The Aconcagua National Park

IMG_0235 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.IMG_0167

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…

And the road starts going up and your ears start getting blocked….IMG_0172IMG_0179



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:

IMG_0194IMG_0195 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…

DSC_1034and also started taking innumerable pictures, but hold on! Off the beaten track, this is what we found…marching peacefully, as the rough cold wind was blowing (chilly summer wind)…


Playerito unicolor

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’…

IMG_0206So, we were the ‘lucky few’… other tourists simply passed by inadvertently…

“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!


laguna de Horcon







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’)

the source of the Atuel river

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).


cold wind blowing NS in the Aconcagua, 5 Feb.2014

glaciers at the Aconcagua, summer










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.


Welcome to France

Welcome to France

This is one of the posters you can see while entering the international terminal of Charles De Gaulle, Paris

How nice it is to be greeted like this, particularly if you’re leaving Europe! After a short flight from Barcelona, I stepped through the plane thinking about flight schedules and worried about tedious connections ahead. But, then…voilà! As I was walking along the corridors to get my connection, a display of posters like this heightened up my spirits….ahhh!!! Remembering all those lovely places I had been to on my way to Barcelona…those 5 charming summer days spent for the first time in the city of lights. L’Arc de Triomf so near to my hotel….Montmartre.…the tour Eiffel….

To those graphic designers with good taste…thank you! You’ve certainly made your point! I shall be coming back to Paris soon.

Bilingualism and Multiculturalism in Catalonia


As I was lying down on the pebbled beach of ‘La Vall’, in El Port de la Selva (Costa Brava, Spain), a couple with a small girl caught my attention. Mum and child were playing in the sea while the father was watching them from a rock nearby. The girl, slim and blonde, was swimming -or floating, rather- on top of an inflatable penguin. Her mother was by her side with the water to her waist.

Apart from the loving family picture my interest was aroused out of the mother and child oral exchange: while the mother spoke to the girl sometimes in Catalan, sometimes in Spanish, the small girl invariably answered in Catalan. ‘Estás cómoda, eh?’ (Sp.) (‘you’re comfortable, uh?) would change into ‘Vols una bocata?’ (Cat.) (‘would you like a sandwich?). As they approached the beach, the father would comment, on an equally perfect Catalan..’ja marxem, oi? (‘shall we go back home?’). And both mum and daughter would answer in Spanish and Catalan alike.

To bring more hues to this canvas of multiculturalism, a fair-haired French boy of a similar age to the Catalan girl came running to them, as he saw that the family was getting ready to leave. ‘Vous voulez voire une meduse?’ (‘do you want to see a jellyfish?)-he said. The mum translated for the girl: ‘diu que si vols veure una medusa’ (he asks if you wanna see a jellyfish). In a moment, all the family went to see the newly caught jellyfish, to the boy’s delight.

In Catalonia, the majority of its population speaks bilingually: Catalan and Spanish. Until the 70’s Catalan had been forbidden by Franco’s dictatorship government, so Catalan was secluded to home use. The effect of diglosia was clearly seen: Spanish for official use, and ‘any’ use, Catalan for family use (if you ‘dared’). But, with the democracy, Catalan was publicly restored and its status redeemed in all the Spanish territory.

Nowadays, a scene like the one I described above is very commonly seen. Catalan people are proud to speak with equal fluency two languages and shift from one to another with no problem at all. An average child like this small girl, will grow to have listened to -and very often practice in the case of French and English, thanks to tourism- at least 4 languages of international relevance.

Any problem with that? On the contrary! To us, EFL teachers and ANY language teachers, the more, the merrier. Or, to put it in linguistic terms, the wider the input, the better the ability to learn a foreign language.