You can arrive in Mendoza from Buenos Aires by plane or by a comfortable night bus, a cheaper alternative which I chose. It so happened that I arrived there early in the morning, without a hotel reservation and not knowing anything about it, except for a printed out Lonely Planet chapter that I had not even read.
And Mendoza turned out to be one of my favourite places on the whole trip. Everything was easy there, all went well, people were gentle and hospitable, the weather was wonderful, the food delicious. There I easily and pleasantly managed to cross out a number of positions from my “to do” list. This post is about the first one – rafting.
In Mendoza a whole list of companies offer organised rafting activity. In reality though all of them take you to the same area, around the place called Potrerillos, located about 1.5 hours by car from Mendoza. You are taken to the company’s base and then you undergo a very serious security briefing about what to do in case of all kinds of eventualities. During the activity itself all the risks described by the instructors seemed to me rather unlikely; but they remained aware and serious all along. Then you are given your outfit – which I found hilarious and sensual at the same time: a helmet, a special tight rubber costume which is put on naked body (keeping the underwear), a vest, and special rubber shoes. And there you go. We spent only 45 minutes on our raft, but even during that time we were completely soaked in the ice cold water of Mendoza river.
My raft happened to be filled with all the youngest people in our group. A couple from Belgium, a couple from Singapore, a German and myself. Quite an international collection. (Due to my mixed identity, I generally don’t always expose the whole truth about myself. It is really tedious to explain 100 times a day that I am an ethnic Russian from Estonia living in Belgium. Especially given that people in Latin America have a very approximate notion of European geography. I was asked many times: in which continent is Estonia? So just for laughs I often pretend to be from somewhere else. One day I am a journalist from Finland; another day a fashion photographer from France; then again an ecology student from St Petersburg. It’s a fun game because there is a risk that you could be caught. Time and again I meet a person that happens to know “my” country or “my” city. So I have to invent answers and explanations. That adds spice to the game. In general of course the age, the origin, political views, sexual orientation – all these notions are so fluid that they are actually very easy to forge. I must say that in Latin America the class and the skin colour still retain major importance. It is fun to observe people’s reactions depending on how you introduce yourself. Anyhow, this time I said I was a journalist from Estonia, to add exotic internationalism to the group.)
Every rapid on the river has a name and our guide gladly explained it to us.
The level of water in Mendoza river varies greatly between seasons. When I was there, the river was on medium strength, which meant rafting of 2nd degree – basically perfectly ok for someone trying it for the first time. When the river is at its highest, the rafting becomes very dangerous.
I was the only one on board doing it for the first time in their life. All in all I loved rafting, but all four guys in our boat agreed that we would have liked a bit more turbulence!
Every 10 minutes our instructor insisted that we put our oars together in this celebration and shout “Pura vida!”
Our rafts coming back home: