A taste of wine and crime in Mendoza.

aka – Visiting Argentina’s wine region with kids plus babysitter!

We arrive in Mendoza, Argentina at 5am. Our bus is about 6 hours late! With super sleepy kids and feeling  exhausted too we gather our bags and our wits and wonder if you can get any cash or a cab at this time. A money changer offers me 6 pesos to the dollar to change a $20 bill – I know the exchange rate is 5 so I’m baffled but accept and am cautious to check all the notes I get. We soon discover there is another exchange rate – it’s called the ‘dollar blue’ aka the black market rate! There is a daily published ‘dollar blue rate’ on the internet – it’s about 7:1 at this point and climbing – more on this and how much of a difference it makes to us later!  Argentina’s economy is in crisis (perhaps as a distraction  President Christina Kirchner is making a lot of noise about the Falklands aka The Malvinas) again and so we’re cautious about the reception we’ll get here!

We find a friendly cabbie who is happy to shoehorn the six of us plus luggage into his taxi! (interesting feat) and take us to our pleasant Aparthotel Tunkelen. Determined to get some value from our paid night of accommodation not to mention being bushed, we drive the now wide-awake kids into bed and sleep till 11am,. Of course we miss breakfast but the rooftop pool is wonderful when we finally wake up.

The rooftop pool and Royal Pavillion ?

The rooftop pool and Royal Pavillion ?

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A scorpion bit me!

While at Sol y Lunar in Coroico a girl was bitten by a scorpion. She told us it was pretty painful and she had pain and inflammation going up into her arm, so a day or two later when I pick up Lara’s coat that we’d left on the porch overnight and feel a sharp sting in my hand, I was fairly sure it was a scorpion again…

Sure enough, when I drop it on the floor the offending creature is sitting there smirking up at me!

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El Ceibo Tree House

Tree house + Kids = Happiness (and peace for parents?). We had been told about one in the small village of El Progresso only 5km from San Cristobal so we decided to go for lunch. A $2 taxi ride later we were there and in the time it took me to pay the driver Ben, Zoe and Lara had disappeared up the suspended wooden bridge to explore the 300 year old tree, the largest on the island.

Tree house, cool!

Having built more than a few such bridges in my time I was interested in the construction which I studied on my way up to make sure our intrepid explorers were safe. I am glad that they are 1) Sure of foot and 2) Weigh a lot less than I do! More

Why not to run in Flip Flops!

As dictated by Zoe…

We were sitting in a restaurant going to have dinner, supper, whatever you call it. Because it was so cold Mummy was going to run back to the house to get our jackets but when she had gone about 5 meters from the restaurant she fell over and got a giant cut in her knee.

Mo in emergency room

Mum in hospital

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Drowned Rats – Boipeba to Morro de Sao Paulo

We expected our gap year to feature some excitement but as so often with these things it can come at unexpected times. Super relaxed after a week on peaceful Boipeba staying at what could easily be the best pousada in Brazil and looking forward to our next stop in Morro de Sao Paulo we boarded our speedboat and waved goodbye.

Waving goodbye to Boipeba

Bye Bye Boipeba

The weather was overcast but this often clears quickly and we were impressed with the speedboat. Bigger than the normal motor launches it looked the business and we were sure Charles was right and it was the most comfortable boat around and at R$200 a bargain as they were picking up more guests in Morro!

On the way down to Boipeba we took the route through the mangroves from Valenca and expected to go this way again as most boats arrive this way. It is lovely and calm but about twice as long as the sea route if you look at the map. As often is the case ‘assume’ makes an ass out of you and me and our skipper headed straight out to sea. More

Jungle Survival Training

Ben and Ant

Ant hunter

Update – Video added at end.

Keeping Ben, Zoe and Lara alive, fit and healthy is our top priority. As kids they are inquisitive, independent and prone to getting distracted by anything that looks fun or interesting. Within minutes of our arrival on Ilha Grande Ben had caught the biggest ant you never wanted to see. I am pretty sure Ben hasn’t been bitten by ants as he was super confident. I then imagined him playing with a local spider which may not be as harmless as our homegrown Daddy Long Legs More

Family Gap Year – 1 Week In

Family looking over Ipanema Beach

Ipanema beach, not a place to get a passer by to take your photo!

A lie in today, I woke at 7am, not the 5-6am we have been used to as our bodies adjust to the 4 hour time difference. Only Zoe is up as well, busy colouring so it is lovely and quiet, perfect to reflect on our first week before we leave the excellent WiFi in our apartment.

With kids everything takes longer and we have been concious not to rush between tourist sights and cram too much in. The thought crosses my mind that after our hectic lives in the UK we are ‘slow cooking’ our travels to extract maximum flavour, but that is probably a tummy rumbling hint that I need to go to the supermarket and buy fresh bread for breakfast.

I am going to cover ‘safety’ in another post but so far we have taken plenty of sensible precautions and not had any problems, even the taxi’s have their meters turned on, if not their headlights (it saves fuel!?!!). More

A gift to Oxfam

Appropriately I bought a compact travel camera at Amazon which arrived today. Here is a quick test pic, full review to come once I have used it for a bit.

Lara outside the backdoor at Oxfam

Smile, Dad’s got a new camera

Interestingly I resized the photo and saved it as a new file and it kept the EXIF data. Bit geeky but bear with me. More

Only a phone call away

I’ve been following the hoo haa about Nancy being left in the pub by Mum and Dad and felt a touch of empathy as we have encountered a similar situation ourselves. It certainly did not surprise me to read in the news that it had happened to many other parents but what amazed me was the ‘commentators’ who thought these unfortunate children be taken into care immediately or worse! It must be wonderful to be so perfect but I am not sure their kids will want to be escorted to the loo as teenagers, I can see it now:

Mum: Hold my hand Kevin, roads are dangerous.

Kev: That’s SO not cool Mum!

Mum: When you leave home you can do what you like.

Kev: But Mum, I’m 32!

Mum: Exactly and I don’t want you talking to strangers again.

Just what age children can cross the road by themselves is a subject I’ll probably come back to. More

One month to go

I saw the news today about the Camerons leaving their 8 yr old daughter in a pub because they both thought she was with her other parent! If you’ve read our earlier blogs you’ll know why we can sympathise! More

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