Sunday, 28 February 2010

Pope Pius XI glacier

After Puerto Eden, we took the only real detour of the trip, sailing to the Pope Pius XI glacier.

The scenery as we sailed towards the glacier, was very dramatic, with other glacial tongues visible in the mountains around, seals or sea lions playing in the water, and of course icebergs floating away from the wall of ice we were approaching.

Ewelina and I stood up front, staring at the ice. At one point a section collapsed, falling to the water in a white cloud. Moments later, we could hear the distant boom. The ferry kept getting closer and closer, and I began to joke that perhaps the captain had fallen asleep and we would ram it. But we didn't.

A dinghy left the ferry, zooming ahead to gather chunks of glacial ice for the bar. We took lots of pictures.

That evening, the crew organized a game of bingo (which included dancing, a first for me), which turned out to be great fun. I didn't get to play for very long though, as I was the first winner! A single diagonal line earned me a Navimag cap and the "chance" to dance for everyone. Yay? At least I avoided the fate of later winners whose soundtrack was YMCA by the Villiage People...

The party afterwards turned out to be not entirely lame, we had some drinks and mingled, ending up at an Irish-organized after-party where I passed around the last of the Opal I had carried all this way and the Musical Backpack got to compete with tuneless singing for people's attention.

It lost, obviously. Poor thing.

Puerto Eden

Puerto Eden was the first of two touristic stops on our third day on the Navimag.

We had woken up that morning early enough to have breakfast and enjoy the scenery. We were back in the channels again, after spending the night crossing the open sea - it wasn't a rough crossing, so we had slept well.

Lunch was served early, accompanied by announcements that it would end sooner as result, and would people please remember to take their dishes and trays back to the kitchen... Shortly thereafter we arrived in Puerto Eden.

There is no place in the tiny Puerto Eden for a ship the size of ours, the Evangelistas, to actually dock. But as soon as we got close about half a dozen little yellow and red open wood motorboats converged on the ship and clustered around the stern. These we then boarded, one at a time, and were ferried to land.

We were admonished that we had "one hour, or one week" to check the place out, and then we were turned loose. I doubt they actually would have left us behind, but we didn't want to find out, so we kept up a brisk pace as we explored, even running at times along the wooden boardwalks that criss-crossed the little natural park behind the village, stopping only to point our camera at things or admire gigantic bumble-bees. Lots of fun!

The village was much more interesting than the park, so our pace slowed when we reentered civilization, such as it was. Also, we didn't want to crash into any fellow tourists, of which there seemed far too many for this tiny place.

The beaches around town were littered with resting or retired fishing vessels, quite cleverly named. We saw a beached Titanic and a decrepit Rambo, but Captain Christ seemed in good shape. We saw fishing nets and workshops, a church, old houses and new... it was a pretty little place.

We saw signs of Internet access at the local library, and there was a call shop as well - but everything was closed. I think we had arrived during siesta.

Some passengers spent their time in the local police office, presumably seeking information about the quake. We decided not to worry about getting word home, assuming our families, who knew our itinerary, wouldn't be too worried and could wait until the next day to hear from us...

In hindsight, that may have been a miscalculation, but the quake didn't seem very real to us at the time.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Through the sunny channels

We missed our first breakfast onboard, not waking up until I heard a muffled voice over the intercom, announcing that breakfast service ended at nine, and would people please remember to return their dishes and trays to the kitchen staff.

We woke up alone, as I had "solved" our little shared cabin disappointment the night before by asking the staff politely if we could move to one of the many empty rooms. At first they were hesitant, first asking the jefe, and then the capitan, but it is one of the triumphs of my poor Spanish skills that I managed to not only make myself understood, but convince them too. They just laughed when I, at one point, asked if a small tip might help. When I tried afterwards to tip the jefe anyway, he laughed again, refusing. I guess the money goes in the envelope on the last day, then.

We were very happy to have our own room.

As we sleepily looked out our little window, we could see land a mere stones throw away. After getting up, we discovered a similar view on the other side: we had entered the channels.

The weather was perfect, sunny and warm, so we spent most of the day on deck, taking some pictures and watching the land drift by. Well, actually Ewelina spent most of the day, I got bored of constant beauty and went to write code on my laptop... some of the time anyway.

The channels were very narrow at some points, bringing land close enough on either side for us to make out some details in the dense forest. The area looks wild, uninhabited - the only signs we saw of humans were other boats and a salmon farm with a crazy house built on the water instead of on a nearby island. Perhaps the land is protected?

That afternoon a meeting was called in the ship's pub: a major earthquake had occured in Chile, about 90 km off the coast from Concepcion: they said it was about 9 on the Richter-scale, at the epicenter. It hit the most densely popolated part of Chile the hardest, including Santiago. Some lives were lost, lots of property damaged, Australia and Japan were expecting a tsunami and apparently Castro, where we were less than a week ago, was evacuated for the same reason. Nothing like Haiti, from the sounds of it, but a big deal all the same.

(The nerd in me was, somewhat perversely, fascinated to see that the news printout posted in the mess-hall quoted Twitter users as a news source in a multiple places.)

It was weird to think how in the last couple of months we have been trailed by disaster while we blithely enjoy our sunny, incident-free holiday. Mud-slides in Machu Picchu last month, a tourist died of fumes climbing some nearby volcano (I thought it was the same one, but Ewelina just corrected me) only days after our aborted climb and now this... We decided to, if possible, send word home from Puerto Eden to reassure people we are fine and happy as usual.

Dinner on our second night was, as predicted by our guide-book, spaghetti bolognaise. Tasty! That evening and during the night is when we ventured out into the open Pacific and had some actual waves: for this only part of the journey where sea-sickness was a possibility, they fed us food that looks the same coming up as it did going down. Ha ha!

Neither of us got sea-sick, but we did have a nice nap before going back outside to gaze at the stars and have the deck all to ourselves for a bit. We both liked the waves and the gentle rocking of the boat, at last it felt like we were at sea.

We were glad we were in the channels when the tsunami (if there was one) passed by though, we don't know what those look like at sea and would rather read about it on Wikipedia than experience one first-hand.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Leaving Puerto Montt

Our first day on the Navimag ferry was mostly spent on land, in Puerto Montt.

Much to Ewelina's surprise, I woke up early, too excited to sleep. We showered, put our laptops in the window to check the internets, had some breakfast and packed our stuff. We were checked out and on a bus to Puerto Montt before 9am.

Busses here in Chile are wonderfully South American - probably one of the things we will miss back in Europe. Most are privately owned and run (or at least look that way), so the service is excellent. They stop anywhere to pick you up: just wave or nod when the driver honks at you. You pay whenever you like, when you get on, as you get off, or at any time in between. And you can leave where-ever you like too, once you have mustered the courage and Spanish to just ask.

Ewelina cleverly asked our driver to let us off at the corner nearest the Navimag offices, saving us at least half an hour of walking with our backpacks full of red wine. We got there around 10. We checked in and left our big packs with some porters - and then we were free until 14.30 that afternoon.

So we wandered around downtown Puerto Montt, had lunch and wifi and browsed some used-clothes shops. We still failed to find the main square, but we did find some beer to take with us on the boat.

After a brief intro at the Navimag offices, we boarded our ferry around 3pm. We found our cabin, disappointed to find we were sharing the tiny little room with another couple. When we bought our tickets, we had been told that the boat was only half-full, so we had foolishly gotten our hopes up that we would have some privacy...

Ah well. We explored the boat, ending up on deck with most of the other passengers, enjoying the beautiful weather and waiting for our voyage to begin.

Around half past four, it did!

As we slowly left the harbour, the big boat tooted its deep horn a few times, to the delight of three boys jumping and splashing and waving in the surf.

We waved back.

The Navimag route

Here is a nice map I stole online, of the Navimag itinerary:

We leave tomorrow - we are supposed to be on-board by noon, and should leave Puerto Montt sometime around 4pm. After that... well, that's what the map is for!

We'll be back online in a few days, see you then! :-)

Monday, 22 February 2010

Puerto Varas

To Navimag, or not to Navimag?

That was the question that kept us awake at night while we were in Castro. The Navimag ferry is ridiculously overpriced and the reviews it gets online are mixed to say the least. But sailing to the Southern tip of Patagonia, past glaciers and between islands... looking at satellite photos of the region (on Google Maps) sealed the deal for me. We have to go, and the budget will just have to recover later.

On the way from Castro to Puerto Varas we stopped in Puerto Montt and bought our tickets. We're going on a boat!

So, with Navimag always on my mind, I hadn't really given Puerto Varas much thought. For me it was a place to hang out while we waited for our boat to leave, maybe we could go rafting or something, maybe catch up on our digital blogging and photo-publishing chores.

And we have done that; this post brings our blog fully up to date, and all our best photos are online. Rafting turned out to bee too expensive for a too-tame and too-short experience, but to my surprise, Puerto Varas and surroundings have been lots of fun.

The town itself is cute, our B&B (Hospedaje Ellenhaus) is cheap, central and really cosy. We've had excellent food served by a cheerfully weird waitress, made friends with local canines, and gone on day trips by bus to nearby towns; Puerto Montt and Frutillas.

Puerto Montt was the typical mix of charming and ugly you expect from a busy port; the Angelmó harbour is gorgeous and full of markets and crafts and smiling holidaymakers, the downtown area sports the ugliest mall I have seen and a central square we either couldn't find or was so insignificant we didn't notice it. Just outside the center are cosy little residential areas with pretty houses. It was fun to walk around, but we were both glad we stayed in Puerto Varas instead.

Frutillas for us was just two streets and a pretty beach, pretty guesthouses and happy tourists; we skipped the commercial part of Frutillas, 2km up the hill. We had a picnic on the beach, taking in the view of the lake and the amazing volcano Osorno, sitting under a tree to avoid the blazing sun. Then we visited the fascinating Museo Histórico Colonial Alemán, learned all about German colonization of the region and discovered that Ewelina's goal in life is to live in a German colonial mansion.

Back in Puerto Varas, we have fetched our clean laundry, had an amazing veggieburger at the cute Hollyfood across the street, published our lives to the Internet and now are pondering what sort of food and drinks to take with us on the boat tomorrow. Life is good.

We're going on a boat!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Like home... almost

A bus drives kilometer after kilometer towards Castro: a journey that should last some eight hours, including a short ferry passage. Castro is on the island of Chiloé, the largest in an archipelago of the same name: there's no other way to reach the place, than to park your vehicle on a ferry and patiently wait for it to finish the crossing. But I don't know that yet: my bus still has its wheels on the road, slowly distancing itself from Valdivia and the surrounding lakes. In the busses belly I sit, sounds of my favorite band filling my headphone-plugged ears. Next to me, Bjarni listens to his own music, pounding something into the keyboard of his tiny laptop. Outside the window, the sun tries to penetrate dense layers of rain-filled clouds, that only occasionally part to reveal a speck of pale blue sky. The monotonous landscape makes a welcome change from what we have seen so far, reminding me of home. Green everywhere, trees covering huge stretches of land, the smell of damp earth entering the bus, dandelions glittering on meadows, wild fowl flying low over marshlands, kayaks gliding over lakes, bales of hay on fields here and there, although on most it is still not the right time for haymaking. Bjarni is reminded of home by local houses: wooden, with sloping tin roofs, corroded by rust.

It is here that I realised for the first time how much Bjarni misses Iceland: as we step back on dry land, after a short ride on a small cutter-cum-ferry, far from Valdivia, Corral seems to be a place transported in its entirety from the other hemisphere. The very same buildings, the same boats, the same wind, the same grey clouds overhead, cold air, the same smell of the ocean. The feeling of returning home is misleading though: we are soon reminded that we're in Chile, we're reminded by local plants, by hills covered densly with tall, strange trees and the remains of a fort, a hangout of locals dressed like pirates. Corral is a part of a XVII-century Spanish fortification system, as are Niebla and Isla Mancera. The latter, Isla Mancera, can be circled on foot in only forty minutes: we take bit little longer as our time is consumed by a detour to the beach. We have to turn back after a few minutes of exploring though, the stones are too slippery, the wind too strong and neither of us wants to end up in the foamy, cold waves that batter the shore harder and harder and harder. Also, we don't know the local tides, and a dense, high wall of thorny bushes wouldn't let us - if necessary - escape the shore. The boom of the wind is muted as, separated from the water by those bushes and tall trees, we head back to the ferry. Sea gulls and some birds of prey circle overhead. A rain is brewing.

In Valdivia, it rained almost constantly: it rains when we fall asleep, when we wake up, when we eat breakfast, when we make our dinner. And yet, the rains somehow always relent when we leave the house. Valdivia seems to like us, and we like her back. Three rivers cross in this place, the ocean is just around the corner, a submarine rests in the port, sea lions swimming around it. We spent a lot of time in the local market's concrete shell: we eat fried hakes and salmon, washed down with beer, in a restaurant upstairs. We buy a sweater and a hat for Bjarni, we look for something interesting for me. We go seeking more beer in a famous German brewery a few kilometers away, but as our Lonely Planet gives us misleading information, we wander aimlessly around the suburbs before we finally find the right road, walk for an hour and reach the Kunstmann brew-pub. The beer is good, but the staff can't count and, while pouring someone a meter of beer, poor at least 50 cm all over me. We complain over the bill, gaining a 10% discount, but even after this rebate, our bill is too high. I point out things we didn't even order and one of the staff apologises and takes the bill away. After a while yet another person brings the exact same bill back again, but without the discount. We complain some more - and get yet another bill, with the highest number we've seen so far. As we have had enough of this, having fought about the bill for over half an hour, we write ourselves a proper bill, give ourselves a 10% discount, leave the right amount and walk away. We cannot believe how complicated adding up a few simple numbers turned out be... back in Valdivia I laugh at Bjarni, remembering his face, so full of frustration and disbelief when we got the third, highest bill.

After a few days in Valdivia it was finally time to leave. Now, on the bus to Castro, we wait for it to take its place on the ferry...


It is festival time in Castro, so when Bjarni walks around looking for a place to stay, everyone just shakes their heads or asks for too much money. One nice old lady - as she closes the door behind him - whispers sadly: "poor gringito". The words somehow reach Bjarni's ears and his calm search becomes more paniced: we end up in a room we would probably never choose otherwise. The room itself is not that bad: it is in the centre so we're close to everything; it has wifi; it is cheap and quite spacious. It has its downsides though: it is in the centre so it smells of car exhaust and the ecstatic singing from the local church penetrates our windows late at night; it is incredibly cold (especially in the mornings, we shiver); in the next room, the owners run an internet cafe, so more than once, wearing only my pyjamas, I have to sneak past men in jackets to reach the bathroom. The bathroom is another story: apparently used not only by the owners who share their house with us, but also by the guests of the cafe and the people staying in the other rooms, is eternally occupied. When I finally fight my way there, there is no hot water. The mirror constantly murky, the washing machine either covered with dust or with drying dishes, in a dirty clothes' basket in the corner something smells bad, paint peels from the bathtub, the shower barely works and the floor sticks to my bare feet.

Somehow, it all has a charm of its own, I think later, as I enjoy delicious grilled meat and sip cheap red wine at the festival. It was supposed to be Argentina that delighted me with its food, yet instead in Chile I finally learn what a good steak is. A few hours earlier I was admiring riders at the rodeo, and even went on stage myself, which I am now incredibly proud of. A bottle of Licor de Oro, a local specialty, sits in our backpack: we hope to carry at least some of it all the way home. The festival causes a small hangover the next day, but the sun shines so brightly that we go sightseeing the archipelago and its wooden churches anyway. We travel to Dalcahue, from where another bus and another ferry take us to Curaco de Vélez and Achao, tiny towns located on Isla Quinchao. The day is amazing, the weather cooperates, we eat ice-cream, fried fish, fries, we drink white wine and watch horses being tamed on the beach.

I feel at home.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Pucon is a lovely little town, all wood houses and lush gardens, resting on the black banks of a lake, with the stunning Villarica volcano dominating the background with its constantly smoking cone and glacier.

We arrived early in the morning, before the town had properly woken up. We sat for a bit, drinking instant coffee and eating microwaved cheese sandwiches from a small shop, while we waited for the town to wake up enough for me to go looking for accomodation.

By noon, I had explored what felt like the entire town, and had found some options - not as expensive as we had feared, but not as cheap as we'd hoped. We ended up at Hospedaje Gonzales, spending half our daily budget on half a cabin in the back, with no keys to the front gate and no hot water to bathe without asking permission first. It was cosy enough, but the restrictions, and the price, grated.

The first day was spent napping and wandering around. We found a tour operator and booked an expensive hike up the volcano, for day two.

The hike started with a gathering in the Aguaventura office at 6.30 am, putting on mountain boots and packing our backpacks. Half the group piled into a big white van, towing our packs in a trailer behind. The other half milled about a bit, until three taxis showed up. Apparently the driver of the other van had had a bit too much to drink the night before...

Our ascent up the mountain started at the ski resort on its slopes, riding a chairlift up to 1800m. Then we put on some protective clothing, listened to poorly presented instructions on how to use our ice-picks (I repeated and demonstrated the main points to Ewelina afterwards), and began to climb.

It was a pretty slow, easy hike. Due to the van/taxi snafu, our group was one of the last, so there were about a hundred tourists ahead of us, helpfully compacting a path through the snow - and sending the occaisional stone rolling our way. There were quite a few stops on the way, so many in fact that I was a bit impatient at the slow pace, I was barely working hard enough to stay warm. But the view was amazing, so there was no risk of boredom. As we climbed higher, we began to smell hints of sulfer, and the guides began to prepare us for disappointment, as apparently the direction of the wind meant fumes and gasses might prevent us from reaching the top.

Sure enough, at 2440m we stopped and sat on a pile of black rocks for almost an hour before our guide announced that we would have to turn back, the fumes above were too bad to continue and the weather wasn't changing. We reluctantly swallowed our disappointment, and a big lump of jealousy as well: many of the less cautious groups ahead of us had forged onward and we could see people approaching the peak. Without knowing more about the risks, we couldn't decide whether to be disappointed or relieved to be turning back.

The trip down was much faster, lots of fun. We had put on all our protective clothing, including a thick ass-protector. Then we sat on bum-shaped pieces of plastic and careened down the slopes, using our ice-picks as breaks. Whee!

Overall, it was a great experience, which we totally enjoyed. We would have been happier if we had reached the top - the mountain seemed to be mocking us for the rest of our stay in Pucon - but we were glad we went. Ewelina wants to do more mountaineering in the near future...

The next day we slept in, eventually getting up to go buy bus tickets onward for the day after and book a tour to nearby thermal baths for the evening. After that we had a cheap but satisfying lunch at one of the places on our street and changed into our bathing clothes before heading to the beach.

The weather had changed though, and it wasn't really sunny enough for sitting by the water. We rented a bicycle-boat and paddled around the lake for half an hour, but that was it.

The high point of our day came that evening, as we piled into a van with four young Chileans on vacation, heading for the Los Pozones baths.

The baths were wonderful. We tried six different primitive pools made of rough stone, full of naturally warm water. The baths were next to a boisterous river and surrounded by forest. The sky was clear, and by the time we arrived it was already dark, as it got darker still our view of the stars became really quite amazing.

The first thing I noticed about the sky, was that Orion was upside-down - we are finally far enough South for the change to be very noticable. The we saw satellites zipping around, and finally the Milky Way and more stars than we could count. It was just perfect.

The two hours passed quickly, we ran out of beer and reluctantly had to leave the water and ride back to town. Ewelina, who hadn't wanted to leave only moments earlier, fell asleep almost instantly and slept all the way back with her head in my lap. That was nice too.

The next morning we packed up our things and got on a bus to Valdivia.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


We stayed in Santiago for three nights, getting on a night-bus to Pucon on the fourth.

Not much noteworthy happened in Santiago, we mainly wandered around the city. It was a bit of a let-down after Valparaiso, too big, too expensive, too busy and nowhere near as charming. I suspect we might have appreciated the place more if we had come here first. The bohemian Bellavista neighborhood in particular had lots of potential - pretty tree lined streets, many bars and cafes and lots of elaborate, pretty graffiti. But we just weren't in the mood.

We probably saw the president at one point, judging by the barricades, media and cheering crowds, but we did not recognize him.

The most dramatic events were unrelated to the city, and all occurred on the last day: my laptop misbehaved badly, my tenants announced that they would like to move out as soon as possible and I had a bit of a migraine.

Ah well.

Friday, 5 February 2010


Valparaiso was Ewelina's turn to find a hotel, so I just sat at a bar with a beer and a laptop after a short taxi-ride from the bus terminal to a nicer neighborhood.

She found us a place very quickly, almost too quickly... I suspected she might have just chosen the first place that had room, because she didn't feel like walking. She doesn't really like looking for accomodation.

But it turned out to be a very nice place: La Bicicleta, a B&B run by a funny frenchman, his little boy and (we presume) his wife. We had a comfy, spacious room to ourselves and breakfast every morning out in their sunny front yard. Usually the boy was out playing as we ate - as far as we could tell, water balloons were his favorite thing in the whole world, with his dad coming in at a close second. It was all very charming.

And that was how we felt about the rest of Valparaiso too: charmed. It is a city of crazy hills, a beach with amazing waves, a harbour full of navy vessels and houses built in funny shapes or covered with colorful graffiti. We had lots of fun just walking around with our camera, as we always do, but we also enjoyed a random marionette museum, a clown show later at the same venue and a day of just sitting on the beach watching the waves and reading.

One of the main attractions of Valparaiso is the ascensores, 100-plus year old elevators that shake and rattle as they carry you up or down the steep cliffs that surround the city center. We rode a few, one of which - the city's oldest - was well over a century old and originally powered by a steam engine. Great fun, and like everything else here, really charming.

We liked Valparaiso a lot.

The only negative thing about our stay here, was me freaking out a bit about money. The prices in Argentina and now Chile, combined with our habits from further North, meant we were at this point constantly over the budget set by our almighty Spreadsheet. This meant we both had no money to spare for tours or activities, and would probably also run out of cash before getting back to "the real world". Eeek!

We talked about it, and decided to revise our expectations a bit. Restaurants (except for lunch specials) could no longer be an everyday thing, private bathrooms and wifi were now a luxury, not a goal. We decided to start carrying less cash, so daily goals would feel more like actual limits.

... and so I stopped freaking out, and we got back to enjoying our trip.


As this is written, a couple of weeks later, I can spare you the suspense and report that we are back on budget and perfectly happy.

It turns out the standard of living in Chile is so much higher than it was further North, that these changes aren't really much of a sacrifice. Budget accomodation here is much, much nicer than the "bargains" we had learned to avoid elsewhere. And the same can be said of the food and drink. Finally, to our surprise, Chile actually feels a bit cheaper than Argentina did.

This is probably good practice for real life too - we know we won't be able to go out to eat every single day when we get back home...

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Where the wine flows

Mendoza comes to life only twice a day: in the morning, when everybody rushes to work, and in the evening, when everybody rushes out to meet their friends. Dusk is just falling behind the window. Lights combine: the headlights of passing cars, restaurants' neon signs, street lanterns. The wide streets are lined with tall trees, whose crowns obscure buildings' windows. Mere metres away is the biggest square I have ever seen in a city centre: it is not a mere square, it is more like a small park. In 1861, a great earthquake destroyed Mendoza completely: the town had to be rebuilt from scratch. Mindful of the recent disaster, it was decided to implement some innovations that - if necessary - would make it possible to survive another quake. That's the reason for the wide streets and the huge central square, it will serve as an evacuation point when the worst happens. For now though, in the evenings, local craftsmen display their goods here. Everything is for sale: jewelry, kaleidoscopes, leather bags and wallets, wooden bowls for dips, colourful masks, sweets, dolls, jams. Enthusiastic kids run from stall to stall, peer into the fountains, play hide-and-seek between the trees. The main square is surrounded by four smaller ones, each a few blocks away. Fountains, canals, continuously watered lawns, trees - ubiquitous presence of water and green makes one forget that Mendoza is built in a desert. Thanks to the constant irrigation, life in the city is very pleasant - one doesn't feel the heat that burns the surrounding land.

We're sitting in one of many local restobars: the places where nice, relaxing music flows from the speakers, food is never consumed without wine and wifi is free for all. We're resting after a day spent in Maipu, a small town a couple of kilometers away from Mendoza itself. We're resting after a day spent conquering a few kilometers of asphalt road in unbearable sunshine, on shoddy bicycles, with occasional breaks for wine, olives and even more wine. It's amazing how much better it tastes after learning the secrets of its production.

Until now, wine for me was just wine: cheap or expensive, but lacking any important meaning, really. I could even be called a wine blasphemer. Even though, having watched so many movies, in my heart I've dreamt of having my own vineyard (somewhere in the hills of France, in a small town where everyone knows each other, with a big old house...), somehow I've never even had the will to at least read some Wikipedia pages about wine. Today I have a splitting headache from an overload of interesting information. I now know how rose wine comes to be. I know that every kind of grape requires slightly different irrigation. I know the difference between young wine, reserva, gran reserva and premium. I know what the tools used in production of the beverage look like. I know that a barrel should be turned into furniture after its third use. I know that corks are brought to Mendoza from Portugal. I know one mustn't drink Malbec in France and that this kind of wine tastes the best in Argentina. Gorging myself with olives produced in a neighbouring factory, and hoping to prove to Bjarni how much I know already, I joke that in 2004 they surely had a sensational harvest here, the best one in years. The laugh gets caught in my throat at the Di Tomasi vineyard, where our female guide shows us shelves stocked with their most expensive wine. Only four thousands bottles were made and they were personally numbered by the owner of the wineyard and are sold only here, in this place. As the grapes were from the best possible harvest, it was decided to limit their sale to at most a thousand bottles per year - the rest collect dust on the shelves, which only adds to their charm. The year of that harvest? 2004... We buy a bottle, planning to drink the contents on a special occasion, and return to the city. We stop on the way, glancing at Aconcagua, the highest peak of the Andes. The mountain delights and intimidates at the same time - one can feel its power from afar. We return our rented bikes and catch a bus going in our direction. A few minutes later we reach our place and now, here we are, resting in the restobar.

I'm sitting with my legs extended in front of me, listening to jazz and thinking about our day. Though so far Argentina fails to charm me, this, one of the most incredible views of our trip, made it worth coming: vineyards stretching towards the horizon, towards the snow-capped peak of the amazing Aconcagua.

The past!