Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in Argentina!

Location: Mendoza, Argentina

Rundown: Took to Argentina during Easter break for some wine tasting, horseback riding, and hiking under the world's tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas!

Took off right after school on Wednesday afternoon, with a few less documents than we should have had for crossing in to Argentina with the car. By the time we got to the border the night was cold with the altitude, and the officials let us through without too much fuss. We drove into Mendoza after about 6 hours on the road.

Stayed at a backpacker hostel, and felt a little out of place with our transportation! We took off early the next morning to soak up a little of the wine culture Mendoza is famous for. The city is very green, full of trees and parks. Beautiful place to be.

Took a drive out to the Lopez vineyard, a well renown Argentinian wine maker. We toured their extensive facilities that blend new and old technologies.

We even got to sample a few of their finest! Not bad for an impromptu drop in!

Lopez vineyards have been around for a while... when is the last time you saw a guy like that drinking out of a wineskin? I want one!

In Mendoza we got to try the killer carne that Argentina is famous for, along with some amazing wines.

Drove out of Mendoza and through the vineyards surrounding on the way to Uspallata, a tiny, dirt-street town a few hours west.

Although they grow all types, Mendoza grows a lot of Malbec. Below, a perky Merlot. You have to try 'em all though!

The roads through the mountains and highlands are gorgeous. I'd love to try it again on a motorcycle!

The road hugs the mountains, tucking through tunnels to avoid the winding rivers.


The southern hemisphere is in it's autumn cycle, so the trees are all changing color. All the aspen light up golden in the sun.
Arrived in Uspallata with much of the afternoon left, so we rustled up a huaso to take us up into the mountains on horseback. The roads of the town were lined with tall aspen which shaded us as we rode out of town.

We rode carefully up a narrow canyon, or quebrada. Our sure-footed horses lugged us up without too much complaining. My big guy was even feeling photogenic despite the haul!

An hour into the climb, the quebrada flattened out and spit us out in a high plain.

Had fun getting our 'cowpoke' on.

Our wrangler brought us to an old copper mine, which was completely worked by hammer and pike. We tied up the horses outside and went in to explore with lights. Veins of copper and quartz could still be seen buried in the mine's walls.

It was amazing how much material was removed from the earth by hand in all directions. In some places the ceilings extended up dozens of meters. In others the floor fell away to unknown depths. We watched our footing.

Back in the sunlight we mounted up and headed the posse back for town.

Once on solid ground, our wrangler was satisfied that we could handle ourselves on horseback, and let us gallop the rest of the way back the ranch. The tall straight aspen lined the dirt roads leading into town. The low sun lit them up like flames. Made for a gorgeous ride in.

Spent some time soaking up the low-key culture of the tiny town.


The next day we hit the road and climbed towards the pass where the 23,000 foot Aconcagua stands, the highest peak outside of the Himalayas, for a little hike.

The air was pretty thin to start with, but the valley leading towards Aconcagua was beautiful, and the sun, warm.

In the distance the massive mountain lures you up the valley like a flame draws moths...with backpacks.

We hiked for a few hours up and up, the mountain not moving much towards us.

Eventually reached Confluencias, the base camp for mountaineering excursions up Aconcagua.

Chowed down on some snackies at our highest point, which, despite the already high altitude, wasn't even half-way between sea-level and the peak. Long way to climb yet! Maybe some day soon...

Without a doubt, will be heading back to beautiful Argentina!

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