The next three days will be etched in my memory forever as some of the most exciting, frustrating, exhilarating and exhausting days I have ever experienced.
My day started early leaving my accommodation in Buenos Aires at 5:15am for an 8am flight, this was also going to be my test catching BA public transport, i was warned that the bus to the airport might not even show, and true to their word after waiting 30min it didn’t, luckily the airport is only a 10min drive by taxi so for a mere 50pesos ($8AUD) i jumped in.
Arriving at Buenos Aires smaller Airport, Jorge Newbery I must say I was more impressed with it than the main airport, fairly new, more organised and friendlier airport staff, a short wait and we where off.
Arriving at Mendoza Airport I was feeling a little anxious as it would be my first time driving in this crazy country, unfortunately the staff at the rental car company decided they couldn’t make it to the airport to meet me (as had been agreed), after a few tense minutes I managed to call them and they where on there way, not a good start but not a major issue.
I met Mauro and he was kinda enough to drop me at my hotel and walk back to his office (was just around the corner), he gave me a few pointers and a few do’s and dont’s.
As most know by now I am pretty organised so had my accommodation booked months in advance, nice central international hotel, great price, I try and check in and BAM the first I hope of no other issues, for whatever reason I managed to book the wrong dates, I had booked the Thursday and Friday night checking out Saturday, not the Wednesday and Thursday nights checking our Friday, as I had booked through an online hotel website I couldn’t change the booking or cancel it without loosing money, so I had no other option but to book another night, $94USD out of pocket, ohh well shit happens and I was on my way.
Driving in Mendoza, hahahaha, lets just say if you are not pushy, aggressive and generally don’t get to flustered dont even bother, 1 lane = 2, blinkers? what are they? red lights? is that meant to stop me driving through them? In Australia, drivers are not aggressive, however, occasionally you need to be a little pushy, my pushy nature came in handy here, after 3 days driving I felt quite happy driving like a crazy Argentinian, I cannot wait till Italy :).
Ok lets go, I had planned my 3 days fairly loosely, I knew the general areas I wanted to visit and that was it, originally my flight from BA was to leave at 6am meaning arriving at 8in to Mendoza, which meant I would have 3 full days, however with the flight change, delays at the airport and hotel I didn’t leave until about 1pm, nonetheless I decided the Andes, Potrerillos Dam and Uspallata would be the Day 1 adventure.
Ohh the Andes, The Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world. The Altiplano plateau is the world’s second-highest following the Tibetan plateau. The highest peak, Mount Aconcagua, rises to an elevation of about 6,962 m (22,841 ft) above sea level and I was headed to an area where I would be able to see Mount Aconcagua, or so I thought.
As I headed down the infamous Route 40, I could see the Andes, with cloud cover my initial reaction was one of disappointment, I thought this was meant to be BIG, then all of a sudden the clouds cleared and there was this huge mountain range before me.
The Andes are quite imposing, as I turned off the highway it just kept getting taller and wider, then we started to make our way through it.
My little Clio rental, done good this little car.
Hey I am in the Andes I have to get a selfie in the middle of the road, hahah 🙂
Next stop, Potrerillos Dam, you can see the bright turquoise water from quite a distance, this Dam is damn huge 🙂 scuse the pun, but it is, its interesting to note the amount of locals in the area, well they seem like locals, they fish dam, ride their jet skis and generally hang about, looking at images on the net this place looks like quite the haven come winter when the mountains surrounding it are covered in snow and its only 40min from Mendoza CBD, anyway i got the shots I wanted and off I went, I had a date with Uspallata and the Puerte Del Incas (more on that later).
Driving Route 7 towards Uspallata is quite special, tunnels, amazing landscapes, at every turn there is something to photograph, hey I am here to take photos right? what greeted me just around the blew my mind.
There was a dirt road, I had to take it, little did I know it went forever and I didn’t have all day to explore more, I wish I could have though, the main highway is on the opposite side of the lake, just to get to this side was quite the ride across this old train bridge that will probably collapse the next time a car goes over it lol.
The Dam is part of the Mendoza River, the river flows right next to Route 7, along the way there are a number of White water Rafting Adventure companies, and around one of these corners was Rio Adventura, this place is amazing, the scenery, the rapids, everything, I had to stop, I spent the next hour walking around taking photos, the sun was about an hour and a half off setting so the light was perfect and the Manager of the place was quite accommodating letting me have my time walking around, it was rather quiet, apparently come earlier in the day and it is packed, lucky for me it wasn’t.
Sunset was only an hour away, my date with the Puerte Del Inca’s was not going to happen because of what I thought was time constraints, I later found out that wouldn’t only be the case. Puerte Del Inca is a natural arch that forms a bridge over the Vacas River, a tributary of the Mendoza River. It is located in Mendoza Province, Argentina, near Las Cuevas. Puente del Inca is also the name of the nearby hot springs, in photos the place looks like a dream to shoot, so I planned to come back the next day anyway, or so I thought.
Along the way I stopped a few more times to grab a few more spectacular landscape shots, you could spend hours and hours driving and stopping, its breathtaking.
I finally made it, Usapllata, this is where my journey to Puerte Del Inca would end abruptly, today, tomorrow and the next day. You see this is the main route in to Chile, and if the weather closes in they stop all traffic, they wouldn’t let me pass, I later found out I needed snow chains, and even then the Policia were hesitant, needless to say I was extremely disappointed, however needed to end the day on a high.
I went for one of my many off-road excursions, I could see the mountain range, I could see the Poplar tress, i wanted it all!!!, I drove along a dirt road for what seemed an eternity until finally at the very end it opened to this, as you can see below I am all rugged up, it got down to -1 and I am so glad I decided to bring my winter jacket.
I am not 100% sure what this place is, but nobody was around, and by the looks of it hadn’t been for a while.
I finished the day with my first steak in Argentina, it was 9pm, I had a good 2 hour drive back to Mendoza ahead of me and I just ordered what I thought was a 330ml bottle of Andes Cerveza (Beer), little did I know it was actually a Litre, haha, finished eating by 10:30, had to stop at the Potrerillos Dam for a quick nap and arrived back in Mendoza at 1am, what an amazing day.
Day 2 would be even better as I head back to Usapallata on my quest to get to Puerte Del Inca.