A condor in Mendoza

Argentina 2007

Nadia and I meet up in Mendoza, and explore the town. We find a condor but miss out on the albino toads

A shelf of wine is surmounted by the stuffed heads of various animals

Stuffed. It could put you off your drink. Briefly.

It was huge. Its wings, outstretched, had a span of three or even four metres. And, with its keen beady eyes, it was staring straight at us.

I’d met Nadia earlier in the day in a cafe on calle San Lorenzo, in Mendoza. Forty-eight hours travel forced me into the shower, and then we walked around town.

We walked everywhere. Parque General San Martín, the squares, the streets. In my excitement I even dragged Nadia to the municipal aquarium for the albino toads the guide book promised. They weren’t there.

Around seven that evening, after nine hours about town, we started to tire. Time for a beer.

Easier said than done. Argentineans don’t drink in town until much later — around midnight — so we couldn’t find an open bar. In desperation we dived into a corner shop.

Inside, a cow stared at us dolefully. As did a penguin. And a dog. Even more unexpectedly a condor stood, wings outstretched, in front of us.

The place was full of stuffed animals. The condor perched gracefully atop the biscuit aisle.

The owner, said the cashier, was a taxidermist. He loved to stuff animals. He’d not killed any, she said, but has been given the bodies as presents. Pleasant.

I found it bizarre. Nadia loved it. We left without beer.

Eventually we found a bar. We ate and drank. Too much of the first, just enough of the second.