A road in which history and nature shake hands. It reaches the exact point from where you can observe the immensity of the mythical Aconcagua.
Being surprised at the fascinating landscapes of Mendoza
is something usual and the road that took me to the mountain was no exception.
I woke up wanting to shirk but I had to be ready quite early since I had been told that the transfer from the tourism agency I had rented on the previous day was punctual and the driver did not like being late to catch up the rest of passengers. Faithful to that, at 6.45 a.m., they were waiting for me with the buoys on in front of Petit hotel as I was finishing my last toast with strawberry jam, part of a fast breakfast.
Mario was inside, the guide of the excursion, who kindly helped me to get in. Kindness is a feature of Mendoza people. José was at the driving wheel to start and continue the way to call up the rest of the tourists that would go on the excursion.
As minutes went by, Miguel, Ana, Paula and the charming brothers Gastón (65) and María Eugenia ( 72) gathered the group. The last two were from Venezuela and were visiting the Province of Wines for the first time. "We will follow the same route the Libertor of America took", they said as they entered the van refering to the historical odyssey of Gral. Don José de San Martín to free Chilean neighbour country from the Spanish domination. Even though that was true, none of the Argentinean being part of the group had thought of that.
To the high mountain
We took Nº 7 National Route and, after riding 55 kilometers, we stopped at Potrerillos
, a place that allows you to enjoy old activities such as relaxing and adventure. The lodging offer ranges from full camping sites and picturesque cabins to warm hotels.
We took profit from this stop and enjoyed the beautiful panoramic view of Potrerillos dam which is being built and will, in the future, widden the possibilities of enjoying the region.
Heading west, we rode among the colourful stone formations of The Andes where popular imagination is invited to play among passengers trying to find known images such as "the monk", "the lioness" or "the turtle".
We left Guantata Valley behind and, then, after crossing the pre-range area, Uspallata
In this attractive town of military origin, located in a longitudinal hollow of sixty per twenty kilometers, among poplars and streams such as San Alberto, you will find the vaults ( curious buildings with roofs with cupola shapes from the XVIII th. century.
A long way to ride was still in front of us. We decided to continue the journey. In the zigzagging route, tunnels appeared one after the other and, in mid of laughter, claps and the magistral explanation given by Mario about the different areas we were passing by, the journey was amusing.
Mighty, silent and omnipresent, Mendoza River accompanied us during great part of the trip, its clear waters coming from thawings of unknown mountains.
In the very heart of the frontal range, we stopped and could appreciate the remains of the legendary colonial bridge of Picheuta Small Fort where a platoon commanded by Gral. Las Heras fought the first battle of The Andes Army against the Realist Army.
We started again, and we didn't stop until we arrived at Penitentes Ski Center
. here, we enjoyed greatly the snow. Paula and Ana took profit from the moment to "slide down the slope on their bottoms" while others made snowmen that ended up being the protagonists of the photographs.
Los Penitentes has eight ski-lifts and twenty seven tracks which cover 60,000 meters with steep slopes that leave skiers who dare to challenge them completely exhausted. This place offers, to those who want to stay, a wide range of lodgings, a commercial center, restaurants, bars, pubs and discos to have fun till dawn.
Once in the midst of the mountain range, at 2,600 meters above the sea level, we decided to have lunch in one of the stops on the side of the route. I suggest that you start with a plate of cream soup and then "plounge into" the menu of the day. You must remember that you are at a very high place and your body will feel the mountain temperature, consequently, you must feed it with calories. Ackon Cahuak, the Stone Sentry
Later, we went to Puente del Inca, an attractive calcareous ochre formation over Las Cuevas River which has thermal waters. In 1965, the hotel installations that used them were destroyed by an avalanche leaving just the remains. Native people say that these waters have healing properties due to the great amount of sulfur they contain.
“Let's go to the Aconcagua vantage point”, said the guide and , almost automatically, we all obeid. It was time to go on.
Among all the marvels you can find in Argentina, one of the most imposing ones is the Aconcagua
which gained its nickname : "Sentry of America" due to its 6,962 meters that make it the highest mountain of the continent. The Provincial Park protecting it is also very important , with Los Horcones Lagoon inside of it which shows the entrance to the Reserve of 75 thousand hectares.
Observing the Aconcagua from the vantage point made me think of the triviality that man is in this world. It's really striking. Its top covered by eternal snow which waits to be conquered by Andinists coming from different cardinal points brought that phrase to my mind that reads " getting to the top of a mountain is the best homage to freedom that you can pay to yourself".
A snow avalanche prevented us from getting to the top of Santa Elena Hill where the statue of "Christ, the Redeemer" is situated, at 4,200 meters above the sea level, in the frontier with Chile. That's why, we decided to return, get to Las Cuevas and, at least, see the International Tunnel which is 3,300 meters long and crosses the milenary Andes Range - the one which at a moment in history was no hindrance for a great man to cross it with his army and reach the goal of providing Chile and Perú with their Independence.
We returned to the city happy because of the time we had shared together and the unforgettable landscapes discovered during the day. What's more, something had changed on the faces of the travelling companions- they still had in their bright eyes the challenging shape of the Aconcagua.