, mustards, pates and of course chocolate bars. We stop for a sampler and of course pick up a bottle of chocolate hazelnut liquor to go.
That night we realized that it's probably not a good idea to leave Jared alone in the meat section of a supermarket. He produces a leg of lamb from the fridge and tells us it might be a little while before dinner. I promptly make a snack, and a drink.
Thankfully we also found a good way to use up a terrible bottle of wine. Red wine reduction sauce for the lamb. Perfect combo. We didn't eat until 10pm that night, but it was worth the wait.
Next up, we take a trip to the Mendoza Mercado Central to make a deal with the butcher for a half a pig. Kobus stops off at the spice counter to mix some new curry seasonings for the spice kit. Ours have been running a bit low ever since Bolivia.