Mendoza and the Maipu region of Argentina, is an internationally renowned wine destination. As a lover of wine, I anticipated that my day of touring wineries and tasting vino would end memorably.
And, it did!
Just not for the reason I imagined!
A popular way to visit the wineries in Mendoza is on bicycle tours, where you receive a map and you can independently make your way around to several vineyards. However I was on a day tour with my travel group with a vehicle and driver, probably wise, considering how much I like wine.
My first tasting slipped down at around 11.30am, at Vistandes winery, which claimed to be the producer of the 4th best Carménère wine in the world.
It was a revelation!
Until I arrived in South America, I had never tried this variety of red wine and it went down very smoothly.
Next on the tour was a smaller boutique winery, Viña el Cerno.
Here I became more familiar with even more local grape varieties.
After visiting a few more vineyards, we headed to a charismatic restaurant, Azafran, back in the town of Mendoza for a set menu lunch of 110 pesos (around $12 at the time).
The restaurant offered sublime food and an ambience and character, which fascinated me.
After some more wine with lunch, I was starting to feel a little giddy and giggly.
Our group made a slow and happy saunter through the streets and parks, retreating back to the hotel.
We had to be super aware, especially in our tipsy states, of the major holes that lie in the sidewalks all over the city.
Someone told a story about a couple who had been kissing on a Mendoza street late at night. This embrace landed them in hospital after they accidentally fell into one of these danger pits! The woman needed a few teeth replaced!
On returning to the hotel, it was time for a well-needed siesta.
Awakening from a short sleep, I re-emerged from my room a little fuzzy from the day’s indulgences and met the group at the hotel pool for empanadas, wine, music and conversation. One by one people surfaced from their naps – or didn’t.
Soon, I was revitalised with food, animated chatter and yes, a little more of the Mendoza red!
By midnight I was getting weary. It was time to retreat for the night.
The following day was going to be a significantly big day of travel as we were leaving Mendoza, flying to Bariloche in Patagonia, via Buenos Aires. Rest was of the essence as I had to wake early to pack my bag, vacate the room and meet the group to leave for the airport.
As I returned to my room, I was thankful that I was able to keep the glass sliding doors to the outside terrace, open. The breeze was welcome on such a balmy night.
There was a grill metal door which was welded shut so even with the glass sliding doors open, I remained quite secure. No one could break in as it would be impossible to fit through the grates of the grill and it would be a huge effort to break a gate which was soldered.
Once in bed, I quickly fell into a deep sleep.
Two hours later – 2am – there was almighty screech.
Foreign objects catapulted onto my bed, launching onto my torso and startling me awake.
Slightly incapacitated from my wine coma, I could not fathom what was happening.
“Raaaaaarlllll” I heard a fang snare, a hair-breath from my face.
I elevated, jolting upright, as if I’d just had been shocked by an electric current.
Heart in my throat, I tossed the lumps from my bed, sending the mysterious creatures to the floor like projectiles.
Lurching out of bed, I frantically reached for the side lamp.
Revealed in the light, were two feral cats, one black, one ginger.
Crying in blood-curdling pitches, they propelled themselves around the room.
I matched them with my own squeals of horror, making them even more agitated.
One scaled all the way up the curtain with its claws clinging to the railing. The other scurried behind the curtain fabric on the ground.
Despite my fatigue, adrenaline propelled me to become the pouncing predator.
With a primal reaction to these frenetic beasts, and with vocal and physical determination, I darted around the room in an attempt to remove these feral felines from my sleeping quarters. Now removed from my bedroom, I chased them around the apartment for a further ten minutes before finally getting them out through the grill doors.
It gave new meaning to the expression “herding cats.”
After their retreat, I could not shut the glass courtyard doors fast enough! I was not going to risk them re-entering for the fear of having my eyes scratched out or contracting rabies.
As they scuttled off into the distance I heard a flurry of cat cries and a dog howling viciously.
The two crazy cats were now left to their own devices in the outside world.
Miraculously after such a shock to my senses, I managed to get back to sleep, eventually, when my heart stopped thudding.
The next morning I got up, groggy but slightly amused and bewildered.
I had to think twice about whether it had all been a dream.
That was, until I stepped out from the bed and felt a wet patch on the carpet.
Perhaps I scared them as much as they did me.
From then on – Mendoza has always been referred to as the place of DOS GATOS LOCOS, two crazy cats!