This week, a few volunteers took a step back away from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires to breathe in some country air and explore western Argentina. Mendoza is best known around the world for its Malbec and its CabSav (Cabernet Sauvignon). However, its vineyards are far more than just a series of production plants - they are a thing of beauty. To the human eye, their vines crawl all the way back into the rolling hills of the Andes that provide the backdrop to the open plains.
We arrived at our hostel late at night, having chosen the two hour flight over the 14 hour bus ride (yeah, I know, cop out). We were somewhat surprised when we were met with a group of backpackers not partying the night away, but rather sat comfortably in front of a movie. Huh, we thought. By the end of the following day though, we could sympathise. Mendoza and its surroundings are undeniably at their best during the day whilst the sun is shining and the green grass gleaming. We took the plunge, resolving that we would get a better feel for the countryside on a bicycle rather than from the inside of a tour bus. Despite a lack of cycling experience, I stand by my decision. The bike rental shop gave us a little map of nearby bodegas and dutifully sent us on our way. To cycle down an empty road, vineyards either side and the Andes filling the sky, is something I will never forget. It’s as if you have just stepped onto the set of a classic Argentine movie, only the camera crew has been replaced by a pack of lamas and there's nobody to cry “Cut!”.
These past six weeks, Buenos Aires has found a place in my heart for its vibrancy, its diversity – notably in terms of restaurants – and its openness. I never would have anticipated feeling so at home in such a large and unfamiliar metropolis. That said, Mendoza was, literally, a breath of fresh air; perhaps the most striking difference between the two, as we stepped off the plane we were hit by a cold but refreshing wind that, in Buenos Aires, is intensified by the Rio de la Plata. In a similar vein, the roads of Mendoza are less dense as they glide around trees and bushes and quaint little houses, free from the angst of any large city. However, after a few days away the VG house’s colourful walls were a welcoming sight. And it's back to the reality of the porteño lifestyle. ¡Que pena!