The bus from Valparaiso to Mendoza took exactly 8 hours. Although the view from my seat wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be, the drive across the Andes was spectacular. The formula was simple: gray rock, gray sky, white snow, and a lonely road snaking between imposing mountains. At 22,841 ft, nearby Aconcagua is the tallest mountain outside of Asia, and it’s got plenty of company. The road itself is also impressive. During one stretch near the Argentine border, the bus navigated 27 switchbacks in just over five miles.
After several hours the mountains turned to foothills, and rocks to vineyards. Mendoza, the heart of Argentina's wine region, is a verdant city with a beautiful, mountainous backdrop (see above). But my time there wasn't as relaxed as a week in wine country should be. I met some great people, some hilarious people, and some obnoxious people. I spent a day biking between vineyards and tasting wine, and a couple days exploring the city and its surroundings. But I also spent a lot of time suffering the consequences of not pre-planning a busy Easter holiday (a four day weekend for Argentineans!). Every hostel was booked, every car was reserved, every bus was full, and every store was closed. The National Parks I wanted to explore nearby felt JUST out of reach. I spent 5 nights in 4 hostels, and two of them were terrible.
On the flipside, I enjoyed spending much of the weekend with a group of vacationing Argentinians, and it was nice to see a city in vacation mode. I went to an actual discotheque (ew. that word.). I also learned that beef is such a pervasive part of Argentine culture that it is (borderline?) acceptable to compliment someone’s figure by saying “¡Que lomo!” (What a Tenderloin!).