Friday, 1 March 2019

Salta to Mendoza

I am quite late writing this because this part of our trip was pretty exhausting and I needed time to recharge. As we found out quickly, if we had wanted to see all of the way along the Andes properly, we had needed way more time. This ment we had to priorize on what we do with our limited time until our already booked flight from Mendoza to Buenos Aires. And we did decide - to squeeze in as much as possible.

We did this by getting up even before 6 a.m. on many days. We also did all of the longer bustrips during night, so we still had the whole day at our next destination. We actually got so used to sleeping on the bus, each time we got onto a bus we immediately got really tired. It would have been lots of time to sleep - in our whole vacation until now we spent about 106 hours on the bus, excluding local busses and flights. Unfortunately, the busses in South America tend to be cooled down by air conditioning to really freezing temperatures. I always needed all my warm clothes I brought for Austria just to stay a little warm during the busrides. I don't even know why somebody would want such a cold bus.

So we managed to get a lot done during the few days we had for the trip from Salta to Mendoza. While staying in Salta we mostly planned the further days, from there we travelled on to the Quebrada de Humahuaca in the North (of which I already wrote). Next stop back South was Cafayate, a village next to a beautiful valley and surrounded by wineyards. The wineyards there were really surprising for me as I live close to the Austrian wine region and the wine is planted on many many hills to get as much sun as possible. In Cafayate this is not necessary as there is probably enough sun anyway so all the wine is planted on flat fields. This was really strange for me to look at.

In the valley next to Cafayate, there were so many pretty stunning rock/sand formations I have never seen before. It prepared us a little bit for what we were about to see in the national parks Talampaya and Ischigualasto that were more or less close to La Rioja (or at least looked close on a map). As the travel guides all wrote that they were close to each other, we wanted to do them in one day. The cheapest option to do this was to rent a car and go there by yourself. I did not plan on driving a car in South Anerica. I knew that driving there is different and could be quite a challenge but as my friend has no drivers licence and the guy joining us was not used to driving on the right side of the road I ended up to be driving anyway. And it turned out to be pretty fun! Actually, here you can just drive as you would prefer, without having to follow so many rules that we got used to in Austria. And it doesn't really make a difference that other cars drive like that as well since you should always look out for other cars anyways. Next time in South America I might even rent a car for longer.

So first we visited Talampaya national park. It took us about two hours of driving endless straight roads to get there. There we could take a tour through the valley that remembered me so much of lion king, I really loved it. Also, we could see Guanacos, another kind of relatives to the lama and we even got some wine during the tour! They really know how to keep me entertained. But to tell the truth, while it was wonderful to see this red landscape, I had troubles enjoying it, even the wine. This was because the peak temperature of the day was 42 degrees, and the heat seemed to drain all the energy out of me during the day.

Which of course even got worse at the second national park Ischigualasto or Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) that we visited in the afternoon. They both are relatively close to each other but there are only busses to Talampaya, not to Ischigualasto, so there were way fewer people. As it turned out, you can only enter the park by vehicle, in our case our own in which we arrived. This ment three hours of driving through the national park with occassional stops on one of the worst gravel roads I have ever driven. Do not get me wrong, after getting used to it, I really enjoy driving on gravel roads, it is so exciting! But I really did not want anything to happen to the car as I was the one renting it and also the only one in the car who spoke Spanish, so I had to be the responsible one.

So each time we got out of the car to see more of the park and take pictures, we almost got a heatshock even if we tried to use the air conditioning of the car as little as necessary. It was really a moon landscape or something of another world. But at this point my capacity to look at rocks was just overloaded and adding up the heat and the exhaustion from making the whole trip happen by car hit in as well. So the end of the park would have been the moment for me to get some sleep and restore my energy. But that was not about to happen.

We first had to drive another two hours back into the city to be there in time to return the car. We also had to refill the petrol (refilling the petrol in another country is always an adventure) and we had to somehow find a bank to get some cash to actually pay the car, because for some reason the credit card terminal did not work. And this was when the trouble started. At the first ATM we thought it didn't give us money because it was out of money. At the second ATM we still thought we had bad luck with ATMs and the system just didn't work right now. And we always tried all our different cards to get cash. It was af the third ATM we realized that every Argentinian could get cash but not us. At this time it was 10 minutes to the time we had to give back the car. So while I had to arrange with the guy from the car rental to give back the car a little later, I also had to drive to the center to a bank because obviously only the ATMs in banks work for us foreigners.

So I was way over my limit for exhaustion, had a severe headache from the heat and the sun, was about to starve and I knew I would not just get a good nights sleep and be done with it as we were about to travel on in a nightbus. I do not remember the last time I have been so grumpy. It was bad, really really bad, I do not know how my friend could stand me in that moment, but I couldn't help it. It did work out in the end but it was a long way to un-grumpy me again.

The next and last stop on this part of the trip was Mendoza. We arrived there by nightbus in the morning and as we were both still pretty exhausted from the last day, we did not really have the best start there. It was like, yeah we really want to see the city but also we really need to shower, get some food and sleep to feel like civilized people again. To keep the story short: sleeping won over seeing the city, even if Mendoza is really beautiful! I actually would like to come back here someday as I feel like we really had too little time and there would have been so much more to see and to do. But we had to get prepared for the big trip of the following day that was a hike in the Aconcagua provincial park.

The Aconcagua is the highest peak of South America with almost 7000m and is located in Argentina close to the border to Chile near Mendoza. This was something I definitely wanted to see. Also, I was already looking forward to do some real hiking for the whole trip. We had to get up even before 6 to get on the 4 hour bus ride to the entrance of the park and from there at 2850m it was a hike until 3400m at the first base camp of Aconcagua, you are not allowed to go further without a guide.

It was really stunning, and again I did not really have troubles with the altitude, more like troubles with the general exhaustion at this point of the trip, but it did not matter as I was so motivated. It was so cool being surrounded by such high peaks that all looked so different. The only pity was that Aconcagua itself was covered in clouds and we could only  estimate how high this mountain must be. I would really love to come back here and get a little higher and therefore closer to the mountain to get better views. Maybe I can include it in my next trip to Argentina (which is not a question about "if" but "when").

And then I might also be able to explore Mendoza a little further as we were already leaving again the next morning by plane to Buenos Aires, where we also finally had some time to relax again.

No comments:

Post a Comment