While we were in San Rafael we wanted to see the Atuel Canyon, which we had heard was amazing. We spent one day at Valle Grande, which was easy enough to get to by catching a bus from town to the dam wall. However, we didn't realise that none of the activities would be running, it was too far to walk to the top of the dam, and that the bus only had one return time – 7pm, when it was dark and cold, and all the cafés were shut!
After our first failed attempt, we decided to hire a car for the day so that we could have the freedom to explore in our own time. This proved to be the best option! We took a wrong turn coming out of San Rafael, and ended up driving a different route to El Nihuil, which turned out to be a spectacular drive across desert plains with mountain peaks in the far distance.
Eventually, we turned off the main road and headed towards the village of El Nihuil. There is not much to this dusty little town, but we did find one restaurant that was open, so we had lunch and then continued on our way. The canyon starts here and provided hours of epic scenery.
There are several huge dams used for hydroelectric power. The last is at Valle Grande, where there are also a lot of activities that you can do (mostly in Summer) such as kayaking, rafting, trout fishing etc. However, there was pretty much no water in the river as it hardly ever rains, and the dam holds the main flow.
The dramatic landscapes and colours in the rock were incredible. Add a dash of Autumn, and it was just beautiful. We had a great day and would highly recommend anyone around the area to check out the Canyon!
Dam wall at Valle Grande
Mendoza is a nice city in the heart of Argentina's wine region, surrounded by snow capped mountains and plenty of vineyards.
While we were in town, we thought it would be fun to go on a horseriding adventure, to experience the sunset over the desert and mountains. The tour also came with an Argentine asado (massive slabs of bbq meat) and all the wine you can drink. We made friends with a couple of Kiwis and some Canadians, and all made the most of it!
The wine of choice is Malbec, a delicious red which only grows in this region. We tasted plenty of wine, both in the city and at the vineyard's cellar door. We spent one afternoon on bikes riding around the tree lined streets of Maipu, although this required a little more effort than we wanted at the time, as we were feeling somewhat sorry for ourselves after all the wine from the previous night!
Di Tomassi vineyard.
Di Tomassi and Bianchi vineyards.
Despite that, we managed a tour of one of the oldest cellars, and found a gourmet liqueur and chocolate place as well. Apparently they make their own absynth there, so Mark tried a shot, then bought a bottle!
We had a great time and we are planning to go back for a few nights in June! Bring on the vino.
When we first arrived in Argentina we decided to apply to work on an organic farm through the WOOF website, which is a network to connect volunteers with organic farms throughout the world. After contacting over twenty different farms, we got one response from a farming collective in San Rafael in the province of Mendoza. After travelling for the last three months, we are happy to sit still for a few weeks, practice our Spanish, and get to know the locals. Travelling can be exhausting, so it will be a welcome change from constantly moving from one place to another. The idea is that we do a few hours of work on the farm each day, in exchange for accommodation and food. Seems like a good deal!
Farm house in San Rafael
Mendoza is the Argentinean wine region, which hosts many world class vineyards, as well as orchards full of olives, apricots, peaches and plums, to name a few. San Rafael produces mostly white wines, and has the perfect climate for fruit trees. We are not sure exactly what we will be doing yet but we will be working on a few different farms helping out where needed before winter. The whole region is beautiful and the colours of autumn add a touch of charm to make it particularly stunning right now!
Poplar trees in Autumn