Descent of the Andes to Mendoza

After a late night and camped at 2700m we both woke a bit seedy and waited for the sun to warm things up. This is not  a place for botanists (few trees) but is a geologist’s dream. The  colours and varieties of rock, scree, penitente and high mountains was stunning and we enjoyed our (mostly) downhill journey to Upsallata, 70km from our camp. Not far from the Frontera was the stunning Natural Bridge of the Incas – luckily in view of the road as we had no guide or even map at this stage.

It was formed from hot leaching mineral waters  and had obviously dammed the river at some stage but was now a bridge. The bridge was closed so we could not check out the historic bathing building.

We followed the Mendoza river and past one of the trekking entry points to Aconcagua (the highest peak on the American sub continent). We had missed views of the mountain because of our forced night journey over the pass sadly. It was spectacular riding and the tunnels along the way were fun. An advantage of the road closure was that all the traffic heading our way was held back in  Chile so we had our side of the road to ourselves. Given 2000 trucks use the road each day this was a bikers bonus. There is no such thing as a small truck over here.

Upsallata, at 2000m was a pretty town still in early autumn flush and the changing poplars against the stark mountain sides was rather beautiful. We had the camping ground to ourselves. Apparently the tourism season finished 2 weeks ago – but weather is still hot during the day and it was a shame the swimming pool was empty as we were pretty sweaty.

Destination next day was Mendoza – anywhere between 103 and 130km away and 1000m lower. We carried on down the Mendoza river to the agua cerrada (the water stopper or dam) and found a roadside food truck to have lunch out. The most helpful cook described the scenic and safe route into Mendoza. We climbed away from the river after lunch to a big, but busy (with trucks) downhill to the plains. The advised route into town was a breath of fresh air being a tree lined cycle path well away from the busy highway and on a slight downhill gradient.

When we were waiting for the road to open we had been given the name of a neighbourhood  in Mendoza that was the ‘cool’ place to hang out – sounds like us, huh, – so asking for directions we were disappointed to hear it was 27 more km but we were glad we carried on as it turned out to be a great area with travellors accommodation and a real street scene at night – just a pity we had to wait till 9pm to eat out as restaurants don´t open before that.

Today we are being tourists in Mendoza – jo with fountains/flowers – alan and empanada shops and after a siesta a walk in the park, open air jazzercise and checking out the highest point in Mendoza