Right, well then. Let me get on with this blog about the 3 day trek we embarked upon around the Aconcagua mountain near Mendoza....
So, the trip was to take us on a 3 day hike stopping 3200 metres above sea level for 2 nights and on to an altitude of 4200 metres at Plaza Francia on Mount Aconcagua. For me it was a bad start to the first day, with an upset stomach I had had for a few days and lack of sleep but after some breakfast I started to feel a little better...
We started on a bus, which drove 3 hours to the start of our journey in Aconcagua National Park. There we purchased our permits, which are compulsory for the mountain and costs a lot more for non-nationals by the way! Once we had what we needed, we started to make our way to the camp (Confluencia) which would be our home for 2 nights. It was a 3.5 hour walk, which took us through some magnificent scenery and whetted our appetite with distant views of the mountain.
Our first stop was after the hanging bridge where we had a bite to eat. Being such a bird lover it was a great surprise to find several small birds flying around us while we ate, and even being so brave as to eat out of our hands! I'm not sure why they are so tame there - perhaps it is their naive nature living in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, once we had finished our lunch it was onwards and upwards again. The walk was pleasant with some occasional tricky surfaces to contend with, but otherwise the ascent was steady. I found the first day a little difficult, getting used to the altitude for one, but also I don't think it helped having done an all day bike ride around the wineries in Mendoza the day before - my legs were pretty tired to say the least!
We arrived at the camp in good time for dinner. Before eating the group had a cat nap to recover from the walk (might I remind you that the sun was beaming down on us the whole time too, so we were pretty tired). We all sat down to the table and ate with some pleasure. The food was good and there was quite a lot of it too, in fact it was the first 3 course meal we had since arriving in Argentina!
After the well deserved meal we all had to have a check up by the on-site doctor to ensure the altitude wasn't affecting us too much. I had a bit of a headache, but after the check up the doctor seemed to think I was fine. Soon after we all went to bed... We had bunk beds to sleep on, so we weren't hard core campers by any means, but the night time was hard. The tempurature dropped around minus 10/15 and my sleeping bag just wasn't made for it. I had to put on several layers, and even then I was shivering quite badly. It was definitely another night with little sleep, and rather than discomfort from the heat, this was discomfort from the freezing cold!
Waking after a rough night was tough, but we had an 8 hour trek ahead of us to the final destination, Plaza Francia. We had our breakfast at 9am ready to set off at 10. My headache had cleared, or at least I thought it had, but it could have just been that I was paying more attention to my freezing limbs! Anyway, we started our ascent. The second leg was tough...we were climbing 950 metres and the gradient was a lot more severe than previously. I got my headache back, as well as a sharp pain in my left hip, which made lifting my leg quite painful, but we had to continue... Mount Aconcagua was getting closer and closer and looking bigger and bigger - the scenery was just amazing. You just have to look at the photos to understand! When we finally reached the check point with the views of the south side of the mountain (the 'easy' route to the peak) it just blew us away. I still can't quite take in the fact that we were that close to the largest mountain in the western hemisphere.
Once we reached our target we rested and ate for an hour before heading back to camp. Fortunately the road back was pretty much down hill all the way so took around half the time to walk back - much to the delight of my aching limbs and sore head! Once we got back to our camp we hit the sack again before dinner, which this time was even more deserved. With the altitude and the heat my appetite was a little less than usual, but I still enjoyed the feed. The sleep that night was much more comfortable than the previous, partly because Jim and I decided to use our bodies as a source of heat and threw our matresses on the floor together!
This was the descent back to the start with the bus ready to drive us home. Again the way down was fast and pleasant. As part of the tour we got to go to Puente del Inca as well, this is the orangey looking rock in the pictures, and is the last Argentine station before Chile on the Transandine Railway.
Once we finally got back to the hostel it was SO GOOD to have a shower! Doing something like that makes you realise how much you do miss those home comforts, although being away from them for a time is very rewarding too!