We rose very early this morning and headed to the domestic airport in Buenos Aires - not far from our hotel. Our plane was scheduled to leave for Mendoza at 8:50AM, but was delayed for 2 hours. We were told a crew member was ill and had to be replaced. The waiting passengers (including a soccer team) cheered as we headed to the gate.
It was about one in the afternoon when we reached our lovely country villa located on the outskirts of center of Mendoza. Our room has a large balcony with a view of the pool and the hotel had a quick lunch ready for us since we had missed the best part of the morning for our orientation walk. We quickly changed from our traveling clothes to walking attire and boarded the mini-bus for a half hour ride to a local woodworker's studio. We toured the studio and grounds of his establishment, marveling at the unconventional designs of chairs and the use of old barn doors for elegant wall decorations. His clients include many of the wine vintners in the area.
By mid-afternoon, we were in the center of Mendoza walking down its tree-lined streets. Mendoza is build in the middle of a desert, but water from the near-by Andes has been directed for eons throughout the area by an ingenious network of canals. These canals provide irrigation for every street in the city and the surrounding vineyards and other farming areas. There are, however large expanses of unirrigated land that is arid and dusty. Water is in abundance and a dancing fountain at the end of our walk provided a beautiful display of the clear liquid from the melted snow of the mountains.
Most of our group rode up a small hill in the bus, but a few intrepid hikers made the trek on foot. As we headed up the switchback road to the top, we felt a sudden blast of wind shake the mini-bus. At the top we saw trees being blown nearly horizontal and the valley below was a dust bowl. Our hikers arrived with makeshift dust masks made from handkerchiefs. Their hair was swept back and they had to lean forward to prevent being blown down. When all were aboard, we retreated down the hill and headed back to the hotel. The route was littered with branches and downed trees blocked the road in places. When we arrived at the hotel, the power was out and Anne (who had felt a little light headed and decided to stay behind) told of her adventure. She had gone out on our balcony and closed the sliding glass door (to conserve the air-conditioning) and was locked out! She didn't know the words in Spanish for "HELP!" (her phrase book was on the other side of the door!). Luckily another guest who happened to walk past heard her and she was rescued just as the wind began its big blow! The swimming pool was filled with debris and the wires to the hotel could be seen on the ground nearby.
The plan had been to walk to the restaurant in town for dinner, but our guides had the bus pick us up since the wind was still blowing and there were live wires all over the place. We had a delicious dinner at the "Nadia" restaurant by candlelight and by the time we got back to the hotel, the power had been restored. To say the least, this had been an adventurous day!