After some thoughtful planning, I left downtown Mendoza on Friday the 13th and headed towards Luján de Cuyo - past the colorful vineyards, towering poplars, and premium wine cellars southwest of the capital. Lucho, a good friend and outdoor enthusiast, rode along on this scenic bike ride that extended past Blanco Encalada. Here are some highlights...
It felt wonderful to escape the city and return to the great outdoors - clean air, green fields, and mountain peaks in the background. In many ways, I felt like I was back home...with natural elements of both Virginia and Utah. The open countryside offers a unique variety of smells - fresh cut grass, wine fermentation, burning compost, and a combination of onion and garlic fields. For those of you familiar with Argentina's interior, burning compost is a common scent in the air (especially in Salta and Tucumán). Before arriving to our campsite, we veered off the highway and entered a quiet community similar to those rural outposts of the northwest. There, we packed our bags with drinks and cheap hot dogs.
Lucho knows the area better than most. He led us down a bumpy trail of rocks and dust before finding a small island of sand resting along the Mendoza River. Colas de zorro (foxtail plants) lined the shore, with a clear view of the Andean foothills in the distance.
After searching for firewood, we set up our tent and headed into the river for a late afternoon swim. The frigid temperature didn't bother us much, but the current was much stronger than expected. We have proof...
Before leaving home, I was in a rush to turn in some final writing assignments. Being in such a hurry, Tania decided to help out by packing my bag. Unfortunately, she forgot to include my flip-flops. Lucho let me borrow his as we ventured into the water in search of some possible "replacements". Within 10 minutes, we found 8 random flip-flops stuck along the riverside weeds. No pairs. No matches. While kind of gross, it does make you wonder how many one-legged swimmers actually enjoy the river?
With the sun going down, it was time to start the fire...and dinner: those good ol' cheap hot dogs.
The fire lasted a good five hours. A few of the dead roots we found made for some interesting firewood. We then fell asleep...under a near full moon and clear night sky. That far from the city, almost every star can be seen.
The next morning brought a brilliant sunrise across the river's rippled surface. We packed up early and jumped back on our bikes.
The return trip home was a quiet ride along tree-lined avenues...with those dang Andes Mountains always showing up in every photo! To finish our ride, we pulled off the road and entered a picturesque vineyard just outside Luján. With the radiant sun overhead, we scoured the vines for Mendoza's trademark grapes. After taking a few pictures, mingled with the occasional tasting, we got back on the road and ended our latest journey here in western Argentina.