19.12.2011 - 20.03.2012 32 °C
We left Lago Mocheque a little late after enjoying lunch at the mirador overlooking the lake and soaking up a few rays. The road towards San Rafael was gravel for the first few hours which gave me the chance to hone my four-wheel-drift skills in the mighty Clio 1.2. We passed through some amazing lunar valleys and across wide plains - it truly is a beautiful country.
However, the late start meant that by nightfall we had only reached a small town called Malargue, so we ditched the tent and booked into a backpacker hostel, which was positively plush in comparison to the 3-man dome.
Rising early and refreshed after a hot shower, we hit the road, eager to reach Canyon Atuel with the possibility of white-water rafting. Half an hour later we realised we had left all of our food supplies in the hostel fridge, so by the time we re-commenced our journey we were no longer early. Still, we reached the head of the Canyon, marked by a large damn, in good time and set off down the dirt single-track road which winds through the gorge alongside the river. Along the descent through the canyon we passed three or four hydroelectric power stations, all of which seemed un-manned and could have featured in a James Bond film. Towards the end of the Canyon we reached this cool blue lake.
Now, as you probably know, the damn and power stations up-river all regulate the flow of water which, coupled with the severe lack of rainfall, meant that the river was very low and not at all fast-flowing. This meant that the 'white-water' rafting looked really lame - it would have been more exciting wearing arm-bands in a jacuzzi - Lel was totally up for it. Sadly I wasn't so we pressed on to start our wine tasting extravaganza in San Rafael, the region south of Mendoza.
We chanced upon a small family run Bodega (wine cellar) called Jean Rivier. After a private tour in Spanish (yes at this stage we are able to actually understand Spanish) we got stuck into a healthy tasting session. We tried some new varieties - white Tocai and amazing rose Malbec and swiftly bought a mixed crate for next to nothing. Leaving town on our way to Mendoza we managed to catch the last tasting at Don Bianchi which specialises in sparkling wine. Entering the Italian neo-classical monstrosity, we caught a glimpse of the big Don himself - scoffing his dinner and knocking back a glass or two. Lucky he had a bib on to catch the debris. It was a nice tour but by this point we just wanted to sample the goods. One taster was sufficient to warrant the purchase of another box before we hit the road to Mendoza, the capital of Argentine wine.