Mendoza is situated right beside the Andes, with the spectacular mountain range acting as a natural border between Argentina and Chile.
I don’t know about you, but in my books, a desert right beside the longest continental mountain range in the world should make for some truly amazing backdrops.
That was why we did something we normally wouldn’t do. We booked a tour through the mountain ranges surrounding Mendoza… yes… booked.a.tour… with a tour group… a touristy tour group (taking a serious blow to our backpacking street creds in the process).
But we’re glad we did. There was no other way we could have done a trip through the Andes by ourselves.
For one thing, the tour started at 630 in the morning… I don’t think there was any plausible universe out there in which we would have woken up so early in the morning to trudge through the Andes if we hadn’t already paid the $50/head up front.
For another… it is THE ANDES…. there was no way we could have trudged through it without our own form of transport.
Throughout the day, we were shown sights on the Northern Argentinian side of the Andes. We visited quaint little villages like Uspallata (where, true story, they filmed “Seven Years in TIBET“), walked down roads that the army of the legendary San Martin marched through during their Chilean/Peruvian campaign (I challenge you to find an Argentinian town without their own San Martin Square or Calle San Martin), gazed at the magnificent Aconcagua (the highest mountain in the Andes range) and even saw the Puente del Inca, a natural bridge formed over the Vaca River.
You’d think that with a private van chauffeuring us around the whole day, we would have an easy day out. What we didn’t realize was that it was the start of a veeeeerry loooooong day.
For that, I blame Natsumi Hayashi aka Yowayowa. The Japanese photographer who seemed to have perfected the art of “flying” photographer. It could be the sparse mountain air, but we spent the whole tour trying to emulate her photos.
Note to self: Scarce mountain air + lots of jumping = getting out of breath really really fast.
We also spent some time having a photo competition a la Peaceful Gary from the hit Korean variety show “Running Man”.
And then again, there are some places that makes us just want to jump for joy.