Tataaaa! This is – according to this blog’s counter – my 100th posting. Can’t believe that I wrote so much in less than a year.
The journey from Salta to Mendoza was quite uneventful – except for the fact that I traveled on a first class bus.
The hostel in which I stayed was one of the places no one really writes home about. Neither bad nor good. But since a few people arrived there who were traveling the same route – on a regular bus – I knew quite a few of them. We visited downtown Mendoza and various beautiful parks around town.
Temperatures were absolutely breathtaking. Literally. The 40+ degrees Celsius were taking a toll on us backpackers and we crawled from shady ice cream stands to other shady ice cream stands.
Founded in 1561, the city of Mendoza now has almost one million inhabitants for the metropolitan area and one of the biggest city parks I have seen in Argentina. Called “Parque General San Martin”, this area features football stadiums, a lake, zoo and a University campus. Moreover, there is an amphitheatre and a scenic lookout, both located on the hill “Cerro de la Gloria” at the northern edge of the park.
Although the city is charming with lots of avenues plenty of trees and cafes, there wouldn’t be that many tourists here, if it wasn’t for two major reasons: One is the strategic location on the scenic highway crossing the Andes from Santiago (Chile). There are people flying in from Buenos Aires (although that highway would continue there), only to take this scenic bus ride to Chile. The windy road – especially on the Chilean side – is simply spectacular. And I am saying this as Swiss who is used to this kind of mountain passes – but back home they seem to be on a much smaller scale.
The second reason to come and visit Mendoza is “Aconcaqua”. This is a mountain peak in the Andes range, which actually is the highest mountain in the Southern hemisphere – as well as the highest mountain outside Asia. Although having an incredible altitude of 6,962 meters, Aconcagua is – in mountaineering terms – a technically easy mountain and a lot of casual (but fit) hikers book trips to go there.
However, such a trip requires at least one week. This is partly due to the fact of acclimatization time needed to avoid altitude sickness. As I had little time left, climbing the Aconcagua was nowhere near on the list of things to do. This might be a topic for an upcoming journey, where I might choose to climb mountains above 6000 meters altitude – or something similarly random. For the moment, I kept low profile and stayed in Mendoza.
A Korean guy mentioned that he booked the overnight bus from Mendoza to Chile to save on a hostel night. A Dutch guy nodded stating that he was also taking the night bus, because there was nothing to see on this trip. As he knew everything much better than the rest of us – including the owners of the hostel – I left both of the guys in their belief, that the highway to Santiago de Chile was boring. Funnily enough, some of the other people in the round actually had made that trip and would not even try to comment on the two guy’s erroneous plans. All this while I almost peed in my pants of sheer excitement in anticipation of the trip over the Andes.
On the last day of my stay in Mendoza, the other backpackers wished me a very nice and scenic trip during breakfast. While the Korean and Dutch guy got themselves comfortable on the hostel sofa to wait twelve hours for their night bus, I left. The trip definitely is scenic (Did I mention this before already?). The border crossing was done at an altitude of 3200 meters. Immigration into Chile was thorough, because – for some unknown reason to me – Chile does not allow any fruit, meat and dairy products into their country. All bags were unloaded and checked, which took about 90 minutes in total.
Obviously there were some cheaters like the Canadian lady who argued and tried to bargain with the customs agents – because she had a bag full of the forbidden food items.
She complained that the bus agency hadn’t informed her before the trip about this import restriction. But then again, before entering the customs building, there are life-size posters pointing out the law: Among other items, a 1 meter high picture of an orange is crossed out. Together with an English language label. Despite her ignorance, she had to pay the fine.
A well known proverb says that “A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.” Well, the Canadian lady, the Dutch and Korean guys did certainly not follow public opinions. Nevertheless, they were ignorant. This is why I like a Syrian proverb much better: “An ignorant person is simply an enemy to himself.”