The River Mendoza with the Andes in the background. Used for rafting in the high season.
Had quite a long day today, did a tour out to the mountains around Mendoza, as far across as the international tunnel that crosses the border between Argentina and Chile (but didn´t go through). After we were picked up about 40 minutes late, we headed out through the pre-Andes range to the Potrerillos Valley, where a big new dam has been built. It´s a bit like Jindabyne in the Australian Snowys, they had to flood the old town to make the dam, so the inhabitants were moved to new houses higher up the hill. Not sure what they think of it, but it looks quite nice. After a quick stop at Uspallata
for drinks etc., we drove on to the main Andes mountains with a stop at Picheuta.
The bridge at Picheuta, unfortunatley with tourist atop!
This is the site of an old bridge used by the San Martinian army during the independence wars, but now basically looks a bit like a large garden ornament! The guide told us not to climb on it because it´s a national monument, but the locals don´t seem to take that seriously and were jumping up on it for photos, taking bits of the rocks etc., as souvenirs. Not very respectful, really. As we drove on through the mountains, we started to go into snow. Not deep, but it´s still only May, so it must get pretty grim here in winter. We saw a photo at our lunch stop of the army base at Los Penitentes and it seemed to be surrounded by about 3 meters of snow! We stopped at the famous Inca Bridge for a photo session. It is a natural rock formation found at the end of the 6000km Inca Trail, and is now growing all sorts of weird rock shapes from the mineral water that trickles down over it.
The friendly mules at Picheuta.
The public can no longer go over it, because it was being eroded too much. Underneath it are thermal baths built in the early 1900s by a nearby hotel. The hotel was destroyed by an avalanche, so everything is now just ruins (except the `miracle`church between the mountain and the hotel which survived the avalanche pretty well unscathed). Stopped to have a look at the Aconcagua Mountain, the second in height after Everest. People die on this mountain every year, and there´s a little cemetary nearby exclusively for climbers. Drove back through the pre-Andes and got some beautiful scenery as the sun came down. The mountains have lots of orange, yellow, red etc in them, and bring out lovely colours in the sunset. Also interesting to see the quite clear sedimentary layers where the road cuts through the hills, lots of eruptions here in the past. Got home about 6.30pm feeling quite tired, we always seem to get really sleepy when we pass through higher areas.