After a few days enjoying the heat of Mendoza, we ventured into the Andes Mountains to a very small town, Cacheuta. Known for its natural hot springs and arid mountain surroundings, we were ready for a day of relaxing. The hour bus ride out of Mendoza took us through more typical looking wine country.
I was curious who would be at this little hot springs in the middle of the week, and to our great entertainment… we were at the “fountain of youth.” It was full with weathered Argentines, enjoying the rejuvenating hot springs, sipping mate tea, toasting with red wine and filling the place with hearty laughter. Truly enjoying life! There was a rowdy group next to us that laughed nonstop, and I would have loved to be able to understand them…and join them for a mate.
We enjoyed the bounties of summer with a fresh, delicious picnic. Notice the complementing colors?
Then it was the sad time to depart from Heather and Joanna…they were going back to Cordoba and this was the breaking off point for Sherry and I to forge ahead on our own. It was bittersweet. I really loved those few days with Heather and Joanna.
Sherry and I headed another two hours away from Mendoza to Upsallata, a much more rural town. We wound up into the Andes at dusk and watched the sun set as we dozed off and on after a long day of soaking up the hot sun.
Arrival in Upsallata was very late and we hadn’t really pre-planned a place to stay. The hostel in the Lonely Planet said it was several miles outside the town, and seemed out best option, but we either missed the bus stop or they didn’t stop at all. Either way, it worked out better that we staying in town. Sherry did a great job working her way through our first full Spanish only experience. Pepe was the sweet old man who owned a small hotel in town. With a kiss on the cheek from him, we crashed hard for our first good night’s sleep in a long time.
We had a few hours to kill after we found the only bus was leaving at 2 pm for Santiago. With Sherry’s limited Spanish and my big hand gestures, we found our way to a small hike just outside town. We think they said something like…”follow the dirt road out-of-town and take a left when you see the white cross on the hill.” So we did!
The monochromatic hills are incredible and as always the pictures just don’t do it justice. From the hill we climbed we got a great bird’s-eye view of the sleepy little town of Upsallata, a little oasis in the high Andes desert. We climbed straight up this little knob that did have an iron cross at the top. It was a beautiful vista!
We found out that we came up the hard way and around the knob was a trail, dotted by crosses leading up to the top. I was fascinated by the rock. All of it was like sandstone, just pressed together, not at all like the volcanic rock I am used to in the Washington, Idaho and Alaska mountains. The colors are stunning in contrast to the green trees and brush.
All of the Andes in this area of the country are made of this rock. The rivers that run through this part of the country look like chocolate milk because they are so full of the brown sediment. It made me think of the Alaskan glacier sediment making the rivers and lakes turquoise in color.
We soon boarded our epic bus ride across the Andes. The power and majesty of these mountains captivated us. The color palate God used to paint these mountains is so unique. We couldn’t take our eyes off of them the entire trip over!
We reached the Chile border just as Aconcagua came into view, in a stunning line with its brother peaks. Aconcagua is the highest peak in all of North and South America touching the sky with 22,841 feet in elevation. It was a little less impressive than I was expecting because the highway is also incredibly high in elevation.
Chile border crossing
PRO: We didn’t have to pay the expected visa charge! +2 points Anna & Sherry
We got another cool stamp in our passports! +3 points Anna & Sherry
CON: We got caught “smuggling” salami into another country and everyone watched as the dogs sniffed through our food bag. Those ignorant Americans. Ops! -8 points
This Andes crossing is known for its incredible road engineering. This photo is in tribute to my Grandfather Gibbs, who was a highway engineer. 30 hairpin curves took us down more than 10,000 feet in elevation to the valley leading into Santiago, Chile. The picture says it all.
Ending in Santiago that night, we met up with our gracious hostesses Jeanette and her daughter Estephanie. It was a wonderful evening of delicious food, uplifting conversation and our first big Chile history and culture lesson.