It was in the middle of the summer, the Argentine summer of 2014 when I visited the ‘Parque Nacional Aconcagua’. The Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere (a 1,500 m.less than the Everest).
We set off at 9.30 from Mendoza city in a private tour and headed northwest following the guidelines of the ‘Circuito Alta Montaña’ offered by the local travel agents.
If you’ve never been to Mendoza and love being on your own, with time enough to take pictures, stroll around or even do some guided trekking to the Aconcagua base, it’s better to hire a ‘remis’, a kind of cab that comes with a driver. Be sure to ask for one in your hotel reception and compare prices with other private tours. We were lucky to have a good chauffeur with ‘connaissance’ or know-how of the different spots worth seeing: “dique de Potrerillos”, Uspallata, Punta de Vacas, Puente del Inca, Las Cuevas….
What really amazed me was the varying and rich topography as we moved along the national route 7. The first stop-over was the ’embalse de Potrerillos’ (a reservoir). As you reach Potrerillos in mid-morning, you start marvelling like an artist would in front of a masterly finished oil-painting: the soil has turned to a reddish-brown colour, the lake glows in silver, turquoise and pink hues at the margins, and you see patches of green here and there, involuntarily scattered, as if to justify the need for a break against the intense blue and to highlight the red.
Heaven knows you can’t dismiss the sensation this has been put in front of you to admire, and in doing so, you’re completely alone. Just you and probably your partner, but not a sound of anything else to distract your observation. This is the Beauty of many increadible sites in Mendoza.
Moving to the second stop-over, you see the changing of scenario: from the ‘pre-cordillera’ you slowly move to the ‘cordillera’ and you start crossing tunnels…
By midday we had reached the Aconcagua Park. stepped out of the car and headed to the tourist office to pay for the entrance tickets. At the office, packed up with climbers we could read very interesting info about the different ways to climb the Aconcagua and the variety of species to be found.
Also, what most caught my attention was the very detailed explanation of how these mountains had been formed and one of the most famous expeditions ever carried out, the San Martin’s cross, to free the Chileans from the Spanish regime in 1817:
How could these men, in such poor equipment, have achieved such a feat, when today, looking at all that it takes for a good trekking down the path of the Park (no even ‘climbing’ the Aconcagua) you need an array of cold-protective garments, glazier sunglasses, special backpacks and boots and whatnot!
And then, we started our 1 hour and a half trekking along the paths, around the ‘Laguna de Horcones’ and down to see the breathtaking view of the Southern Face of the Aconcagua…
the most caring mother, followed up by these…as they turned out to be- the ‘playerito unicolor’ (Calidris Bairdii) babies, which can seldomly be seen in the ‘Laguna de Horcones’…
“Laguna de Horcones”, just in front of the Aconcagua, is another place worth admiring…the colour shades and contrasts would honour more than one poem or canvas…And the solitude, the peace!
That’s what you can see to the left of the Aconcagua, but there’s more to the right: a tiny brook in summer, the river Atuel creeps down the Andes. It’s the source of the Atuel. Little as it looks, farther down becomes one of the most important rivers in Mendoza (together with the Diamante and other 8 rivers) which will hold at least 2 electrical power stations (‘El Nihuil I’ and ‘El Nihuil II’)
Then, as you walk till the end of the path where it goes back, the most impressive view of the Aconcagua can be seen, with all its magnificent glaciers. If you have a good camera with a potent lens, this is what you get (on the right). But even if you have a mobile phone, you can get a good pic too (on the left).
To finish off, there were more stop-overs still waiting for us, more wonders to see, listen to and taste, on our way down ‘ruta nacional nº7′, which are worth a description. So, I’ll tell you about them in my following entry: Mendoza, the Andes’ circuit. Hope there were more words to describe the feeling of joy this Aconcagua scenery brings, but if I have to put it into just one word I would say simply, magnificent.