Mendoza

Animal cruelty, la carcel de San Pedro, and Chinese water torture all in one weekend

There were also some beautiful views.

I headed out west to Mendoza for a well-needed weekend away. I had five days to travel because Monday was a holiday, and I decided at the last minute to take advantage of the opportunity. The weather in Mendoza wasn’t supposed to be great, but BA was also predicted to face torrential downpours so I decided to catch a bus five hours before its scheduled departure for the beautiful mountain town.  Susana had advised me to take advantage of every long weekend I had before I suddenly realized that my time here was up. Boy was she right. It would go on to rain torrentially the next 4 days in Buenos Aires, but in Mendoza the weather was perfect. Me and my buddy Ben took a 15-hour, cross-country night bus fully equipped with semi-reclining seats and shockingly minimal elbow room. With the help of unos tragos de Quilmes and two American movies dubbed in Spanish I was asleep and snoozed contentedly towards our destination.

Just before I left I snagged a book off a shelf that had caught my eye. It was called Marching Powder, a real-life story/biography of a British man imprisoned in a Bolivian jail called San Pedro for attempting to smuggle cocaine back to England. I won’t go in to the details, but seriously this was one of the most interesting narratives I have ever read in my life. The details and intricacies of incredible hardship and incredible successes inside a primitive prison were enthralling, and god damn don’t ever let me traffic five kilos of coke out of La Paz airport. I highly recommend it (not the smuggling, the book).

Anyway, Ben and I survived the less deluxe semi-cama bus service and checked in to our hostel with no issues. Hostel Internacional. We roamed around the city, eating some of the best damn garlic fries I’ve ever had in my life on the way. Mendoza is far quieter than Buenos, and I mean FAR quieter. It basically goes without saying but it was very nice to escape from tiringly blistering pace of one of the largest cities in the world. Besides eating and walking we didn’t do much Friday. One strip of bars contains most of the night life within the city and we decided to check out the scene after darkness fell. After meeting up with a large group of chicks from our program who had happened to also choose Mendoza for a weekend getaway we didn’t make it far. Our friend Liam, Ben, and I shared a Stella Artois and some conversation before all going our separate ways and ending the night.

Or I had assumed

As soon as we walked back in to the hostel we were greeted by eight or so drunken Argentinians passing the time in the lobby drinking and conversing until it was late enough (4AM) to head out to a boliche. Not wanting to miss a single opportunity to make some Argentine buddies I hustled up to my room to grab an extra bottle of wine and rejoined the impromptu fiesta. I ended getting pretty buzzed and ranting about politics that I don’t even really keep track of to Argentinians that neither understood me nor knew enough about American current events to get most of what I was sloppily describing. After their, and now my, new female friends were done getting dolled up for the HUGE night on the town we walked the three blocks together to the club. Unfortunately, and in the end luckily for my pocketbook, the bouncer saw Ben, a new Argentine friend and I sipping out of a bottle of beer the young smart Argentinian had brought with him. For some stupid reason this was a big deal and we were subsequently barred entrance. Our nuevo amigo assured us that with a little insistence we would eventually walk through the door. I tried the classic I-don’t-speak-any-spanish-why-cant-I-just-get-in-and-spend-my-American-money angle but boss man wasn’t having it. Empty handed, but fifty pesos in cover fees richer. A penny saved is a penny earned.

Saturday would yield far more success. The day was started at the crack of dawn (1:30PM) as we left for our biking tour of the bodegas mendocinas. Our tour guide was interesting and the wine was as tasty as the surrounding scenery. Also the fact I only needed to wear shorts and a t-shirt was an added bonus because it’s been cold as fuck in BA. I also randomly ran in to my old high school friend Michael, who had happened to be Mendoza as well and happened to be doing a biking wine tour, at one of the bodegas. We later calculated the odds of that happening to be about 1 in 473,988,363,132.3921.  On the bus ride back I began a conversation with a French girl who was traveling the entire world. In ten months. Entirely alone. She had hitchhiked through Argentina and had stories to tell. She seemed so nonchalant about the whole thing. Get it, nonchalant? Cause its a French word?? Crazy, crazy girl.

Luckily, the night had some next level craziness in store which would luckily (or sadly…) involve the very same French chick. There was a barbecue planned through our hostel, an asado, but the real selling point was the “free tequila party” afterwards. We had been told we couldn’t miss it. The food was good, but things really ramped up once dinner finished. Now this had been well advertised, free tequila from 11-11:30 was one of the major drawing points of the whole barbecue event for many of the young people in attendance, but I’m sure almost nobody knew exactly what was going to go down. I thought the same thing most other people were probably thinking, standard lines of tequila shots that people would put down until they couldn’t stomach the stuff any longer. That was nieve of me.

I may see somebody take shots off of a girls nipple again, but then again probably not. It started with a siren alerting everyone in the bar that the tequila was flowing. Bartenders dumped tequila into mouths, eyes and noses as people lined up in order to get the privilege to lean backwards over the bar. At first everyone was worried about getting a bit of lime and salt, but that didn’t last long. Quickly body shots were becoming the only way of getting tequila into your system, with some girls yielding (or suffering) five different takers at once. The chicks that continued to approach the bar via their rapidly increasing level of intoxication were eventually convinced to lower their tops and allow whoever could run to the bar first an opportunity to lap cheap booze off off their chest. Whilst a varietal hodgepodge of men and women sucked at various places on their body, the bartenders kept a steady stream of tequila flowing into their own mouths. Eventually they were liquored up enough to dump out entire boob to be used as a shot glass. Realistically tits make terrible shot glasses, but even a tequila flavored titty is a good titty. As my good friend  Jules Winnfield would say, and as I repeated, “Now that’s some fucked up repugnant shit.” You’re right Jules, I can’t say I didn’t witness a random stranger suckle teet for upwards of a minute longer that it should’ve taken to remove any amount of tequila from a breast. Poor French girl, but I’m sure it wasn’t the craziest thing she’d been a part of.

Sunday Ben and I climbed Cerro Arco. It was a awesome climb made even cooler by the fact we only had to spend six pesos apiece for a bus to the trailhead. Ben was sure we would make it to the top even though an inevitable late start the next morning had forced us to begin the hike at 4PM. Before you judge, getting to the base was incredibly difficult, especially since the bus can only be payed for in coins (of which we had no means of acquiring) or with an equally unattainable transit card. All made harder by the fact we had no idea which fucking bus to take in the first place. Ultimately we reached the top faster than expected and got one of the best views possible of the city of Mendoza. Success.

Monday we had no plans and no cash so we decided to hit up the zoo. A choice not taken lightly considering the overwhelming agreement in the reviews posted on tripadvisor.com. They are as follows.

“SIMPLY APPAULING” -Leah K from Dublin

“Very, very sad experience” -Ben L from Mendoza

“Poor excuse for a zoo”

“Makes me want to take action” -Mandy S from North Carolina

“Horrible, depressing zoo” Ashley from NYC

One zoogoer even wrote “Realmente me deprimio y no pude explicarles a mis hijas lo malvado que somos los humanos.”

That means they was unable to explain to her daughters how terrible humans must be to treat animals in such a way. And I don’t blame them at all. One review wrote “the bigger the animal, the smaller the cage” which was entirely true and remarkably sad to see. Of the larger animals they had one or two of each, hippos, lions, tigers, bears etc. However, they had literally thousands of sheep and goats that did nothing except be boring and take up much needed space that could’ve been used for renovating the habitats. Most depressing of all was the polar bear enclosure, where Ben and I could only laugh at how unbearable the animal’s situation was. See the photo I posted earlier and you will understand. He’s laying face down as if he’s just taken a couple .44 slugs in the back. Later I learned that this is literally “The Saddest Animal in the World,” named Arturo. There is currently a petition to free him. At least we got to feed the monkeys, that made the whole experience bearable, except that the wetness on the monkey’s little hands was very obviously urine and feces. A bonues, you could approach any of the cages essentially as close as you wanted regardless of its contents. It appeared the only employees of the zoo were the food vendors that sold hotdogs every few hundred feet. Not once did I see a uniformed worker. In fact, the only person I saw feeding and animal was a fat, native looking woman who outwardly appeared to be a poorly paid day laborer. Frankly it could have been any zoogoer tossing hay in to the elephant’s pen and nobody would have noticed or much less cared. Crazy place.

So then we came home.

But my bus, which I paid 80 pesos more for “executive class,” dripped water on me intermittently throughout the night from the emergency exit above my head. I then came home to my ceiling having the exact same issues with droplets of water collecting and falling consistently fro my ceiling. As I’ve been writing this there has been the plop of a gota de agua cayendo del puto techo. God that’s fucking annoying. Repair man comes tomorrow.

Chinese water torture.

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