My last day in Argentina, probably, for this trip was a pretty exciting day. But before my day of skydiving, I spent Friday cycling around the Maipu area visiting vineyards, a beer-garden and a condiment tasting shop. Myself and a group from the hostel, caught the 40 minute bus out to Maipu, just outside the main city of Mendoza. It weather, although lovely and warm (around 22C) turned on us with tropical rainfall, pouring down as soon as we got off the bus. 15 minutes later after sheltering in a police garage, we went to Mr Hugo, the bicycle man, who had a small yard, filled with bikes and tourists, with plastic cups of free wine in their hands. With a small map of the area in hand, we cycled off down muddy roads to visit a small vineyard (Familia Tomaroso) and a large one (Tempa Albus), tasting some great Malbecs & eating some amazing steak. Myself and Anne then visited the most laid back beer garden finishing with a strange shop/tasting parlour that gave us dulce de leche, chocolate, chili paste, olive oil and finishing up with a selection of liquors, including a dash of 75% Absenta (absinthe) Back to the hostel after a little more free wine from Mr Hugo and an Assado with lots of hostel dwellers.
Went to bed relatively early due to the following mornings adventure to come. I woke several times in the night, both due to number of insect bites I'm now wearing, and due to the thoughts of what it's like to tumbling through the air. So at 6:30am I'm up and checking out of the hostel and about to get in a van to bring me for my first skydive. Adrian, an Argentinan with over 7000 jumps under his belt, (plus 400 base jumps) is the man who brings us on the hour or so journey out of the city to a tiny airfield with a tiny Cessna. There is me, Karen from Cork in Ireland and Daniel from Sweden (tough he lives in Norway) There is plenty of waiting around as cloud conditions aren't perfect but we watch some videos of peoples reactions, do a little bit of safety training, put on ridiculous coloured flightsuits, play with some dogs. Karen is first up, so myself and Daniel, spend 15 minutes watching the plane get higher and higher, before we see a tiny black dot, plummeting through the air for about 30 secs before the chute opens and she glides back to earth.
Next up is me. Strangely the thought of the danger of jumping form 9500 feet isn't something I think about at all. I have great confidence that all will work as it's meant to, the main thoughts is the fear of what it feels like when the plane door opens and massive wind and noise and the 200km/hr speed i'll soon be going. The plane ride up is cramped but I spend the 15 minutes watching vineyards and the airstrip grow smaller below me. We shuffle into position, I'm clipped onto the front of Adrian, straps tightened to almost painful levels and then he opens the door. The incredible wind speed makes it hard to breathe normally, the noise, trying to remember where to put my arms and legs, what position to take up to get the longest possible freefall time. And then it's out the door. The first 10 seconds are literally indescribable; it involves sheer panic, massive adrenaline rush, trying to take in what's happening to me. But after a short time we're really stable, I can see the world world beneath me and the feeling is incredible. It doesn't really feel like falling, nor like flying and there is really no fear, just heart pumping excitement. And then about 40 seconds, the chute is opened and, we're taking a 6 minute gradual float back down to earth with a lovely comfortable landing. Daniel is last up and whilst he's taking to the air, (more terrified that us Irish) we watch out videos, laughing at our rather ridiculous expressions. A good sleep on the way back to the hostel, followed by a shower and a day lazing around waiting for a free wine tasting that evening and then onto my bus at 10:45pm for the long trip to Chile through the Andes.
Sleeping on buses, isn't too hard but the fact we have to stop at the border for about an hour, in the dark, with massive shadows of giant mountains, just visible beyond the boarder buildings, means it's a rather weird experience. So around 4am, I stand in lines, have my bags checked by sniffer dogs, fill out forms & get more stamps on the passport. Into Santiago at 7:30am and a short taxi ride to my hostel, where I'm finishing this blog, relaxing in a sitting room, listening to the sound of breakfast being prepared and fighting the wifi for an internet connection. Hopefully Chile will be just as much fun as Argentina was; I've about six days to get from here to Peru to start acclimatising and being the Inca trail, so lets see how much I can squeeze into that.