5 November 2014

The Big Blog Exchange 2014: Visit to the Andes

Travelling on the tour bus on Day 3 (Sunday, Nov 2, 2104) of my Big Blog Exchange to Argentina (and nearly two months on after being notified that I´d won the competition), I was still in state of pseudo-disbelief.  Yet here I was actually on my way to see the Andes - that mountain range I´d never given a second thought about probably since after sitting for my O-Level Geography paper.

I´d just arrived in Mendoza in central western Argentina the night prior - arriving at midnight only to find all those who´d disembarked before me already having formed a long taxi line.  By the time I got to Hostel Suites Mendoza, it was almost 1am.  Unsurprisingly, I found everything with regards my tour to the Andes the next day already efficiently arranged by Hostelling International; the voucher was ready and all that was left for me to do was to turn up on time for the full-day tour.

The High Andes Tour (which took me past several sleepy towns and villages) covers two main points of interest, i.e. the Los Penitentes and the Aconcagua Provincial Park.  The morning was a cold one (it would get cold-er as the day progressed).  I was told that it´s not very often that it gets this cold in Mendoza - at least not in spring - and it didn´t help that the jackets and woolies I brought with me weren´t suitable for such cold weather.  But I was already here and wasn´t about to let the weather spoil my day.  It was cold, yes, but I´ll live.

The first stop was in the quaint village of Uspallata an hour due west of Mendoza.  This was a breakfast stop and I just couldn´t give up the chance to try a submarino that came so highly recommended by the locals.  Submarino is basically a mug of hot milk (or "leche" in Spanish) with a thick rectangle of chocolate dipped or submerged (hence the beverage´s name) inside the milk.  The trick is stir the mixture until the chocolate melts - essentially turning the milk into hot chocolate.  It was good.  Not great, but good.

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The quaint village of Uspallata 

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 The most popular place for breakfast in Uspallata

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 My submarino

After breakfast, I was off to Los Penitentes, a small town at the foothills of the Andes that has more hotels than houses to accommodate the thousands of climbers and trekkers that come to these parts each year.  Here, I took a ski lift to a lookout point located 2,950m above sea level.  The wind was strong both going up as well as on top of the mountain but it was all worth it; the view from the top was incredible.  See for yourself.  By the way, the multitude of colours you see on the mountainsides are caused by their multi-mineral content.

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The way up to the lookout point at Los Penitentes

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At the top of Los Penitentes, 2950m above sea level

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View of the Andes foothills at Los Penitentes from the lookout point

My next stop was the main agenda of the day, the Aconcagua Provincial Park, where I went on a medium-level, huffing and puffing 5km trek to the lookoput point for the mighty Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas at 6,962m.

The experience was amazing; braving the cold and (extremely) strong winds at the park was little price to pay to catch a glimpse of the Aconcagua´s majesty; Geography class in high school immediately comes rushing back.

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The start of the trek; slightly uphill but manageable

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Shades are a must here.  This where the going gets tough (huff and puff). 

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With Emile, the fine, incredibly bright Canadian lad who sat next to me on the bus, at the lookput point 3,320m above sea level.  The air´s thin up here.  That´s the Aconcagua on the right.

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The Aconcagua (with patches of snow) is on the right 

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Bonus visit to Ushuaia (pop. 15), the last town in Argentina before crossing into Chile; literally Argentina´s last chance saloon  

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And in Ushuaia, we enjoyed hearty, traditional Argentinian fare for lunch (yes, there´s a restaurant here)


All in all, it was a good, memorable day out in the heart of the Andes and I am forever indebted to Hostelling International for making it possible.  I leave this part of Argentina with a heavy heart; not only did I get to see the Andes up close, I´d also met the acquaintance of and befriended several fine, fine chicos at Hostel Suites Mendoza.  South American sights and warmth have to be seen and felt to be believed.  Indeed I look forward to the rest of my exchange here in Argentina.  For now, I leave you with a picture of my new friends from Argentina, Chile and Brazil.  Remember to follow me every step of the way as I journey through Argentina by visiting the daily summaries on the Big Blog Exchange website.

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2 comments:

  1. Wow, what an incredible experience, Vince! Those mountains are amazing!

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  2. Wow ! beautiful sight ! so happpy you get finally there, your dream !!! and the meal seemed to be very good !!

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