Mendoza, Argentina

To get to Argentina, I took the land route over the Andes. In an unusual step, I did a day trip to be able to enjoy the scenery, and it was definitely worth it.

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In parts, you feel your ears pop as the bus struggles up switchback after switchback.

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When you finally get to the border, there are 5 buses ahead of you, each of which take about half an hour for the border agents to process.

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You can’t see my bus because I’m standing next to it. The building is the border checkpoint. It isn’t nearly as futuristic as this shot makes it look.

Once you’re past the Andes, you’re left in the Malbec-growing flatland that Mendoza is known for.

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The non-tourist highlight of the city is an expansive park that has a 4-kilometer biking and running track circling a nice lake.

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In the city itself, I got to experience a bunch of things that distinguish Argentina from Chile.

One of the most interesting, but also most concerning, is standing in line for cash. ATMs constantly are out of money, so when you leave one people will ask you if it gave you anything. The first time, it sounds like they’re about to rob you, but they’re actually just looking to withdraw a few hundred pesos themselves.

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On the first of the month it’s the worst, as many people get paid and then need cash for most daily transactions. For those that can afford it, there are people that will wait in this and in any line (e.g. post office) for you! It’s just another way for everyone to get by.

Another of these ways is parking fees. When you park a nice car (that is, anything that doesn’t look like it’s been in 5 accidents already) on the curb, someone will pop out of nowhere and help you parallel park, and then make it clear that you owe them some amount of money. It’s a lot like the Mafia and protection money: different people “own” different curbs, and if you don’t pay the protection money you might not recognize your car when you get back. They’re also supposed to watch the car until you get back but they also have no incentive to do so.

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This driver gladly handed over a few bills, and then looked even more smug when an attractive female friend got in the passenger’s seat and they sped off.
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What that Audi TT would look like sans protection money. Also incidentally how about a quarter of the cars in Argentina look anyway.

Speaking of curbs, you really have to watch yourself here because the drainage ditches are big enough to swallow a small child. That doesn’t mean jaywalking is any less prevalent.

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Also you get funny-looking raised cages on the curb, which are actually where you have to put your trash bags to be collected.

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The most important thing to pick up on here though is the lack of pedestrian signals. It’s not just that most intersections have no pedestrian lights, but also that in those that do, the lights don’t seem to work. And to make things even more exciting, cars don’t respect any pedestrian right-of-way, so crossing is never quite peaceful.

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On the flipside, I finally got to put to good use my years of jaywalking training.

A good use of curbs, for a change, is the mobile ID card vans that Argentina has deployed to speed up the switch to the new national ID. Good work, government.

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Also on the streets are the life-sized cutouts of the local beauty pageant contestants. I saw pictures of them everywhere; people seem to be obsessed.

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As I was leaving by bus, I noticed a store at the station that seems to have chosen a rather poor name given current events, along the lines of the Danish ISIS candies.

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And finally, a food picture! Hot dogs in some form are very popular in both Chile and Argentina, but on this side of the Andes they like to call them Panchos and add mini french fries on top of them too.

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