We left the ranch with tears in our eyes the day after my birthday. The three hour ride out was made a bit interesting by the half arabian Cass and I were riding who would periodically spook and break into gallop! We reached the lower pasture and said our goodbyes to Sky and Horacio and headed with Ashley into El Huecu, the nearest town which doesnt have much more than a bus station and school. Since we were headed north towards Mendoza we hopped on a bus to Chos Malal (a town to the north) thinking that would be the fastest way to Mendoza. We were wrong! The drive north was stunning (which distracted us from the fact that T and C and I were all in 2 seats together and the drop off was terrifying looking!) We arrived in Chos Malal and found a hotel for the night but the next morning learned the only way to Mendoza was either back to Zapala (south), our on a small local bus in the evening that connected with an overnight bus from Buta Ranquil as far as San Rafael (3 hours south of Mendoza). There was no bus station for the second bus but we called the kiosco were the bus stopped and were told we could have 3 seats but no more and there wouldnt be another bus until 2 days later! Decided to take the plunge and headed north. Buta Ranquil was even smaller than El Huecu with dirt streets, one restaraunt and lots of folks staring at us. We ended up having 5 hours there before our bus left at 11 but to our pleasant surprise there was another seat for Cass. We left there at 11pm and arrived in San Rafael at 6:30 totally exhausted (the road was gravel and Dave and I barely slept at all). The first hotel we called would let us check in right away so we decided to stay. After a long morning nap we explored the town which seemed like our guide book said to be like Mendoza without all the hipsters. It is surrounded by fertile wine country and is notable for its tree lined streets and people of all ages and sizes on bikes everywhere. It also has really good icecream! At the ice cream store we met an italian ex-pat who invited us to her house for dinner. It seemed like such a good omen that we found a nice house to rent for the week and moved in! Our house was 5 blocks from a huge park and 5 blocks from the ice cream store. It was like I imagine living in a small European city to be like, we had a butcher shop, bakery, fruit stand and market within 2 blocks of our house but were in a very residential neighborhood. We spent the week visiting wineries (by bike on a bike path!!!), saw all the city's museums, played in the park and drove out to Valle Grande. Valle Grande looks very much like Utah including a lush river running through it that we took a raft trip on.