I arrived in Mendoza with no plans and no idea where to start really. All I knew was that there were vineyards somewhere to the south of the city and you can visit them.
I’ve been doing very little planning before arriving at places on this trip, normally nothing more than a quick read through of wikitravel, and sometimes not even that.
In part that is because of poor internet at a lot of the hotels and also because I’ve been cramming so much in that I haven’t had a lot of spare time to plan ahead.
It’s often chance meetings that give you information. Chatting to a random stranger at the airport he told me ‘oh you must go to Cristo Redentor (‘Christ the Redeemer’); you go up a road that twists and turns and the views are magnificent’.
Well that sounded like something to do so my first night in Mendoza I found a company offering this trip and promptly booked it.
They picked me up at 7.30AM and drove us all along in the direction of the Chilean border.
Then we stopped at a ski resort. Obviously shut up for summer, though you can still take the ski lift up for some amazing views.
Then a stop that turned out to be a highlight for me: the Puente del Inca (‘Inca bridge’). This was an interesting place. Just over 2,700 metres above sea level, the orange ochra colours you see are made from the minerals in the water. The water also colours anything put in it (you can buy bottles that have been ‘painted’ and hardened in the waters). It is quite a spectacle.
In 1925 a luxury hotel was built and the place was thriving as a spa; a dip in the waters was prescribed for all kinds of ailments.
The hotel was destroyed by an avalanche in the 1960s, although the ruins remain.
After that it was time to face the road up to the Christ statue that marks the border between Argentina and Chile.
I got a sudden intense headache when we got to the top, which I can only attribute as altitude sickness, since we were around 3,800 metres up (it went away when we went back down). A bit worrying, since I am soon flying into the world’s highest capital city, which tops this by another 250 metres.
You can’t cross into Chile from here; they don’t process people here and you have to go through the checkpoint on the main road. This is something I will be doing in a few days, so I can look forward to seeing most of this again, albeit only from the confines of my bus.