Where are we?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mendoza--Malbec Capital of western Argentina

We spent the night in Mendoza in a beautiful hotel. This is a huge city with dozens, perhaps hundreds of hotels, hostels etc. After trying several hotels and finding the rates prohibitively high, we opted for a smaller, but very nice hotel. Room at Sheraton was $700. As Jim walked into the parking area, he ran into Rick. We hadn't seen him since we crossed paths near Uryuni, Bolivia. Had a good visit, including breakfast the next morning. What are the odds of this chance meeting?

Rick stayed in Mendoza, and Jim and I headed south to San Rafael. This city hopes to be the next Mendoza. As we left the super mercado with supplies for camping, an American came up to me and struck up a monologue telling me everything that is wrong with the US and Argentina. This seems to be a common ailment of these ex-pats. They leave the US because it has problems, but when they get to their new country they find it too has problems.

He asked us to come out to his vineyard, drink some of his wine, swim in his pool and I am sure hear more of his monologue. We declined. and headed up the street for lunch. He followed us and introduced us to an American couple eating their lunch. Turns out the first American was a psych. major at Humboldt in the 1983 era and the other guy was educated at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Small world.

I got my question answered about the huge gas lines in Argentina. Seems as though when Argentina defaulted on their debt they also sold off assets including the state owned YPF gasoline business. A Spanish company purchased it and has been running it very profitably for years. President Kirchner does not feel they are investing enough of their profits in oil exploration. So she wants to nationalize it. YPF is fighting back by limiting how much gas they sell. (Not sure how this helps their position.) It makes me think of PEMEX in Mexico. The Mexican government took over all of the American oil interests in the early 1900s and has run it since. The complaint is that they are putting too much money into social programs and not investing enough in oil exploration. So there is no simple solution to short sighted politicians antics. Are there any obvious models in the US that we can pass along?????

From San Rafael we headed into the volcanic country that is beautiful. And we have continued to get closer to the Andes as we head south. Last night we stayed in Barranca at a private camp. We stopped at a super mercado that had everything we needed. After we went outside the two old ladies that ran it came outside to have their pictures taken with the gringos and their motos. I asked Jim how many Americans he figures we have seen on this trip and we feel it is around five or six. Not many motorcycle tourers, a few people on bicycles, but generally not tourists.

Tonight we are staying in Junin de los Andes. Our motel, first of the trip, is brand new and first class. It has three units. Feels excellent. Walked two miles into town for dinner and two back, so well exercised for the day.

Four more days in Argentina and then it over the Andes to Chile. Seemed funny to pull out our last map of the trip. As I have said before, this trip is interesting and a lot of work. Fun is not a word that comes to mind, but both of us are loving it.

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