Mendoza

Our interest in wines was the primary reason for our visit to Mendoza. It took us two days to get there from Bariloche (1300km) and there were not many things worthwhile mentioning among the route. We stayed in a little cabaña in Mendoza’s southern neighborhood of Chacra. Our AirBnB hosts Juan Carlos and Camilla were very caring and hearty such that we felt immediately being part of the family. We were sharing the property with their daughter’s family which was great for the kids since they immediately had access to ample toys and new playing buddies. Also the pool came very handy as the temperatures never fell below 25C during the day.

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On the day of our arrival we passed by the Valle de Uco, one of the top three wine growing regions in Mendoza. We learned that most of the wine yards close at 17:00 and hence we just managed to quickly take a bottle of 2018 Cabernet and 2016 Bonardo from Bodega La Azul with us. The first one turned out to be very drinkable whereas the later one (blend of Cabernet and Malbec) was way too sour (and double the price 😦 ). The early closure was unfortunate but it was still worthwhile coming to this valley since we found it to be the most beautiful wine growing area around Mendoza. The views of vines in front of the Cordillera de la Totora (part of the Andes) were super-stunning!

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On the first day we rented bikes with two child seats from Mr Hugo in Maipu (350 ARS each). It is one of the well-known wine neighborhoods. Our first stop was the family winery Domiciano where we immediately jumped into the tasting (200ARS/person) since we slightly missed the hourly tour. Irina chose a series of three Malbecs and Lothar three classics (Chardonnay, Malbec, Cabernet Reserve). All of wines were very drinkable but we did not feel that we need to take a bottle with us since it was the first winery on that day.

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We continued 7km to the next winery, Mevi, which won a series of medals for their Chardonnay and Cabernet. We had lunch there and enjoyed the views of the vines in front of the impressive Andes. It goes without saying that we tried another tasting (110ARS/person), this time Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Reserve. We liked the Syrah most and took a bottle with us (240ARS).

The next stop was the Bodega Trivento. We had known this winery already from our time in Texas where their Reserve Malbec was among our favorite wines (they serve it e.g. at Robard’s Steakhouse). We entered shortly before closure but they told us straight away that they did not offer any tastings today due to a private party. So we bought quickly two bottles of the Reserve (2017) and Golden Reserve (2016) and saved it for Christmas 🙂

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The last stop of the day, Bodega CarinaE, a French run family winery, was the best one in terms of tasting. Victoria, our somelier, was very knowledgeable about the different composites of their Cuvees, the degree of sourness and full body and the time the wines spent in Oak Barrels. We learned that wines in Argentina have to stay at least 12months in oak barrels to earn the designation “Reserve” and at least 15months for being a “Grand/Golden Reserve”. We liked the 2016 Cuvee Brigitte (Malbec/Cabernet/Syrah) and the 2016 Malbec Reserve most and used the last space in bike basket to carry them. With dry tongues we returned our bicycles after 30km with a backpack full of great wines. Salud!

The day got concluded with great news: Juan Carlos our host had recommended to us a computer technician named Claudio. We did not have much hope that he could fix the broken Windows Surface charger which has been dead for nearly three weeks now. He told us to give it a try but could not promise anything. Our plan B was to order an used one via mercardo libre to an address in Buenos Aires for price three times as much as in the US.

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Luckily, Claudio was capable of fixing it in a very practical manner and guess what – even if it does not look like – it is fully functional again and the reason why we are able to publish articles again 🙂

 

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The next day we visited Termas de Pecheuta (240ARS/adult,. 200 child from 3y), a thermal bath and water park 30km outside of Mendoza. The pools carried different temperatures between 25 and 50C and were partly covered by a roof. Fun stuff for the kids (and adults 😉 ) were the slides and the wild river. They even have a small craft brewery with basic food there! Overall, we had a great time and can recommend the park for a relaxed day out.

The last day we dedicated to Mendoza itself. We took a walk in the beautiful Parque General de San Martin, a big park in the middle of Mendoza, equipped with running lanes for joggers, rollerbladers and cyclists and a lake in its center. We also took a shot walk through the busy pedestrian precinct which honestly was nothing special. Finally, we also got our other item checked off the list as we found a local Mitsubishi mechanic who fixed the driver’s side window (though at a quite pricey rate of 2500 ARS). Oscar was fully recovered 🙂

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Bariloche

Back in Argentina we visited Bariloche, the destination which was originally supposed to be the venue of Lothar’s birthday (had the Padron arrived on time). We stayed at a huge house (is it already a villa?) at the outskirts of Bariloche (20min drive to the centre) where we could enjoy a lot of space and proximity to nature.

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Due to our late arrival from the Carretera we went to one of Lonely Planet’s recommended restaurants, “El Fondo del Tio”. We weren’t disappointed. Although we were pretty hungry due to the long day driving from Chile the portions were overwhelmingly big (and yummy!) such that the first time on this trip we had to ask for take away boxes which were luckily provided 🙂

First thing in the morning was the visit to Cerro Campanario, a mountain at the western outskirts of Bariloche. The steep 45min ascent rewarded us with great views of the surrounding lakes and glaciers. There were a decent amount of clouds in the sky such that the water and peaks did not resemble their best post card shape but we’re still astonishing to glance at. Irina and the kids descended from the mountain via the gondola.

In the afternoon, we explored around the peninsula of Llao Llao with its famous luxury Hotel Llao Llao popular among celebrities and politicians. We also visited Colonia Suiza, a village founded by couple of Swiss families at the end of the 19th century. Some of the houses still show the Alpine character:

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The core of the village has a beautiful market with food stands, hand crafted art, a small stage for musicians and a playground. We found this place so charming that we spent the remainder of the day there. We ate an interesting deer stew and drank yummy local beer.

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Before leaving Colonia Suiza we stumbled over the brewery Berlina with a beautiful beer garden. Since Maja was napping and Leo found a lot of things which entertained with stayed for another round of yummy Ales and IPAs and watched a little bit of the Copa Libertadores final.

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Cerro Otto was the destination of our second day in Bariloche. Ira got her deserved kids day off and Lothar took Leo and Maja with the gondola uphill (500 ARS, free for kids up to 5y).

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This mountain was named after Otto Meling, a German speaking Alpine pioneer who climbed and explored many mountains around Bariloche at the beginning of the 20th century. In winter it is popular for cross-country skiing and in summer it offers great hiking opportunities. Apart from enjoying spectacular views over Lago Nahuel Huapi we took the opportunity to hike to the lookout point Piedra de Habsburgo.

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The kids did a great job and I had to carry only Maja most of the way. The walk itself was beautiful with a refreshing smell of forest accompanying us all the way. The lookout at Lago Gutierrez were superb! At the end Maja was so tired that she fell asleep in dad’s arms 🙂 Mum was welcoming us back with a yummy dinner in the evening.

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The next day we searched for a new tablet charger and learned that Bariloche and most likely most of Argentina won’t have it. Hence, we tried a couple of repair shops but no one felt that they could repair it. A recommended auto repair shop for Oscar’s window could not help us either since they did not have the replacement part. Unfortunately, we could not check these two items off our list.

We spent the rest of the day strolling through Bariloche’s pedestrian zone and visited one of its famous chocolaterias “Mamushka”. Unfortunately, we did not find out what the story with the name and the matroshkas is. There’s a good restaurant scene in the city and also very good ice cream (Jauja!). Apart from that we found though that most of Bariloche’s charm stems from its surrounding nature.

Road trip to “La Ruta de los siete Lagos” was the name of the game on our last day in the Bariloche area. The starting point was Villa Angostura,on the other side of Lago Nahuel Huapi. It’s a small little town with a posh character and reminded us a little bit of Starnberg in Bavaria. The main street is scattered with restaurants and shops and gives the place a very touristy touch. While Irina tried to convince Maja to nap Leo and Lothar climbed the Mirador Belvedere and enjoyed views of Lago Espejo (the second of the seven lakes). Afterwards the true road trip began from Villa Angostura:

Lago Nahuel Huapi – Lago Espejo – Lago Correntoso – Lago Escondido – Lago Villarino – Lago Falkner – Lago Machonico.

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For us the most beautiful out of the seven was Lago Correntoso which apparently also always appears among the top 10 beaches in Argentina. Unfortunately, we did not bring our swim wear. Nevertheless, we could not resist dipping our feet into the turquoise water 🙂

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It is a very scenic route and also great for cyclists and motorbikers. Plus there are ample opportunities to swim and to have a pick nick. We concluded the day with a great dinner at an Italian restaurant at Villa Agostura.

Ushuaia

Our next goal was the “Fin del Mundo” Ushuaia, the southmostern city in the world (Chilean Puerto Williams is considered a village and not a city). To get there we took the ferry from Punta Delgado to Bahia Azul (first come first serve, 15,000clp). It was a quick but shaky boat ride (20min) which left Oscar covered by salt water. Upon arrival a “Bienvenido al Tierra del Fuego” sign greated us. The name stems by the way from Magellan who saw a bonfire lid by the Native Americans when he discovered this area.

To our surprise nearly the entire road to border post San Sebastian was paved. We were a bit nervous about this border crossing since a couple of other travellers had just a week ago posted that they (also foreigners) were denied the entry to Argentina with a Chilean car – despite the possession of ownership and jurada declaracion. For us it went fortunately pretty well. Not sure whether it was the kids, the long queue behind us, the fact that we already crossed to Argentina and came back or we just got lucky with the specific officer. Anyhow, after 40min we were back in Argentina!

The last hour of the 3h drive from the border post to Ushuaia was very scenic and led us along the shore of Lago Fagano, a huge fresh water lake, and sections of dry salt lakes (with Guanacos).


Then we finally reached the end of the world: Ushuaia 🙂 Immediately, we could see huge freighters, cruise ships and big storages of ship containers. Ushuaia is by the way the hub for 90% of Antarctica cruises. We also informed ourselves about a trip to the white continent but the minimum age for cruises is 12. It also saved us a good amount of money since the regular price for 9 days was $5000 per cabin. We’ve heard though from other folks that discounts up to 70% are possible if you come with a very flexible schedule.

The first day we walked around the city and explored the bay, a flight school and the main shopping street San Martin. Of course, we took the compulsory “Fin del Mundo” picture:
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We concluded the day with tourist bus ride around the bay and town and treated ourselves well with a nice steak and seabass at the fancy Kalmo Resto.

Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego was the name of the game the next day and it was a gorgeous one. The park is ca. 30Km away from Ushuaia and the entrance was 420 ARS per adult. We started off with a serious of beautiful walks along the Bay of Lapataia. The flora was quite impressive with a blend of needle forest, swamps with sponge plants and mountain glaciers in the back. All of the walks are very family friendly and a restaurant helps to feed hungry jacks afterwards 🙂 In the afternoon we walked parts of the Senda Hito XXIV which leads along Lago Roca to the Chilean border. On the last bay (Isla Retondo with view on Beagle Street) we even spotted divers next to the “last post office of the world”.

The last day we spent hiking the forests of Ushuaia, around Hotel Las Hayes. The trail was not very well marked and as such we got a little bit lost and finished it on the other side of town. Fortunately. a local assessed our situation quite well and offered a ride to the center 🙂 That’s probably the good Karma we’ve earned by taking hitchhikers with us the other days 🙂 We completed the rainy afternoon with a visit of the Museo Maritimo y Museo del Presidio. The later one displays the story of the prison which stood grounds at the same place until 1947. The inmates had to build it themselves in 1902. There’s a lot of information in this museum such that the two hours we spent there were definitely not enough to grasp everything. However, most of it is dedicated to the maritime history of Tierro del Fuego, Cape Horn and Antarctica and can quickly become tiring 😉 Also we felt that the entry fee of 600 ARS per adult was a bit pricey.

We concluded the day with a great dinner of King Crab which is a local specialty:
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