Wrinkly backpacking in Argentina - 8 (subtitle: a foot in Chile)

Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Tue 21 Jan 2014 21:13
On Saturday - the day before our wine tour - we drove west towards Chile, hoping to get a glimpse of Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas.  As the scenery started to get impressive we saw what appeared to be a popular stop - natural mineral formations and hot water spas at Punta del Incas, enjoyed by Charles Darwin among others.  

The Argentine answer to Tunbridge Wells.  Appropriately the spa hotel was operated by an English company until 1965

The road to Chile is pretty good, and passes through some fantastic scenery, following the Mendoza river and an abandoned railway (which had served the mines) much of the way.  Some 30 km away we had a good view of Aconcagua.

That's Aconcagua, the big hill.  But there are many peaks of about 6,000m on both sides of the road

Here's one to the left

By the time we got to the trailhead, where the serious climbers present their permits and set off upwards, the peak was shrouded in cloud!  As a consolation we managed to see, for our first time, some condors in flight.

The condor is more of a challenge to the photographer than the well trained llamas - well done Rachel!
At over 3,000 metres the 1km hike from car park to the viewing point was quite an effort, but worthwhile.  From here it's actually a walk to the summit, no climbing gear needed, if you have 20 days to spare.  Many climbers prefer a harder route - the south face, partly hidden by cloud in the pic below, is a 2,700m high rock wall complete with hanging glacier.

We can't go any further without a permit.  Shame!

Undaunted we drove on toward the mountain pass which marks the border with Chile.  Through traffic now uses a tunnel so the old dirt road up to the border is only maintained until the first snowfall of the year, then largely rebuilt every spring.

It's nice to be driving a hire car on this road.  It looks OK in the picture but more ground clearance would've been good.

The pass is at 3,854m and to celebrate agreement of the border position, in 1904, a suitable monument was erected.  Clustered below was the inevitable collection of ethnic artisans and one most welcome enterprise - magically spiriting up cups of steaming hot chocolate.

You can walk between Argentina and Chile as often as you like without let or hindrance!

We managed a short climb just to prove we could still use legs.  It was chilly up there - and Chile on the other side - and the views were spectacular.

Gasping for oxygen!

But I'm flying, almost, and that's Chile behind me.

Looking north west - at a few Andes . . . .

 . . . . and north east, at some Andean glaciers - at about 5,400m if I've got the right mountain.

From a little way down, the route back to the south east

On the way down we noticed a few new road signs.  Why here?

Although it was hot in Mendoza, the dryness made it much more tolerable, so after all that excitement we spent a day relaxing in the big Parque General San Martin on the western side of town.

Mendoza park gates - as is usual here you don't actually need to go through - just walk, or drive, around them

By now it was time to go home again so we got the night bus back to BsAs.  This time we had fully reclining seats - not available on all routes - and the journey was all the more comfortable. 

On the bus.  Say 'Goodnight' Paul.

In the morning we got straight on the ferry and bus back to find Lynn Rival safe on her mooring.

It's high summer here and often humid in the River Plate.  After a couple of weeks' sweltering we'll be off again on our next trip, flying to Tierre del Fuego for a few days and then back north to Patagonia.