Part 7: Mendoza and Aconcagua, Argentina (Part 1)


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The Trip

We left Potrero de las Funes and drove to Mendoza.  The drive was easy, but a bit boring in that the terrain was flat.  We had to cross into another province and for whatever reason they sprayed passing traffic with insecticide.  Sadly for me, I had my window open and got sprayed in the face and eyes.  It did not seem to have any ill effect other than the third eye that has sprouted from my forehead.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

This photo is a duplicate of one from the previous page, but I was so happy about being able to catch a bolt in progress that I decided to show it again.  This photo had a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds and was hand held!

I mentioned in the previous page that the main drag in Potrero de las Funes was a race track, so here is a photo to prove it.  The locals treat it as such and travel at high speed around the city.

It was well into the afternoon when we arrived in Mendoza and we were hungry.  And, we had not yet chosen a place to stay for the night.  Kathleen found a bistro using her phone and we were lucky enough to discover that there was a pay parking lot right next to the restaurant.  Parking spots in Mendoza are as scarce as hen's teeth.  We went into the bistro and were pleasantly surprised with both the ambiance and the food.  Above, Kathleen recovers from the drive.  As we entered the bistro, I noted that there was a bed and breakfast right next door.  After eating, we went next door and discovered that they had one remaining room and for only one night.  Sold.  It was a really nice place and the owner was anxious to talk to us.

Once we completed our paperwork and dumped our stuff in the room, we hit the bricks to check out the town.  The owner of the B&B, Mercedes, told us that Mendoza has a special irrigation system for the trees that line the city streets.  The original design was copied from the natives by the invading Spanish and the system remains in use to this day.  Indeed, the streets are lined by huge, old trees that are fed by the ditches that line both sides of the streets downtown.

Across the street from the B&B is one of the many parks in downtown Mendoza.  There was a nice fountain in the center of the park.  The tall building across the park is a hotel.

Next to the fountain was a monument that had been repeatedly tagged.  Sad, as it was a nice monument.

We walked several blocks to the trolley lines.  Mercedes told us that a previous president of Argentina did some shady, back-room deal with the trucker's union and decommissioned the nation's entire railroad system to benefit the truckers.  I assume, this being Latin America, that el presidente benefited handsomely from the deal.  In Mendoza's case, the state Governor decided that a municipal transit line would benefit the city so the old tracks were repurposed.

Some areas of town were pristine and others less so.  This building is next to a dirt lot that is in preparation for construction of a large building.  Hopefully, this structure will get a facelift as part of the project as it looks quite shabby.

The semaphores for the old train system were left in place when the system was taken off line.

I mentioned that when we were in Cordoba we saw plenty of buildings with ad-hoc wiring.  It seems that this is the status quo in this area.  Note the plethora of wires in the photo above.

We walked along the trolley line until we came upon the old railroad yard.  Above, Kathleen stands on the old turntable used to reverse the directions of the locomotives.

There was a bunch of old locos in the yard.  This one had the diesel motor removed.

These couplings are totally old school, similar to the types used in older European trains.

Further into the yard were a bunch of old locos that have been taken out of service. 

Based on a recommendation from Mercedes, we managed to get a seating at a very nice restaurant called Azafran.  The good news was that the food and wine was outstanding.  The bad news was that we could only get a seating at 1900.  That, in and of itself, was a non-issue but we finished a big lunch at 1500 so there was little room left.  We ordered light: trout fillets and everything was fine.  The next morning we broke camp and headed west toward the Andes.  Just south of Mendoza, we got our fist view of the snow-capped peaks of the Andes.

As we got closer to the base of the range we could see a layer of clouds hugging the valley floor.

Our route took us past a large reservoir on the Rio Mendoza.

Past the reservoir, the road started to climb in earnest.  Road cuts revealed colorful strata inside the mountains.

The trans-Andean railroad (decommissioned) followed the Rio Mendoza.  Above are the remnants of a tunnel at the base of some huge cliffs.  The portals are for ventilation.  I can only imagine what the tunnels would have been like in the steam age: smoky, hot, and stifling with engine exhaust and steam.

Further up the canyon we passed colorful outcrops of highly mineralized rock.

A sweeping curve in the highway provided us with a view of the Rio Mendoza.  Note the milky color of the water.  This is due to "rock flour" which is pulverized stone that has been carried by the current.

The colors in the cliff walls were stunning.  Note the thick layer of alluvium next to the river's course.  This alluvium has been washed down from the peaks of the Andes over millennia.

This area is desert and there were only small portions that had any vegetation at all.  The sparse ground cover stands in contrast to the towering cliffs in the distance.

Further up the canyon we came upon light colored outcroppings.  Note the alluvial shelf along the river bank.

The canyon walls were very steep and weathering produced large fans of material at the base of the water courses.

This is the conclusion of the first part of the journey toward Aconcagua.  To be continued in the next page.

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