2017ArgentinaCitiesLandscapesSouth America

Mendoza: Deep canyons, high passes in andes and lovely vineyards

After Shujaa and we had recovered from the three-day nightmare experience at the Laguna Llancanelo, had done a few repairs and carried out an extensive cleaning operation, we continue north towards the city of San Rafael: there is the very beautiful Val de Atuel – a deep Canyon with bizarre rock formations incised river.

Unfortunately, a heavy storm with strong rains and hail, is approaching quickly so we – still sensitized by our experiences in the lagoon in recent days – quickly leave the valley again before the streets are washed over. At a breathtaking speed, the river on which rafts and canoes were floated on our arrival, rises in the narrow valley. On the way to San Rafael, we see the destruction of the hail, especially in the wine growing, but also in the whole city: The power has failed, so that we again cannot replenish our cash holdings at an ATM.

Therefore, we continue on an adventurous route (we still do not shy away from driving challenges) over two passes of 3.700 hm to the lagoon Diamante – below the volcano Maipu. In contrast to the south (Tierra del Fuego / Patagonia), the mountains are getting higher and higher with more than 5,000 hm and we notice the altitude quite clearly – our overnight stop directly at the lagoon is at  3,200 hm. We feel not only physically exhausted, but somehow we are both mildly depressed. Luckily this changes as we drive into the vineyards south of Mendoza: the very beautiful Valle de Uco, at 1,300m, is one of the highest vineyard in the world, but after the high altitude night in the middle of the Andes we are now well acclimatized.

After the hardships and adventures of the last few days, we enjoy the infrastructure and the lifestyle of this great wine region: We make great wine tastings, fill the remaining free storage space of Shujaa with some good drops, eat great food and somehow are living in a completely different world. However, only for a very short time, as we “have to” cross over to Chile to the next wine growing region, where we are going to meet good friends on the first / second Christmas holiday.

We stop at Mendoza – the city is described in the guide as the most beautiful city in Argentina, we find it nice but unspectacular -, drive in search of a parking space through the first slums of South America and then it goes on a spectacular small track to Chile and to the foot of the Aconcagua. The highest mountain outside the Himalayas looks very sublime and aloof, the glacial eruptions seem threatening, the polychrome rock formations surrounding it contrast the whole scene. Over a pass located at 3,200 m altitude we leave rough Argentina and enter civilized Chile – for the fourth time on our journey.

The border crossing runs smoothly and the Chilean food inspectors are not taking any of our food belongings this time. Only on Shujaa’s parquet floor lying, brought from Germany springbok fur from Africa, leads to a long debate. At first the Chilean border guards suspect it would be a killed, local guanaco, but we can fortunately clarify the situation.  Interesting that this thoroughly common ground coat was never a problem at the three other border crossings.

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