We arrived in Mendoza on Sunday afternoon. The sky was grey, filled with heavy clouds and the Andes were nowhere to be seen.
Getting into cities is always a stress, more so now. Where do we park? Is there a hostel with secure parking where we can possibly stay in Gellan but use their facilities? A thorough review of iOverlander and a look through the guide book – the answer is no. We do manage to find a parking lot in Plaza Independencia which has a small (and filthy) bathroom and which will let us stay for the night for the “bargain” price of 300ARG. We are being robbed but there’s no alternative.
Mendoza is green. Tall plane trees adorn sidewalks, all blocks are surrounded by irrigation channels, the air is fresh, there’s fountains in every plaza. Are we not supposed to be in the desert? Where is all this water coming from.
We grab a table at Havanna, Argentina’s answer to Starbucks, on the main pedestrian street and settle in for a long afternoon of people watching and free wifi. The town is quiet. After all it’s Sunday. And it’s siesta time. By 6 o’clock we are hungry and set off to Av Aristide, the bar and restaurant hub of the town for a bite to eat. Alas this is not Europe and floors are still being mopped and chairs are being put out when we arrive at 7. One bottle of wine, some antipasti and we wait for the assado. By the end of the night (i.e. 10ish) we are stuffed, and thoroughly drunk on what turns out to be three bottles of malbec. A slow stroll back to Gellan, a pit stop at the Hyatt bar where we don’t drink anything (thank god) but end up watching the last 15′ of the Super Bowl.
The next morning is obviously tough. Overnighting in a car park means you are woken up every time someone drives in or out. Add to that the buses which start running at 5… the day is long, but we go back to Havanna, do some more research, book my luxury bus ticket to BA and by 3pm we are back on the road.
The task at hand? Head back into the Andes and trek to the base camp of Aconcagua Mt at 3,200m. We overnight at a secluded spot, hidden from the main road and protected by the glorious brown foots of the Andes. At 4am Andy goes outside to photograph the night sky.
A 7am drive to the start of the trail (these days this is torture!), check in with the park ranger at 8am and after the obligatory faffing set of at 9. The trail gradually goes up, there is no scrambling or steep inclines this time but the thin air makes it slower going. By midday we are at the quiet and tidy base camp. Aconcagua, covered in snow, looms large over us. Kindles come out, we are both obsessed with our books at the moment, some biscuits are eaten and an hour later we are back on the trail. By 3pm (once again beating guide times) we check back in with the park ranger; we are back, in one piece and have an empty rubbish bag.
We say our goodbyes to the rangers, look at each other and wonder. It’s Tuesday evening. We need to be back in Mendoza on Saturday. What next?