Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mendoza- Getting high and Parties on the roundabout

So we wheel it in to Mendoza mid-afternoon, in good time to source some accommodation. Or so you'd think. We did try a hostel but the owner was out and no one knew what the price of a room was so we tried the camp sites. One was miles away so we though we'd try the municipal one slightly nearer town. As usual, it wasn't too easy to find so for the second time we ended up with a police escort to a campsite. I think the police quite like getting asked to do stuff like this. No sirens or lights though.

Mendoza is yet another large 'grid pattern' city of the type that holds little appeal for me however it does have a very attractive park and lake to the west. Our campsite is located just outside this but not exactly within walking distance of the city. Now Argentineans like their barbeques and I mean 'really' like them. When we arrived, we were about the only tent on the site however here they don't use these places in quite the same way we do at home. It's a place for quite literally all the family to gather, drink, get merry and watch dad do the asado. So when we returned to the site about 11pm that evening after a frankly awful meal in town, the site was alive with families and kids running all over the place, music and general fun and games. Not exactly the recipe for a good nights kip in a tent then. And it wasn't just our campsite that was popular. No, the park was also full of people while barbeques were getting set up on roadsides and even the roundabout outside the campsite for gawds sake. And even more bizarrely, just to add insult to injury, a wedding party arrived about midnight bleeping horns and having a jolly old time till 6am. Even my earplugs couldn't drown that lot out.

So the following day was a restful one to say the least. A bit of bike tinkering and general slouching around was required as we watched our thermometer hit 49degrees in the sun. Not the sort of temperatures to do anything much really.

One of the reasons I came to Mendoza was to find the BMW dealer here as my newly replaced fork seals which cost me 40GBPs had decided to give up on me after barely a week and apparently these BMWs need something called a 'service' every now and again. We rolled up to the impressively clean garage much like those in the UK, and proceeded to be told that they didn't have time to look at my bike. They didn't look particularly interested in it either and I didn't have the time to wait so I understood, but only very slightly, how Ted Simon must have felt after he rolled into LA expecting some sort of fanfare from the Triumph garage.

Q. Whats the difference between a BMW and a Kawasaki?
A. Well, a BMW oil filter costs 90pesos while a Kwak one costs 15pesos- go figure.

We also managed to fit in some swimming here. Well, that is after trying about 3 different pools, we finally found one that would have us and we had about the first real exercise of the whole trip (apart from walking and picking up the bike now and again that is).

We had planned cross the mighty Andes again, this time our goal was Valparaiso, a coastal town some 300 or so miles away in Chile. Setting off from the flatness that is Mendoza, we followed the road as it wound its way up into the hills. On our right near the summit was Mount Aconcagua sitting at 6960m which is high indeed. In fact, it is the highest mountain, not only in the Andes, but in both the southern and western hemispheres.

Aconcagua- It´s quite high

I wish I could say I was blown away with the scenery but I think it´s possibly because you are 'in' them rather than viewing from afar, they don't seem that huge. Anyway, the scenery was actually pretty great all the same and when we came across the turn off to the Cristo Redentor monument before the Chile border, I couldn't resist it. The monument sits on one of the peaks and as we had to take the tunnel to cross the range, it looked like our best shot at getting a 'view from the top' so after a bit of gentle persuading Michelle and I set off up the gravel track. The road quickly deteriorated into mush due to the amount of water running down the mountain and the hairpin bends got even hairier the higher we went. I got up as high as 3600m or so when the road became totally blocked with snow and we had no choice but to start back downwards- but not before a bit of a snowball fight first though.

The end of the road at only 3600m, damm it!

Due to all this mucking about, as you may have already guessed, we didn't make Valparaiso by nightfall but got as far as a campsite near San Felipe around 8pm which seemed like a sensible time to stop for the night.

1 comment: said...

Good to see a posting from you Mike and Michelle! Was getting a bit worried!
Happy New Year!!
Please post more specifics about how you are feeling about the trip, pace, health of you and the bikes, etc.