The Mountain Matchup: Can Mendoza Come Out on Top?

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The grapes at CarinaE, my favorite bodega.
The grapes at CarinaE, my favorite bodega.
The grapes at CarinaE, my favorite bodega.

Writer’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part story. Click here for Part 1.

This post was updated on Jan. 1, 2014.

MENDOZA, Argentina — The mountains west of Mendoza made me think about a familiar view from home.

But could I ever make this city in western Argentina my new address instead of Medellin? I love Montevideo but, as I found out, not more than the City of Eternal Spring.

Maybe Mendoza has enough, though. That wine I had heard about, the kind of wine worthy of the Last Supper…maybe it’s not that good, but it’s damn close, especially the Cabernet-Malbec blend at CarinaE.

It was a welcome change from Paraguay. After going to the Jesuit ruins at Jesus de Tavarangue and Santísima Trinidad del Parana, I wanted to see more of this country I had never thought to visit before a French traveler recommended it. I wasn’t impressed.

Ciudad del Este was a pit, a place to go only if you want cheap electronics, and Asuncion, the capital, had some nice Colonial architecture but nothing better than Montevideo and I could have done without becoming the daily meal of the dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes.

Fortunately, I didn’t get sick. But after the great experience I had at the ruins and with the people in the area, I should have left well enough alone.

This was all but a past annoyance that made me chuckle as I covered 15 miles by bicycle, going from one winery to another in Maipu, just south of Mendoza. There are other great things in Mendoza too, of course.

Let’s find out if there are enough to make me like it more than the Colombian city I now call home.

Cost

Argentina is expensive. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want to discourage you from visiting so you can find out for yourself. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, I’m just saying I live quite nicely in Medellin for half the cost.

Culture

Paisas are very friendly and helpful, and they can be a lot of fun. But they often don’t keep their word and just tell you what you want to hear.

It’s the reason they don’t get along with Bogotanos, the people from the capital who can be standoffish at first but once they come to like you will do anything for you and are more likely to follow through on their promises as well as tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. Once you get to know Bogotanos, you’ll even start using the word Rolos, a designation they use only with each other and people they like.

Mendocinos remind me of Bogotanos. They both remind me of New Yorkers. I love New Yorkers. Favorite people in the world. 

I think that answers that question, and if it doesn’t, well, you’re not very intuitive.

Food

This one is a tossup, but I’ll go with Mendoza. It’s got diversity, superior Italian food and, like many places in Argentina, empanadas to envy and ice cream so good it makes you melt.

History

Still can’t get on board with a history that involves Pablo Escobar, especially after finding out that the resulting violence killed my good friend’s father.

Jobs

How can annual inflation increases of 20-plus percent be good for any economy? It can’t. Sorry, Mendoza.

Ciaran and Georgie, two of the cool travelers I met.
Ciaran and Georgie, two of the cool travelers I met.

Nightlife

The older I get, the more my idea of nightlife becomes good food, better wine and great conversation. You can get this anywhere, but Mendoza’s wine gives it an edge.

Safety

Another tossup. I’ll go with Mendoza, but only because it’s a little smaller.

Scenery

Now we got a matchup, mountains vs mountains. I’ll take the snow-capped peaks outside of Mendoza. Reminds me of growing up in Hawaii and seeing Mauna Kea, the mountain near my hometown that often got snow in the winter.

Sports

I won’t compare national futbol teams here because that wouldn’t be fair. If a player shows promise, they’re not afraid to genetically engineer them.

Just read the Sports Illustrated profile on Lionel Messi and the hormone shots he used to receive before he even became a teenager. As for local teams, I don’t care that Godoy Cruz beat Atletico Nacional in Copa Libertadores. It was a fluke. I’ll take Medellin.

Weather

The climate in Mendoza ranges from a low of the mid-30’s in the winter to a high of close to 90 in the summer, and it doesn’t rain much. Its latitude allows for snow on the surrounding mountains, and the winter sports that go with it. 

Medellin has eternal spring weather, hence its nickname, and that’s great. But after almost 2 1/2 years of it, I’m looking for a little diversity.

Something like Mendoza.

Conclusion

While the Medellin/Montevideo matchup could be announced like a futbol game, the duel with Mendoza is more like a boxing match. Here goes…

Mendoza took the early rounds with its smooth and effortless style (culture) but lost its lead after Medellin got a near-knockout (jobs), dropping Mendoza three times in the round. But Mendoza won the middle rounds with its flair (food, wine and nightlife), more marketable back story (history), slightly better looks (scenery) and strong defense (safety).

The championship rounds were close, with Medellin taking the 11th (sports), but Mendoza won the 12th (weather) and eeked out a split decision.

The trick to living in Mendoza would be finding a steady income in a country with a miserable economy. I guess I would have to make a lot of money before I arrived or take my resourcefulness to a new level upon arrival, two things that I believe I can do.

I was cleaning my room the other day and I came upon some things from my trip there: some Argentine pesos and my Mendoza bus pass.

Maybe it’s a sign, maybe it’s not, so check back with me in a year or two and we’ll all know for sure.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t get me wrong I’ve lived in Medellín for over three years and my paísa wife and I are saving up for our finca high in the Antioqueñan mountains. However, I’m going to say this is a toss up because I am a passionate mountaineer and rock climber. In Mendoza it’s less humid meaning that I can spend weeks rock climbing and exploring without having to worry about torrential downpours throughout the year. In Antioquia I’ve gone on three hour hikes to climb remote pitches and bouldering problems only to be met with thick vegetation cover the craig while being too slippery to climb due to the heavy rain falls. Besides, Anconcagua and the surrounding mountains are the highest in the Americas making for some epic trekking opportunities.

    I’d say that if someone is really into mountain sports than Mendoza takes the trophy. If mountain sports aren’t your thing, then what the hell are you doing in Mendoza? Medellín awaits! 🙂

    • I hear ya, Kevin. It really is a tough call, choosing between beautiful places in South America. But because of your passion for the outdoor sport, I will not argue your point on this one. I only climb occasionally. Thanks for your input and for following the blog!

      • Don’t get me wrong, Colombia has my heart captivated and has some of the most rewarding climbs I’ve ever done. Between the two I feel much more at home in Medellín.

        Besides, one has to ask him/herself “how much time will I actually be spending summiting mountain peaks?” Let’s face it, they’re going to be spending more time in town working and hanging with friends. Unless they are a climbing guide without the need of internet access to make an income then they shouldn’t expect to be out there more than a few days a month anyway.

        I like what you’re doing here Ryan, keep it up!

  2. Thanks for introducing for me to Mendoza wines. I haven’t been in that part of the world when it comes to wines. But your introduction makes me want to sample a few bottles if they can be found here in the US.