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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

ARGENTINA: LOS ANDES

MONDAY, Nov 27/06

In an earlier blog when I was planning this trip I wrote extensively about the Andes Mts. and Mendoza, Argentina where we were headed today. I was not disappointed. It was a spectacular journey through Los Andes climbing a switch back narrow highway up to 3,680 meters before descending the valley where Mendoza is located at 6 metres.

Leaving Chile, the fertile Aconcagua Valley is fed by the Rio Aconcagua which flows west from the highest mountain in the Americas. The scenic highway runs the length of the valley and across the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina.

Los Andes are a formidable rocky spine running the length of S. America. They are the second highest range in the world, perpetually snow capped and if one is ´lost in the Andes´it´s a mghty difficult task getting found.

The journey from Santiago took seven hours including a stop at the frontier for passport control. I now have Chile and Argentina stamped in my passport and our arrival here marks the 30th country Patrick has visited, and for me the 16th.

Once we started our ascent from the rocky tors of the Andes, we passed green meadows with herds of beautiful horses grazing, then toward Mendoza, acres and acres of vineyards. Everything is so green and lush in the valley after the bleak snowy landscapes of the mountains. The city is ringed by low foothills, the Andes rise behind. It´s a fairly spread out city (800,00 in the greater area) The streets are lined with grand old shade trees.

We took a taxi from the bus depot to a very nice hotel I had located on the internet, The Hotel San Martin which is on a main boulevard across from Independence Plaza, a beautiful park.
The hotel is charming and costs us only $50 US a night for a very comfortable room, including breakfast. It´s centrally located and all down the boulevard are stylish shops, banks, restaurants and lots to see. The exchange rate is good here, 2.60 pesos per dollar or 3.20 US )more or less) but things are inexpensive and its a good place for shopping and getting bargains.

I must make a note here that the bus service here was excellent (and cheap! about $45 return fare) except the air conditioning wasn´t working and it got mighty stuffy with the sun beating in. We hated to closed the curtains for fear of missing the spectacular scenery along the way. The bus guy comes around with chocolate covered cakes and soda pop for refreshments. At the border there were no hassles, everything orderly and polite. Note: Both the bus depots in Santiago and Mendoza are impressively large and clean and well organized. No problem finding your way around.

After a little look round the centre of town we retired to catch up on much needed sleep and to plan our next day´s excursion.

NEXT: A TRIP TO THE COUNTRY: The San Filipe National Wine Museum at Maipu

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