It is getting hot in town — summer in Mendoza reaches mid 40’s, and we’re thinking about how to escape the heat. Mendoza is surrounded by mountains, and there are lovely scenic areas outside the city. So we’re hoping for a short vacation from our vacation – a night at a country lodge.
One of our key requirements for the road trip was a place with some sort of water access. This is a desert area, so we know there aren’t any big lakes – we’re thinking swimming pool.
Friends had recommended a cabina in San Raphael, but that’s at least a four hour drive – seems like a lot for a short break. So off to the travel agent we go for alternate options. They are helpful—we know just the place, they say – the Potrerillos district (just about impossible for us to pronounce). About an hour and a half from Mendoza, deluxe cabins, swimming pool, overlooking the river, restaurants, river rafting, trekking, horseback riding, etc.
We see pictures; they nail down bus transfers, animated discussions with other agents about the various recreational options, and how to enter this vacation into the computer — 45 minutes pass sedately. One small detail, oops, when they finally call the resort, there are no vacancies. Back to the drawing board.
Next suggestion, a group of cabins close to the first, in El Salto. Again, the pictures are vetted. Yes they have a vacancy. Reservation made. OOPS. The bus that will take us there doesn’t leave Mendoza until 6:30 PM. Tom persists with our broken Spanish, we finally understand that the bus schedule changes each day – that if we go a day later then there is a morning bus.
Aside: We could hire a private driver to take us, but that would be cheating. There is some small triumph in being able to negotiate the local transport, it makes us feel less like tourists. We could also rent a car, but the local drivers are insane and traffic signals are optional. Tom won’t even discuss driving here.
I am probably as relaxed as I can be, but we have been sitting in front of this travel agent for 90 minutes, and there is no end in sight. It seems to be an unreasonable amount of time to spend arranging a two day trip. I can’t take it anymore – I leave to pick up some groceries, leaving patient Tom to arrange the return trip
Tom concludes the arrangements. We can ask the bus driver to drop us off at the door of the lodge, and wave him down the next day as he passes – door to door service. The return bus passes the hotel at 10:40 AM. No, the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, but there is a good one across the road. With a little help from the office computer expert, the reservations are entered, and the vouchers for the hotel and buses are printed. About 3 hours hard slogging.
And so on the appointed day, we go to the bus terminal and catch the appointed bus at the appointed time. An hour and a half later, the driver drops us off at the roadside entrance to our resort.
The hotel staff were a little surprised to see us, since they had no record of this reservation. But luckily they have an empty cabina that is cleaned and available. It is lovely.
The views are spectacular. The lodge is nestled in a small valley, with mountains in every direction.
There is a fully equipped sparkling kitchen. Not a kitchenette – a full kitchen, with a barbeque for cooking a traditional parilla behind the cabina.
And they have a lovely swimming pool. Unfortunately, it is empty (we never thought to ask).
There is neither a coffee shop nor a tuck shop, and you guessed it, we did not pack a picnic basket. We figure we can live on love (and 2 apples and 2 oranges) for 24 hours, but we are close to a number of tiny towns, and it’s logical that there will be mini-markets where we can pick up some cheese and crackers.
And so we venture out. The cloudless sky is a perfect blue. We head uphill following the road in the direction of our fleeing bus. We find the horse rentals, summer camps, other hotels, and a restaurant about a kilometre and a half up the road, but no mini-market. There is a lovely restaurant, closed for the afternoon – we note it as a dinner option. We are in the middle of nowhere.
We double back and retrace the bus route the other way. We remember seeing small kiosks along the road, but some distance back. We are saved a ten km. march when the only other residents of the resort drive by, in search of similar provisions, and give us a lift.
We add some yogurt and cheese to our larder and feel much more comfortable about the state of the world. (The other couple loaded up with a mountain of barbecue meat, beer, and junk food – they may have been settling in for a seige).
When we return, we hike along the river hoping it will substitute for the sorry state of the pool. We take off our shoes and walk across it – while it is not higher than our knees, it betrays its mountain origins. This water was snow earlier in the day, and is FREEZING COLD.
Michelle the Brave (but not yet adle-brained) will not be swimming in this river.
But it’s warm, the air is fresh, the birds are chirping. And so we yield to the country. We return to the cabina and nap. We gaze at the views, and inspect our empty swimming pool. We snack on our patio and read contentedly. We nap again.
The day draws to a close, and the view from our porch turns to pink and gold.
When dinner time occurs to us (around 8:30 PM), we walk the 300 meters across the road and up a dirt path to the restaurant. It’s still closed – the chairs are still up on the tables – but we talk to the owner and he is delighted to take our order and deliver to the cabina in an hour or so when he opens. We’re happy we don’t have to make our way back by starlight. We have a romantic dinner on the porch.
We decide to stay a second night. WHAT?? you say. Well, it’s like this, we discover that the bus that will is supposed to take us back doesn’t actually pass by the resort the next day (the day we have a ticket for). It passes by a town about 3 km. from us, and we can hike there if we care to.
Or we can stay. The pool is being filled overnight. And what is our hurry?
And so we yield to the the laws of physics. We are bodies at rest, staying deeply and firmly at rest. Another two-nap day, with our only exercise being a walk out to buy more cheese and crackers (this time, directly to the nearest mini-mart).
We stroll to the restaurant up the hill for lunch. We are the only customers. Guard-dogs slept contentedly under our chairs. The clouds chase each other across the sky.
We go for a refreshing swim in the now filled pool. EEKS. It is the same temperature as the river, our lips are blue after a few minutes, but we are hearty Canadians. Poolside is warm and sunny, and we are happy.
And exactly 24 hours later than we planned, we pick up our bus back to town. A perfect mini vacation.