El corazón de Mendoza
As we were planning to head on to Chile, we decided to spent our last month in Argentina in Mendoza. The region is located in the eastern part of Argentina at the Chilean border at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Its famous for its vine and olive oil production as well as its stunning nature with several mountain chains and beautiful lakes. The capital of Mendoza is the city Mendoza, the second largest town called San Rafael, located ca. 250 km southwards in the centre of the region. It is slightly smaller than the capital and as we where seeking for a more calm place to stay the decision was quiet easy.
We found a Bodega outside of San Rafael to work at, called Chateau HANA, an acronym of the names of the owner, his wife and two daughters. With a capacity of 85000 liters its quiet a small Vinery and all the steps of the production are done by hand. The two mayor vines of the production are a pretty tasty Cabernet Sauvignon and a Malbec which is really famous for the Mendoza region. Our host Aziz taught us everything, from the harvest of the grapes to the bottling, about the vine production. During our stay we've been pressing the grape must, cleaned the machines of the bodega and collected olives for the production of olive oil.
During our stay we got to know his neighbor Nageeb, who came to Argentina to spent his pension after living in Palestine, Great Britain, The Arabic Emirates, New Zealand and Bermuda. He's now the owner of the Finca Nim, a beautiful piece of land with a huge park, a nice farm house and two cabañas to rent. So after two weeks we moved to the other side of the street and helped him for another 2 weeks with the olive harvest. If you're interested in volunteering around San Rafael we can really recommend both of our hosts. Here are the Workaway links for Aziz and Nageeb.
San Rafael itself is a lovely place to stay for some weeks. The town was founded at 1805 as a fortress to fight against the Mapuche, an indigenous tribe from Chile and Argentina. During the years it got colonized by people from Italy and France, who started farming in the surrounding areas. It grew up to a city of almost 180.000 people but makes more the impression of an extremely huge village. No skyscrapers or huge buildings, instead of that lots of parks, small shops and boutiques. Besides some favelas which are not really recommended to visit as a stranger, the city is safe and clean compared to others in South America. In the city centre you can find a huge park for children with several playgrounds, games and other activities. San Rafael is famous for its vine production and all the Bodegas in and around the town. A good activity for a day trip could be a walk or better a bike tour along the vine routes. Most Bodegas are offering free or payed tours around their facilities where you usually end up in a small shop or bistro to try their vines and often delicious cheese or olives.
The city is surrounded by beautiful places like los Reyunos or Valle Grande, two mountain chains, with lakes, rivers and stunning nature. These locations are perfect for lots of activities, like hiking, climbing, camping, rafting and kayaking. You can find there as well several hotels or cabañas to rent. If you are more up for winter sports you could take a three hour car ride to las leñas in the Andes Mountains, the most famous ski and snowboarding resort in Argentina. To reach Mendoza, you can calculate around 3 hours and through the Andes to Santiago de Chile around 8.
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