Journey into the High Andes

It’s impossible to be in the shadow of the tallest mountains of the Americas and not succumb to the urge to go explore them.  So on Thanksgiving Day I did just that, going on a day trip from Mendoza up toward the Chilean border.

It’s a long drive, but certainly a lovely one-

One of the countless shrines that dot the roadside in Argentina- they’re really everywhere and serve different purposes, from memorializing someone who died in a car accident (like we do with roadside crosses) to marking the memory of a mother who died of thirst by placing water bottles around it.

Making a friend at a rest stop- this guy had a collar but was just wandering around, so unlike touristy Bariloche I could pet a St. Bernard without being charged a few pesos!

There are a lot of roadside stops to snap pretty scenery pictures on these tours of the high Andes (some of which are above, obviously) but by far the coolest out of them is this place, known as Puente del Inca or “Bridge of the Incas”-What you see here on the left is a natural bridge across the stream below (formed by glacial forces they think) which was what the Inca crossed centuries ago across this mountain pass to Chile, hence the name.  What makes this really crazy are the hot springs here to boot which coated the landscape in all the yellow sulfur you see a la Yellowstone National Park.  About a century ago someone built a hotel and bathing area here to take advantage of the hot springs but the hotel was destroyed by an avalanche, hence the baths were abandoned and now beginning to be covered up by the sulfur.

In a word, otherworldly.  Here’s a close-up of the old staircase being swallowed by the encroaching rock- I can’t say it struck me as a great place to build a structure, couldn’t you tell it was going to be unusable within a century?As a final stop in this journey of the high mountains though I have to end on a high spot, literally the highest in the Americas!  Just shy of the Chilean border is Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak of the Americas at 6,962 m (22,841 ft), which I just had to see if I was so close!

Celebrating seeing the tallest mountain I’ve ever seen- though for scale realize Mount Everest is almost 2 kilometers taller than Aconcagua!  Well the Andes are the youngest and fastest-growing mountain range in the world, so give it time to grow.

The best part of Aconcagua though was spotting what looked like a cloud the second we arrived at the lookout point, then I realized on such a clear blue sky sort of day there was a much more likely explanation.  The guide confirmed it- avalanche! Kinda-sorta-visible in this picture:I learned later in Mendoza just how lucky I was to spot an avalanche of Aconcagua by the way- all the locals were green with envy telling me they’d never seen one.  Well the whole event took perhaps a minute from start to finish, so good timing always helps!

All in all a beautiful drive I’d certainly recommend, as while it was spectacular to fly above the Andes it was just as marvelous to travel through them!

5 responses to “Journey into the High Andes

  1. amazing photos Yvette. I don’t think I’d be that keen to take advantage of those hot springs though.

    • Thanks! Though yea that was my reaction too (who’d want to smell all sulfur-y?) but I guess back in the day you’d get in for medicinal purpose regardless of how you smelled later.

      Cheers!

  2. Those rock formations are other-worldly. Great photos Yvette!

  3. We made the drive from Mendoza to the Aconcagua area last January and it was so spectacular! The scenery in that area is so gorgeous – great pictures!

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