Last week, I started to recount my time spent in Chile and Argentina, hosted by the wonderful people at Montes Wines in Chile and their sister winery, Kaiken Wines in Mendoza, Argentina.
The first day we spent on the Chilean Coast at Zapallar, first visiting the vineyards, then having an amazing dinner on the beach. The following day, according to the original schedule, we were to depart at the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m. to start the trek across the Andes Mountains by van on the way to Mendoza, Argentina, home of Kaiken.
Apparently, more rational heads prevailed, and our departure was adjusted to 10:00 a.m., which gave me plenty of time to get in a jog along the coast before departing (as a cyclist, I loathe transportation by foot, but the coastline was so compelling, I could not resist).
Well, as it turned out, it might have been wiser had we kept the original departure time. The drive itself was relatively quick and unquestionably spectacular—but the actual border crossing was painful. Really. Painful.
Although I did not take formal notes on the sparkling (can you blame me—look at that lake!), it is tart, refreshing, and ever-so tasty. It is not widely available in the U.S. (yet), but it should retail around $20, which is a bargain.
For some never expressed reason, it took close to four hours to traverse the arbitrary line that separates the two friendly countries of Chile and Argentina. Apparently, Argentina’s economy is in a bit of a shambles and inflation is out of control. Thus, most consumer goods are far cheaper in Chile so citizens frequently cross the border to buy everything from a few liters of milk to a big screen T.V. (or seven).
The Argentinian government, apparently, is not a big fan of this process, so they tend to search every single vehicle to find any contraband so that they can either charge the appropriate taxes, confiscate the goods in question, or throw the poor schmuck in jail. I really do not know what happens to anybody that violates the law, but I do know that the process takes a long time.
A really long time.
A really, really long time.
As in four hours of long time.
That is simply ridiculous. While on the Orient Express from France to Turkey back in college, I was at a border crossing from Italy to the old Yugoslavia at 2:30 in the morning, on a train that was carrying at least a few thousand people (I was sitting on the floor in the cramped corridor), and they went through every single bag of every passenger at customs.
And that did not take four hours.
(Although part of the time was spent with a Kalashnikov rifle pressed firmly against my left temple as two border guards fervently discussed my situation in a language I did not understand, which made it seem just a bit longer.)
So what do you do when you have several hours on your hands with nothing to do?
In the end, we made it to Mendoza with more than enough time for a shower (and for Freedman to lick his wounds from the beating he took), before we headed off to dinner. I opted for the steak. The one as big as my head.
Did I mention it was Argentina?
The steak, the wine, the conversation, the city, and above all, the company were wonderful, and our time in Argentina was just beginning.
More to come…