Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ale-ale-jandro and The Snack Stand Lady: Making Extreme Dreams Come True in Mendoza

We arrived at our hostel in Mendoza in a daze after an unexpected and monstrous 20 hour bus ride.  Normally, Valparaiso to Mendoza, Argentina should take around 8 hours.  Imagine my disappointment after falling asleep at night and thinking we were almost there when I awoke in the morning.  Hardly, the bus was stopped the entire time at the base of the Andes because of a snow storm.  Aaaacckk. 

My dreams of riding through the vineyards on a wine tasting, bike tour were crushed as they were closed by the time we arrived and like most towns in South America, Mendoza turns into a ghost town on Sundays.  So there we were talking to our cute, hipster hostel owner asking what we could do and trying to stay positive.  Horse back riding?  Nah, already did that.  That's when Maureen pointed to a parachute on a wall and said "maybe this?"  My first was response was NO WAY JOSE.  I'm not paragliding off a mountain in South America.  I've never been interested in bungee jumping or sky diving.  Well, after some convincing and the other girls were in, I realized why not?  It's once in a lifetime experience.  This brought me to my second problem, I didn't bring tennis shoes.  For once in my life, I tried to embrace the backpacker's mantra and pack super light.  Big mistake, big big mistake.  I'll never do that again.  After testing out the girls' shoes, I settled on sharing boots with Kristy since only three could jump off the mountain at a time.  Crisis averted (at least I thought).

The tour company picked us up in two cars - one which required us to sit in the back of a pick-up truck.  Well, at least it had seats.  That same car would later take us up the rocky, dirt trail to the top of the mountain.  While waiting at the base, I quickly realized the timing wouldn't work to share shoes.  We all brainstormed my options - A.  put my socks over my flip flops  B. Tape my flip flops to my feet and perhaps put my socks over my flip flops C. Not go.  That's when I noticed the woman working at the snack stand and my eyes focused on her tennis shoes.  I innocently asked her if I could borrow tape for my feet and explained my situation trying to give her the saddest look possible.  My trick worked and she offered to trade shoes.  I know, I know, it sounds gross but really I had no options.  So there I was wearing the snack stand lady's tennis shoes that were 3 sizes too big for me, skinny leg jeans and my J. Crew cardigan ready to propel myself off of a steep cliff.  EXTREMA!

Three of us set off up the steep mountain with our guides bouncing around in the back of the dusty truck.  The jokester of the group told us it was his first time and that he was just a little drunk.  Well, guess who got stuck with the drunk beginner?  We were up first and the wind was whipping around.  I was instructed to essentially run off the mountain with him and the parachute would take flight.  After two very unsuccessful attempts that dragged me across the dirt and bruised both of my arms, my nerves were at an all time high.  Then the wind stopped and we stood for a good 10 minutes just waiting.  Were these all signs that I wasn't supposed to go?  I was second guessing my extreme decision.  Just then he said run and the wind quickly caught us and before I knew it we were floating high above the mountains.  It was breathtaking as the sun was slowly making its way down. 

Suddenly I realized how my life was in the amateur hands of my drunk guide and I should probably know his name.  Alejandro!  The rest of the time, I couldn't get Lady Gaga's Ale-ale-jandro, Ale-ale-jandro, Alejandro, Alejandro out of my head as we soared around like a bird.  It was incredible and calming as we floated around the sky past the tall mountains.  Just then he began doing spiral tricks and after yelling "NO ME GUSTA, NO ME GUSTA" he quickly stopped.  Of all things, I felt slightly sea sick but tried to ignore it.

Now it was time for landing and I was fearful after the rough take off.  Luckily, it was easy breezy.  My feet gently touched the ground and I was reunited with land.  I made it.  Pheewwww.

What an incredible experience.  Although, I don't think I'll be signing up for sky diving lessons anytime soon.   Here are a few photos (photo cred to Lauren since my camera wasn't working).

My extreme gear - my purse went with me too

I think that's Maureen but that's what it looked like while in the air
The mountains near sunset


  1. That's so awesome! I'm very happy you made it safely back down from your adventure:)

  2. Yeaaaaa...feet "and" borrowed shoes back on the ground! Mom