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Mendoza and Cordoba, Argentina and Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile

The bus journey from Santiago to Mendoza was pretty straighforward; the border crossings in South America are so much more pleasant than those in Central! I had met a two English guys and a girl who were on my bus and all travelling together so I headed with them to a hostel we had been recommended by someone in Santiago. After checking in and dumping our bags we went out to investigate a night market that we had seen in the taxi on teh way from the bus station. Loads of crafts stalls had been set up throughout the central park selling jewellery, leather goods, artwork and handmade choccies so we wandered round this for a while admiring all the beautiful thigns on sale. However, being Argentina, nothing was too much of a bargain so we headed off to find some supper. It was past 11pm at this point but we foudn a great little Irish Bar still serving food and I had a yummy baked potato, something I have been craving for most of my travels!
The next day Johnny - one of the English guys - and I signed up to go on a wine tour which was lots of fun! We were taken to two serparate wineries (not sure if this is the right term, but it sounds about right) of different sizes and shown their techniques and machinery for pressing the grapes and also their extensive cellars. The first one especially, which was larger and a bit grander, was enchanting with its beautiful vaulted ceilings and soft lighting. It must be such a lovely and romantic job working there! We fo course sampled the wine as well, which I have to say I wasn't much of a fan of. Mendoza's most prominent wine is a Malbec which I simply didn't warm to. It was also served very cold which seemed a bit strange to me. The first winery though also let us try a sweet Sauvignon Blanc which was absolutely delicious - I think Dads would would have enjoyed it too so I will try and locate a bottle when I get home.
After we had visited those two we were then taken to an olive oil factory which was also fascinating, though sadly because it was a public holiday we weren't able to see any of the machinery in porcess as none of the workers were there. Nontheless we were able to try loads of different olive oils, including a yummy rosemary one, which they served us with crusty bread, baked aubergine and sun dried tomatoes. Honestly, the whole price of the tour would have been worth it if that's all we had done!
That evening the English group were heading off so we all got some cheapo take out food before they left for their bus and then I spent most of the evening reading my book in the common room.
I had booked an overnight bus to Cordoba for the next evening (16th) so that day I just spent a few hours walking around the town taking photos of the park and sitting outside cafes in the sun reading more of my book. As I was on the internet JOnny happened to come online so I had a lovely chat with him on Skype - the first time in three weeks so that was nice. The I finally managed to get hold of Lals too so we also had a lovely catch up.
My bus wasn't until 10pm so I bought some food at the supermarket and made myself supper in front of Friends before heading off for my overnighter.
The bus journey was fine and I arrived in Cordoba early the next morning. I had booked a bed in a small hostel in town that the guidebook said was nice so I caught a taxi there and checked in. As soon as I had walked through the door I bumped into a boy that I had kind of travelled with in Bolivia and who had been part of our group on the Salt Flat tours. It was about 7am and he had not yet gone to bed, but stayed up from his night out so he could have his complementary breakfast and then go to bed! Annoyingly the hostel had not been able to get my bed ready yet as the girls in my room were so messy they had not been able to really get into the room, and as it was early the staff were letting them sleep a bit before venturing in. They let me have private room for the meantime and so I crashed out for a few hours as I hadn't managed to sleep on the bus and was absolutely shattered.
After finally being let into my room - in the end they put me in a different dorm as it was nicer! - I headed into town, first going to the bus station to book my return trip to Santiago in time for my flight to Sydney. Unfortunately the main square was blocked off as they were doing renovations but it was still a bustling part of the city so I bought some fruit and sat on a bench for a while, people watching and reading my book. After wandering around admiring the architecture of the cathedral and other old buildings I headed back to the hostel as it was already early evening and I wanted to see what people were up to. The best thing about the hostel is that it's quite small and so the staff cook a big comunal supper everynight and push all the tables together so everyone eats with each other - very sociable. Strangely though, they don't serve the food until 10pm so I chilled with everyone in front of the Tv until it was ready and then had yummy roast lamb with laods of lovely veg. Soemtime after supper we all headed out to a bar/club and I had my first vodka redbull since Bristol so I felt slightly nostalgic!
We got back home at about 5am so I wasn't awake all that early the next morning! However my skydive was a 2pm so I was up and ready to, very, very excited! It was only me and two Israili girls doing it with me so we all jumped in the minivan and got driven to the airfield. When we arrived we were greeted by our instructor, camer man and pilot and with only about ten minutes instruction and time to sign a disclaimer, I found myself climbing into a white and neon pink jumpsuit and having a harness strapped onto me. The other two were very nervous, and as I was not, I went first. We walked out to the plane and shoehorned ourselves in - I do not exaggerate - my instructor and I were first in after the pilot and then the camera man just about managed to clamber in after us. Apparently the plane cannot actually alnd with that many people in side and would simply snap in half if we tried so really once your in, you have no choice but to jump!
The take off was very strange, being such a light aircraft I found it hard to tell when we had lifted off the ground and once airbourne it also felt very stange. I can't really describe the sensation bu to say that I was very aware that I was sitting right in the floor of the plane. It took about ten minutes to climb up to 10,000 feet and the views were fantastic; we could see all over the city, a huge green lake and beautiful mountains. When it was time to jump my instructor explained that there would be a huge rush of air when the doors were opened and it would make quite a large noise, so not to be alarmed. It's funny, and also very apparent on the DVD footage, I wasn't at all nervous or apprehensive all the way to the airfield or on teh climb in the plane, but when the doors open it changes everything! The camera man gets out first, but becuase he obviously has to wait for you so he can catch everything, he basically just hangs off the wing until you're ready! Then my instructor shuffled me forwards until he was sitting on the edge of the plane and I was literally hanging over the edge. My shoes nearly flew off with the air rush so I took then off and gave them to the pilot - apparently a first for them. Scared is not really the right word, I think shocked is more accurate. Hanging there over the edge, looking down and realising how high I was, took my breath away. Luckuly though, you're not given that long to contemplate it as the instructor pretty quickly launches you out of the plane to begin the freefall. Once we were plumetting through the air, I lost all sense of fear and shock again and adrenaline took hold. It was the most amazing feeling, but strangely it felt sort of natural to be flying through the air. Again, the sensation simply cannot be described. Suddenly the instuctor pulled the cord so we shot upwards - well of course you don't, it just feels like you do - and then began our slow descent. He lets you stand on his feet which is great and makes the whole thing very relaxing. That is until he loosens the straps. On the ground he told us that once the chute was up he would loosed everything so it's more comfortable, however falling several thousand feet through the air at an alarming rate put this out of my mind so when he did adjust everything, I just felt myself surging forward suddenly. That really was alarming and I grabbed onto him as best I could. He calmed me however and explined what he had just done and the rest of the descent passed without incident. The landing was pretty fun too; my instructor just shouted at me to raise my legs and he does all the hard work. When he releases you from the harness all the adrenaline that had been building up the whole experience, suddenly hit me and I started leaping around and jumping in the air yelling! My instructor adctually had to tell me to calm down as he says this always happens to people and it's when they are most likely to hurt themselves simply by tripping over or something stupid like that! I ran back to join the other girls who had been cheering me on when I was landing and then sat down to collect my thoughts!
The other two girls then had their turn; it was great to watch them and actually see from the ground what I had just done. When you see them jump from the plane the freefall somehow seems faster when you're watching from the ground.
It was dark when we retuned to the hostel and I was totoally warn out even though my whole skydive had only taken about half an hour. I had supper again in the hostel and had a fairly early night.
The next day Pati arrived from Buenos Aries in the afternoon. I was sitting in the yard when she arrived and though I couldn't see her I knew who it was, as I just recognised her voice. I ran out to greet her and she hadn't changed at all, still exactly as I remebered her. We gave each other a big hug and it was clear that we were going to fall back into our old friendship straight away. After dropping her bags off in our dorm we headed out into the city and had a wonder round before finding a lovely bistro with tables on the street in the sun. I had some food and we both had a big glass of cold white wine each and spent the next couple of hours nattering and catching up on many years of news. I had totally forgotten wuite how young we were when she actually attended Moreton - it was on Lower 4. She hda come back for a month when we were older and it was then that I went with her to Spain, but still along time had passed since we had last been properly in touch.
We spent the afternoon wandering round the city and then headed back to the hostel in the early evening with some more wine and sat in the yard with lots of others chatting until supper. As it was Friday night the hostel had a big barbeque with loads of delicious meat and so many sides of mash, roast potatoes, lentils, veg, salad and other stuff that we all ate way too much! However, everybody had that 'Friday feeling' so after some more drinks in the hostel we headed out to a club. It was one of the funnest nights of my trip so far and we spent hours dancing with a group of great English boyus from our hostel. It was past 6am when we got back so we both flopped into bed and fell fast asleep.
The next day I had an e-mail from one of the boys who had just left Cordoba for Santiago, the same route I was going to be taking later that day. He said that because of snow in the Andes the pass between Argentina and Chile was blocked and they had had to get a flight from Mendoza to Santiago (they, like me, were getting a flight out of Santiago so couldn't just hang around until the snow had cleared). I did some internet research and flights were about $400, not the goodbye present from South America I had been looking for! So my day didn't start on a great note. Pati came with me to the bus station where they couldn't give any more news until later on in the day so we wandered back and had some lunch before Pati had to take a taxi back to the airport to catch her flight to Buenos Aries. My bus wasn't until almost 11pm so I went back to the hostel to relax until I had to leave. The bus to Mendoza was fine, and when we arrived we were told that the onward buy to Santiago would be going ahead but it would be a few hours whilst more snow was cleared. This cheered me no end and I eventually made it to my hostel in Santiago in the early evening. They were serving Thai Green curry for supper so I signed up for that, and then after watching a Bourne film with the rest of the hostel I headed to bed. My flight the next day wasn't unti; 11pm so I used the day to see some of the city. When I had spoken to Lals in Mendoza she had mentioned a nice park called the Cerro Santa Lucia so I went to find that - she was right, it is very beautiful and rewards those who can be bothered to climb the steps up to the top with very good veiws over the city. Next to it was a huge market so I went to look around in case I saw anything good for last minute souvenirs.
The hostel offered a taxi service to the airport but it was much cheaper to take the bus so I headed out into the city with my backpack on for the last time in South America and found the bus stop and made my way to the airport.

permalink written by  veritykent on June 28, 2009 from Santiago, Chile
from the travel blog: Up, up and away
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