Friday, May 10, 2013
Our final days in Argentina – for now
I woke up deciding – I could live in Mendoza. I can fantasize about waking up surrounded by vineyards, with nothing to do but explore old and new bodegas and sample new and exciting wines. I figure it would keep me busy for a long time. But then reality set in. We are leaving to continue our adventures but I will return to this area and next time I am staying at Cavas Lodge. Tom agrees because we have had a good time here. Next stop is a small town in the mountains called Potrerillos. Remember those motorcycle tires? Well, Betty and Marcos who inherit them, live there. We have tried to contact them but have not been able to, so we can only hope they are home. On the way we pick up a hitchhiker. David is English. He is 68 and climbs mountains for fun. He is on his way to climb one right now. A big one at 19,000 ft. and he is by himself. My wow and awe factor kick up a notch. I am still amazed at the mix of people we encounter and David is added to that ever growing list. He had attempted to climb this same mountain last week but had been driven off due to bad weather. Returning to town to get his tent replaced, he was now going to attempt the summit for the second time. If this failed then he would have to cancel for the season. As we dropped him off at the start of the dirt road leading to the mountain, he had a 13 km hike before he even got to the base. “Now that is crazy” I said to Tom. We did find out later that after ascending to 10,000 ft, David again had to abandon the attempt because he had temporary blindness in his right eye. In my book, the man is a winner for trying. We were very disappointed when we arrived at Alto Potrerillos only to find that we had missed Betty and Marcos by a couple of hours. They had left for Mendoza. Darn, we may have passed them en route. As it was, we decided to push on to Parque Provincial Aconcagua. I had been talking to Tom incessantly about how much I was looking forward to seeing it. The highest mountain in the both the Western and Southern hemisphere at 22,841 ft (6,959 meters,) Aconcagua is surpassed only by Everest in height. For mountaineers it is also one of the 7 summits of the world. Then came our second disappointment of the day. Earlier than normal because of the strong winter storms that had already developed, they had called people off the mountain and had closed for the winter. Our only view of Aconcagua was from the south face and through binoculars and our camera lens we could see why the south face is considered to be the most difficult to ascend. The snow, which was blowing off the perpetual glacier in billowing clouds by the winds that ravage the mountain, was clearly visible and we did get some incredible photographs. Since the park was closed and with no other place to stay the night, we drove on to the border crossing. The border between Mendoza and Santiago at the Paso Cristo Redentor is considered one of the busiest in South America and judging by the cars, trucks and buses, we have to concur. It is also one of the highest at an elevation of about 10,500 ft. It took us three and a half hours to clear the border and another three hours to descend down the Chilean side. Incidentally this road is thought to be the most winding road in the world and counting the hairpin turns, 27 in all, in a steep descent down the Andes we believe that is true. Accomplishing this part in the dark was taxing on both of us and it was with relief that we arrived in the town of Los Andes, Chile for the night.