Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Semana Santa Travelogues: Crayola doesn't have enough Colors for this Beauty!

So this was probably my favorite adventure in Mendoza: going on a walk in the Andes. (I wish I could say hiking but unfortunately that's not really what we did)

It started out when we decided to go see Aconcagua, which is the highest mountain outside of Asia with almost 7000m. So we bought our tickets and thought it was gonna be a 1-2 hour bus ride to get from Mendoza City to Aconcagua and that we might even be able to make it back to the Empanada cooking class at the hostel that evening. But little did we know! We ended up being on the bus for about 4 hours and of course that meant no Empanada making for us that day. But it was definitely worth it!

The bus ride started out in the flatlands of Mendoza but soon we came to the edge of the Andes. We then got a pretty good idea of the Andes in that region because our bus continued towards the heart of the Andes until we were almost in Chile. And even though I was kinda tired from stying up late the night before, I tried to stay awake as much as possible because the landscape was simply incredible!

We eventually got off at a very touristy place called Puente del Inca which was a teeny tiny town that was mainly made up of Artesanía shops. Amongst others they sold lovely Alpaca-wool sweaters, one of which would later go into my possession.

Pretty Artesanía mugs

All sorts of things that had been left in the Andes and some sort of yellow mineral coated it

From there we went on hiking upwards along the only existing road for a while. Unfortunately, Izzie didn’t feel too good that day but I didn’t mind going slow because the landscape was just so breathtakingly beautiful. All the mountains seemed to be different colors. Like god had gone a little crazy with the crayon-box up there. It's not really all that visible but there were patches of almost every color of the rainbow. And all those mountains looked so majestic and strong and slightly intimidating. I felt small up there in the mountains. Very small. But also very happy that I got to see all this beauty. I also felt the urge to climb one of those bad boys but obviously that wasn't gonna happen. I wish I could have seen the view from up on top of one of those mountains though.

The Colorful Andes
...and trust me, this isn't even close to reality's beauty!

Tiny Rachel in the Giant Mountains

Bridget on the rocks

After some time we came to an information center where we paid 10 pesos to get into the National Park around Aconcagua. They also gave us a little booklet with information about the National Park and other useful tips. Amongst others there was a page dedicated to AMS, which is the abbreviation for “acute mountain sickness”. We went through the checklist and diagnosed Izzie with major altitude sickness. Which wasn’t all that surprising because normally we live very close to sea-level in Montevideo and that day we went up to about 3000m above sea-level. But the rookies that we were, we didn’t care about stuff like that. And it was nothing Ibuprofen couldn’t cure. Personally, I didn’t even feel sick at all. It wasn’t until we reached the highest point of our journey, which was a scenic hiking trail at about 3000m, when I slowly began to feel how the air was getting less and hiking was getting slightly more exhausting than before. But I really couldn't care less as I was surrounded by one of the most beautfiul landscapes I have ever seen. 

Beginning of Aconcagua National Park

I think we diagnosed Izzie with "Moderate AMS"... needless to say we did not abort our ascent 

Up up up through the clouds

That's the spirit, Erin!

Hues of blue

So from the information center we continued on to the base camp, where you are supposed to spend some time before hiking Aconcagua. Since however we are rookies and climbing Aconcagua wasn’t on our to-do list, we went on to walk the scenic trail around the Laguna de Horcones. Said lagoon was more a big waterhole. Nothing fancy or impressive, like it sounded to be in the info-booklet.

Izzie and Rachel in front of the very spectacular Laguna de Horcones
..note that I am being sarcastic because really, it's only a water hole

We did however get a great view of Aconcagua, which sticks out between the surrounding mountains because due to its year-round glaciers it was the only one with snow on top. And that sight was truly spectacular! Not as beautiful and colorful as the other mountains but it just sticks out.Well, I guess a 7000m summit is kinda supposed to stick out even though from our perspective we didn't get to enjoy all of its majestic greatness. 

Don't let the clouds fool you, the mountain is huge!

Group picture in the very picturesque scenery

After we enjoyed it for a while we started our way back to Puente del Inca. On the way though we stopped for some picture-taking fun. After all it wasn’t enough to simply document the mountains. And for my part, I was exhilarated and just wanted to spin around in the middle of all the beauty. And so I did. And I was very happy in my very own “Sound of Music”-moment.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music!

Yes, I was utterly happy amidst all those beautiful and colorful mountains!

We are the Champions!

Back at Puente del Inca we made some (sweater-)purchases and had a bite to eat before getting on the bus that would take us back to Mendoza. And that was pretty much the end of a very long and very amazing day. I’m so glad we went there. I know the pictures don’t even come close to capturing the beauty of the Andes but I hope I could provide you with at least a little impression.

And also this is pretty much where the Mendoza adventure ends. Because the next day was spent enjoying some conversations and just hanging out with the girls before I eventually had to head to the bus terminal where I got on the night bus to Buenos Aires. Since it didn't make much difference in prices I splurged on an Executive Seat. Now the regular seats weren't bad to begin with but those Executive ones... well it's almost like a bed on a bus. No awkward awakeness because you're trying to find a position to sleep that doesn't molest your neighbor. I did wake up a couple times during the night and looked outside the window. But since we were passing the Pampa and other flat areas of Argentina, there was really not a lot to see. So eventually I got to Buenos Aires where I spontaneously met up with my friend Stephan who gave me a quick-tour of the city before I went on to catch my ferry. I'm not gonna write much about Buenos Aires at this point though because Sebastian H. and I are planning to visit our friends Stephan and Laura in Buenos Aires soon, in order to extend our tourist visa.

So as I said this was my favorite adventure in/around Mendoza though the whole trip was amazing. If you haven’t read it yet, feel free to check out what I wrote about the trip that we took to get there, my personal impressions of Mendoza, our wine&bike tour and a horseback-ride into the sunset.

Altogether I had a great time in Mendoza with my dear friends Bridget, Erin, Izzie and Rachel. I enjoyed eating lots of grapes and drinking what felt like whole barrels of wine. And of course I had a great time making all those new experiences and seeing all those incredibly beautiful places.

Muchas gracias por un viaje inolvidable!


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