Touchdown in Santiago
Airport yoga – Auckland
Bienvenidos in South America! We write from Argentina, our second country already having started of in Santiago, Chile. Santiago is the kind of city I love – excellent pedestrian access, plenty of good coffee and green space. We spent our first few days in our new surroundings and getting through the jet lag by taking long hikes in the sunshine around the city and up the gorgeous hills (Cerro Santa Lucia and Cerro San Cristobal) taking in the glorious views over the snowcapped Andes. The nights were a struggle with jet lag either keeping us awake or waking us up – not at all helped by our hostel room which was next to the kitchen with a window so our room was filled with dazzling light every time someone popped in for a snack at 2am.
Smoggy view over Santiago from the top of Cerro San Cristobal
Early blossom at the top of Cerro Santa Lucia Plaza De Armas
I think James sensed how much I was missing NZ, my yoga bubble and friends and sweetly enquired in our hostel about classes. I was in luck – Yuukti Yoga was just around the corner and offered about 15 classes a day. I happily picked out daily classes and even tried out Kundalini Yoga which was different anyway and even stranger as I didn’t understand a word. Kundalini Yoga focuses on moving energy up the spine by combining specific postures with mantra, chanting and breathing techniques. Picture lying on your back with your hips thrust in the air banging your fists on the floor as hard as you can and panting like a very hot dog.
Next stop: Mendoza and Malbec
From Santiago we took a spectacular bus ride across Los Andes to Mendoza passing ski fields and vineyards along the way. Getting through customs at the border took a couple of hours but was a dream compared to our experience crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia (scammers getting on our bus, hysterical tourists who weren’t allowed across as they didn’t have enough cash to pay the ‘visa processing fee’, toddlers begging on the street…the list goes on).
Stiff from the nine hour bus journey we spent our first day in Chaccras de Coria, Mendoza wandering around the vineyards sipping fruity, oaky, peppery glasses of red nectar and talking aromas, acidity and barrel age. Absolute bliss.
First wine tasting in Argentina at Bodega Pulmary
Clos De Chaccras
Barrel room in Pulmary
The day we almost lost (but absolutely didn’t) our faith in humanity
The next day we decided to borrow bikes from our hostel to visit a few more bodegas a little further afield. The hostel guy assured us we could pump up the flat tyre at the gas station and that we would not need to book any tastings. Almost an hour later, after a visit to the gas station and a wrong turn, we arrived, hot and sticky, at the first winery. Full, no appointments until the following week. Next winery – no answer, next winery – not there. Finally we arrived at Alta Vista, a beautiful vineyard with views over the mountains and although we could not do a tasting (as we had not booked. ..) we had a glass of rose in the garden and worked on our long faded tans.
Bodega Alta Vista
Feeling warm and fuzzy we left to collect our bikes to cycle the 3 or 4 km back to find my tyre was flatter than before. Anyone who has cycled on a flat tyre knows that it’s like cycling uphill with the wind against you. Needless to say by the time we got back to the hostel I was a hot, exhausted mess and after a brief lie down in a cool, dark room we set off to find Weinert, an enormous winery within walking distance ( thankfully!) The whole cellar smelt like oak and leather and the wine did too (in a good way) and we wandered around marvelling at the 44,000 litre wine barrel which is the biggest in the whole of Argentina!
Cellar at Bodega Weimart
Biggest barrel in use in Argentina
We set off on the half and hour or so meander back and as we rustled through leaves on the pavement we noticed a bucket and a whine from inside. Stopping to take a closer look we discovered five beautiful yellow lab cross puppies which must only have been a few days old. Piled on top of each other, wiggling and squeaking, it dawned on us that these poor little puppies had been abandoned. There were not many people around but we managed to communicate the issue to a couple who eventually, through our terrible Spanish and their awful English, pointed us in the direction of a vet surgery.
As we lugged the bucket up the road we prayed the vets would be open (it was early evening on a Saturday) and to our delight it was. But our optimism began to wane as it transpired they absolutely would not take the puppies as they had not had their injections. A kind passerby, Alberto, stopped to help us translate and informed us that “even if we payed her a million pesos she would not take the puppies”. Our hopes of saving the puppies were fading with the sun so in desperation and with Alberto’s help we began stopping every passerby to ask if they would take the puppies and if not asking them to call anyone they knew who would. It was useless.
Juliette thinking about ways of shipping the puppy back to the UK!
Alberto was already late for work but seemed to want to help save the puppies as much as we did and racked his brain for ideas. In the end he concluded that the only thing he could think of was for us to take the bucket of puppies to the big supermarket and stand outside to see if anyone would take them. He wrote us a sign in Spanish to hold up which read “We do not speak Spanish. We found these puppies abandoned on the street. Please take them – they are free.” Our dear good samaritain then walked with us all the way to the supermarket and told us if we didn’t have any luck to try the police and failing that come and see him at work.
We approached the supermarket entrance in trepidation and asked one of the security guards if it was ok to try and find the abandoned puppies a home. He kindly obliged and we set about hassling every single person who came by. Little by little interest grew…the manager came out to give us some boxes to transfer them into and had a cuddle with one of the pups which drew a bit more attention. More children gathered to see, pleading with their parents for a new puppy. James spotted the security guard calling his wife and to our amazement he came and took one of them, beaming. The next puppy went to the store manager – one cuddle and he was a goner! Eventually, after many stilted Spanglish conversations, phone calls to wives/husbands/partners etc the remaining three puppies all were taken, the last one going to a couple expecting a baby who now have a bigger family than they imagined! My heart melted – I had gone from feeling incredulous and dumbfounded that someone could have abandoned those little bundles of joy to feeling completely overwhelmed by the compassion of all the people who re-homed the puppies and all the people who tried to help us. We left that night feeling warm and fuzzy, this time not from wine but from the knowledge that those five tiny puppies had been saved and now all had bright futures. And what’s more, I don’t think you can get a hangover from that!
The store security guard with his new puppy
Thanks for reading – it’s a pleasure sharing this with you.
Juliette and James xoxo