Archive: Month: February 2016

Puente del Inca – Day trip from Mendoza


On my brother Matthews advice, we took a day trip from Mendoza to Puente del Inca and surrounds. It’s a beautiful drive up there from Mendoza, crazy eroded rock everywhere.


Along the way passing an old historic (pre Spanish) bridge, now mapped on OpenStreetMaps ;) . They diverted the river a little to keep the bridge from being eroded.


We also passed Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia(6,961m), before heading steeply up to the (old) border crossing into Chile. They have now built a tunnel, so most traffic goes that way. We did see bikers coming up to the crossing though, so I’m not sure if they aren’t allowed through the tunnel, or if they just like a very long hot ascent.

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The highlight thought was Puente del Inca. It’s not a bridge made by the Inca ;) but a natural phenomenon, except for the hotel which is built into it (long since abandoned, after upsetting the natural balance of the place). There are a couple of different theories as to how the bridge was formed. Maybe an ice-bridge formed, allowed the calcification to start, then melted. Another that there was a landslide slowing and altering the flow of the river, allowing the salts to precipitate, then the river re-established its natural course and the bridge was left in place. Who knows. Darwin also popped by when he was in the area.


The hotel was used for treating rheumatism, skin diseases and syphilis amongst others. They had to have fans to pump air around, as otherwise you’d suffocate from the high CO2 concentrations. I wonder at what point they worked that out? ;)

One thing to note is the train track (abandoned) which runs all the way up the valley. A huge feat of engineering I guess, but a little expensive to maintain I suppose. I wonder if they’ll turn it into a bike-ride someday?!


Me Gusta Mendoza


19 hours bus ride from Barriloche to Mendoza. Maaike slept most of the way. It’s awful travelling with someone who is a ridiculously good sleeper. Just lying there, sleeping, happily… rubbing it in for 19 hours. Still, I saw an amazingly amazing lightning storm while we drove, so there were some perks ;)

Anyway, Mendoza. I like it. I liked our Hostel (Hostel Mora). Very fast and reliable Internet. And free breakfast, with pancakes! I know it’s not all about the Internet and breakfast, but .. well… makes me happy ;) Mendoza has really nice wide open tree lined streets. There are a surprising amount of holes where the trees are coming up, the sorts of places you could easily fall into while drunk.


Mendoza has been nuked by a few earthquakes over the years, hence the wide streets and not particularly tall buildings. Not everything has been repaired – at least, this monastery wasn’t. The museum we went to had lots of info, but all in Spanish. Google Translate did help, but it’d be very nice to be fluent here.


It is, as you may know, wine country too. We took the bus out to Maipu and walked to a couple of them. We could/should have hired bikes, but we were happy with just the couple we did see. Also chanced across a distillery which is now added to OpenStreetMaps ;) . Tasty stuff. Interesting to hear the (Swiss) proprietors stories about running a business here. Backhanders, rent going up %30 in a few months time (inflation is on the up here), the costs of exporting being fairly prohibitive. Tasty spirits though :) Mind you, the OSM app let me down a tiny bit here, one of the roads we tried to go down was private (had a gate across it), we did find another marked road which we managed to snicker through.


Then the wine tasting. I’m so uncultured, I just enjoy the taste and I’m not too worried about the colour (other than is it reddish or whiteish). I also wonder how much is autosuggestion when they talk about peppery notes etc. Still, learned how you’re supposed to evaluate/appreciate the wine. Also learned that to call yourself a varietal (Malbec etc.) then it depends on the country, but you don’t have to have 100% of that grape in the bottle. In Argentina, you have to have at least 85%.


Another interesting thing we learned was that they combat frost by using fuel oil… ick. In NZ they have big blowers (or helicopters!) to move the air. Seems a little more pleasant (if way more expensive). The other thing we learned was that, due to climate change, they can now grow the Cabernet Sauvingon grape here. Harrumph.

Open Street Maps Rocks!


I love the open street map project. It’s like Google maps, only created and edited by regular people. It has been invaluable while travelling (with the OSMAnd+ app). Sometimes things get out of date, like when we were on the Huemul circuit, the park had just made a new tyrolean crossing, and so the map was out of date. I took a GPS reading of the new location of the track, and then changed the content on OpenStreetMap

View Larger Map

So, now the tyrolean is marked, the track is correct, and all is well in the world.

I love it, really feels like being part of a worldwide community. And while I do think Google is generally decent, I would rather any “work” I do was available for free to a wider community.

Me gusta OSM!

Small victories

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1-IMG_20160215_173237Sometimes it’s the little things. We wanted to get a bus card, for getting to our next hike, and for getting to the bus station for the overnight bus to Mendoza. You can’t pay with cash on a bus, only card. Now, there are two types of card you can get, a local one (easier to find) or a national one, the Sube card. Finding the sube card turned out to be hard. We asked in several shops, went round and round for about 40 minutes, before eventually going into a likely looking shop (which didn’t say it sold them), and asking. BOOM!, a sube card. The man was sitting on a goldmine of unadvertised sube cards. It’s nice having enough Spanish to ask for and understand directions (well done Maaike there), buying stuff etc. Learning basic Spanish really is essential for South America, even with the advent of Google Translate.

Anyway, got the card, got out to the bus station to book our tickets to Mendoza. Realised we’d forgotten our passports (for some reason needed for booking internal trips), and headed back. Eventually booking online ;)

Still, a massive victory in getting the bus card, finding the right bus, travelling on the bus… Sometimes, it really is the little things :)

Colonial Suisse to Pampa Linda (walk)


Arrived into Barriloche and stayed at the nice little hostel Periko’s. The hostelworld reviews said that the wifi was great, and as I had all the pictures of Huemul to upload it was a good choice. Except the wifi wasn’t great, other than that, the hostel is awesome. A nice thing here is that they often give you breakfast included in the cost of the room, very handy.

There’s a network of Club Andino (Andes) around Argentina, a place to go and learn about the different walks etc. We settled on a walk which took us between Colonial Suisse, and Pampa Linda.

It was a good walk, first day up a valley and then steeply up to reach the first campsite at Laguna Negra. It was a very windy night, fortunately the campsite was pretty sheltered, and our Macpac tent is pretty solid in the wind.


Next day, traversed around the lake and up a ridge before dropping steeply down into a valley. We had some other hikers behind us, who followed us down off the ridge, we never saw them again.. so not quite sure whether they had just followed us and realised their mistake, or that they genuinely did a different route. Hey ho.


That night stayed at Lago C.A.B (Club Andino Barriloche?!?). The next day, we were supposed to go on, but the weather had clagged in completely. With very little visibility, and little chance of nice views, opted to stay in the tent for a day. Kindles are magic on days like these I must say :) I’m quite jealous of Maaike’s one though, as it has the built in light… most handy. But mine is still perfectly usable so I’ll bide my time.

So, after our unexpected rest day, headed on up for what was the “tricky” day of the hike. Chilly start to the day, ice on the outside of the tent!. So, steep climb up to exit from Laguna CAB, and then a nice contour around and drop down to another valley before heading up to the ridge on Co. de los Cristales.


It was the descent from Cristales that was the hard part. We were following markers on the way down, and it led us off to what was a very steep, quite exposed (and wet) gulley. The true route headed along the ridge as you can see from the map, but, we had been instructed by the park staff to follow the markers, so that we did.


In retrospect we probably should have retraced our steps, however, we did the little traverse and got back to where we should have been. Still, not fun, I still get the shivers if I think about it too much ;) We heard subsequently that some people just toss their bags down at that point to make things easier. To be clear, if we had slipped while doing the traverse over the little cliff, it would have been extremely serious (like, very badly damaged if not dead). This is not something to be proud of!. I *think* following the ridge and then down to the saddle would be the smarter move, but, as ever in the outdoors, you make your own choices!

Then a very nice campsite and an amazingly warm pool to bathe in. I guess the lake and rocks heat up, but really, it was actually quite nice water (though I still only managed to stay in for 5 seconds ;)


Next day, nice walk passing lots of lakes and then dropping down to Lago Ilon. We dropped our bags here and walked out to a viewpoint (mirador del doctor). Very nice, my pictures don’t do it justice at all.


Then it was time to drop down to Pampa Linda. Nicely situated village with the glacier overlooking it. The river crossing we had to do at the end took us a little by surprise! It was fast enough water, and opaque, not usually what we like to cross. However, it only came up to the knees (far enough it felt) and was fine. I wonder if anyone has come acropper there though.


We did a walk to the waterfall one day, opting not to go up to a refugio and stay the night, as, frankly we were a bit tired from the long walk, and Maaike had a somewhat upset stomach from ?! water ?! who knows, still, best to err on the side of a shorter than longer walk.


Celebrated one year married with 2 (yes 2!) beers. I’m a total lightweight now, as you can see from the pictures ;)


Anyway, good hike all told, but watch out coming off Cristales and don’t stray too far to the right.