Barreal & Return to Mendoza. . . January 22, 2010
I think everyone got a good night's sleep and I know that the hot shower was very welcome after our time in the Valle. The Posada offered a light breakfast, Argentine style, which could not meet the caloric intake needs of either G and Bob, both young guys not yet familiar with the lesser appetite that comes when AARP applications begin to fill the mailbox.
We were up and soon had breakfast on the patio, sharing our table with a hound whose turf seemed to be under our feet. We planned to meet with Celeste and Manuel at 10 a.m. and then wander about Barreal for an hour or so before Fernando's driver was to meet us at 1 p.m. After breakfast we left the Posada and had not walked five minutes before coming across Fernando, Celeste and Manuel as they covered a few errands in the morning. We agreed to meet back at the Posada in a half hour for some mate and then a short trip down to the town center for G to scope out the handcraft scene and get some lunch before heading to Mendoza.
Manuel and Celeste were soon back at the Posada and we enjoyed a few rounds of mate and talked of other climbs, other destinations, plans for the future, and life in general. Celeste was to meet Anibal that afternoon so Manuel suggested we take the Celeste-mobile down to the town center and kill some time before we left for Mendoza. We paid the bill for the overnight, gathered our bags into a central pile for later and headed out the gate on foot to catch up with Celeste at a nearby hostel where she was sorting and storing gear.
Our first stop was the river that runs by Barreal, draining the Ramada range and untold other cordilleras. We could see out to the Ansilta Range, the Ramada Range, Aconcagua, all a part of the mountain front that forms the central spine of the Andes and divides Argentina from Chile. The river was running fast and red, no doubt the result of the spate of warm sunny days and the final vestiges of the two days of snow we experienced a week before. From the river we went back to Barreal proper and G looked for local goods to bring back for his staff and then we all agreed that lunch was in order. We wandered about Barreal, which is a laid back frontier type town. It has a main street, some side streets and a population that clearly seeks and enjoys a more sedate lifestyle. Manuel noted a substantial expatriate population and that Barreal has few aspects of the fast pace of the city. It's an off the beaten path country town.
The next point of interest suited G and Bob very well . . . lunch. Manuel had a place in mind, a gas station with a take away style restaurant that served a great lomo. For those unfamiliar with lomo, this is a seriously hefty sandwich with a slab of beef, lettuce, tomato, mayo, ham and often an egg in a voluminous eight inch hoagie sandwich roll. Add some chips and you will not be ready for dinner until the average Argentine is hungry. Post lunch, we went back to the Posada, bid Manuel goodbye and thanked him again for helping to make this such a great trip. Soon Fernando's driver, Carlos arrived with the van and we were loading gear for the trip to Mendoza. We left Barreal to repeat the route that brought us to this beautiful and remote part of Argentina and, at least for the first part of the ride, G managed to get Carlos to play ABBA on his MP3 player between tracks of Metallica. Those tunes, a remote dirt road, mountains, desert, and not a care in the world made for a good drive back to Mendoza.
We arrived back in Mendoza at 6 p.m. and again stayed at the Cordon del Plata. We could not get the triple we had on our first night but instead got another room on the top floor. Did you ever hear that old wives' tale that heat rises? How about the corollary to Newton's third law that says for every hot hotel room on the uppermost floor of a hotel in a town where the afternoon temperature is 100 degrees F there will be an equal but opposite undersized air conditioner that will try, without success, to cool that room. I'll admit to sounding like an ugly North American as Mendoza is hot in the summer and of course we knew that before coming down and we are from Wyoming where the summer high rarely gets to 90 more than a few times in the summer. Ye of colder climates, bear in mind that Mendoza gets hot.
We made a reservation for the same restaurant that we went to our first night and by 9:30 were seated and looking forward to another great meal . . . and we were not disappointed by any means. The beer was cold, the wine was very good (yes, I know that to readers of culture, I've just admitted to being a total uncultured clod) and every course was just as good as the last time we were there. We ate Argentine style, sitting back to leisurely enjoy every part of the experience, finishing up a bit after 12:30. We wandered on back to the hotel and called it a night. We did not have a plan for the following day but we figured to worry about that when the time came.