After a night of dancing to excellent music at a bar called Por Acá (and subsequently a rather subdued Saturday), I went on a trip today along the Alta Montaña (High Mountain) route, a road that climbs up into the Andes, connecting Argentina and Chile.
Our first stop was a town called Uspallata, which is at the start of the Alta Montaña road. It's a pretty place where we had some coffee and stretched our legs (as we'd already been on the road a couple of hours from Mendoza). There was a mural on the main road in the town, with the words 'trata a los demas como quieres que te traten a ti', or 'treat others how you want them to treat you', which I thought was a lovely message.
From Uspallata we wound through the precordillera, which is the line of smaller mountains in front of the cordillera, or the main mountain range. The road mainly followed the path of the Rio Mendoza and the Transandine Railway. This was a British-owned line that used to run between Mendoza and Valparaíso in Chile, before closing in 1984. Apparently there are plans to reopen it, but nothing seemed to have happened thus far!
We passed the small villages of Polvaredas and Punta de Vacas. Along the roadside were yellow and red striped poles built to measure the depth of snow fall - each one was 4m high! Before long we arrived at Puente del Inca, or bridge of the Incas, a naturally occurring bridge that lies over the Rio de las Vacas. Adjacent to the bridge are some striking hot springs that spew out sulphurous water, giving the area a distinctive yellow/green colour. There is an abandoned train station by the springs, and a collection of stalls selling souvenirs, as well as some accommodation for climbers in the area.
Which brings me to our next stop, at a random lay by on the road, where you can see the summit of Aconcagua. Taking photos I was reminded of my trip to Kilimanjaro and felt like I might have the climbing bug again!
We next arrived at Las Cuevas, the final settlement in Argentina before the border, which according to our guide has only 15 inhabitants. Here we had an excellent lunch, considering our remote location, at a café adjacent to an abandoned train shed, complete with a now redundant 'Bienvenidos a Argentina' sign.
After eating we were allowed to cross the border, without my passport(!), to 'sacar un fotito'. This involved passing through the mountain, via the Túnel del Cristo Redentor. Halfway through a small sign on the side of tunnel indicated we had officially entered Chile. Upon emerging I was dazzled by the amount of snow, which had been much less on the Argentinean side. There was also a small snowman at the roadside to greet us.
Following what sounded like a reprimand from a different border guard upon re-entering Argentina (I don't think the first one should have let us go through, even if it was just to take a photo!), we made our way back down the mountain. On our way back to Mendoza we stopped at embalse Potrerillos, or the Potrerillos reservoir, a big lake that made a great photo in the afternoon sun.
I took lots of photos, but on this connection I'll just upload a few to show what I've told you about in this post.