Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Adventures Abound in Mendoza

(Para leer esta nota en castellano, haga clic aquí)

My recent posts on the Jerome Microbrewery in Potrerillos, Mendoza and the post on luxury wine tourism made me start to think that I should write on my experience in “adventure tourism” in Mendoza. Although I’m guessing your average oenophile isn’t an adventure seeker, there’s something out there for everyone.

If you have four days in Mendoza, you may want to break up your winery visits with a day of fun in the Andes. The mountains are spectacular in Mendoza and just driving through them is fun. I’ve had the chance to go to Potrerillos on three different occasions to twice mountain bike and to go rafting once.

In October, 2005 I headed up to Argentina Rafting on a bus that left the central terminal in Mendoza, which is a bit of a walk outside downtown Mendoza. The bus was extremely cheap (a couple dollars) and it left me off in Potrerillos right in front of Argentina Rafting. In December of 2006 I was with my brother who was paying, so I took the Argentina Rafting bus that picks you up at your hotel. The bus costs an extra US$9 but its definitely worth it if you aren’t very adventurous, don’t want the hassle of getting to the bus station and waiting for the bus, or don’t speak Spanish. If you’re on a tight budget, definitely take the bus from the terminal. It’s also a much more authentic experience (i.e. you won’t be sitting next to other Americans and Brits).

Once you’re at Argentina Rafting you can sign up for a number of different activities. Most activities are done twice a day depending on the demand. If you want to do the morning excursion you should get there before 9. You can also do excursions that last several days and offer a lot of different activities. So you can choose between doing rafting, kayaking (although you will need to do a course there if you aren’t experienced), hiking (known as trekking in Argentina), mountain biking, horseback riding, zip-lining (known as “canopy”) or hidrospeed (you go down the river on some sort of disc). Every activity is really cheap at around US$20 for a half of a day.

The rafting trip was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I had never gone rafting and have been trying to go again ever since. The river is not dangerous at all (they provide helmets and life vests) but it is fast enough to be enjoyable. I only fell out once but it was no big deal – I just got back in. They employ a photographer to take pictures all the way down the river which you can buy on a CD at the end for a very low price. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and make sure you have a great time. There’s enough time for some chatter on the boat, and I made friends with two doctors from the province of Buenos Aires. I’m quite sure all of the guides speak good enough English to tell you whatever you need to know.

The other two times I went I decided I wanted a workout and went mountain biking. The first time was on a Saturday and was alone, which was fine. I was in a relatively large group of ten. I had a great time and got a good workout. I would say that you should be in decent shape to do the mountain biking, although the course isn’t very challenging at all for a novice. The second time I went I was with my brother and we were alone with the guide. He was great in tailoring the course to challenge us a little bit. We were also able to rest when we wanted to. I would suggest going on a week day to have this kind of an experience.

All in all, I had three great trips up to Potrerillos. A day of “adventure” up in the Andes would be a great way to work off the calories from those gourmet meals you’re having back in Mendoza City.

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