Through the Andes & Across the Border to Mendoza – Days 202 to 203

Wed 22nd – Thu 23rd Aug

Following a sad goodbye, it is time to leave Chile on the 0930 Andesmar service to Mendoza. I’m filled with mixed emotions…excited to be entering Argentina but it’s also my last country in South America.

After flying over the beautiful Andes separating Chile and Argentina a few weeks back I’m now driving through them and they’re are still quite a sight to behold.

As breathtaking and magnificent as the first time I set eyes on them. We drive through the snowy mountains, pass ski schools and eventually out of Chile.

There’s no exit office for Chile and we drive a while until arriving at the Argentine checkpoint. Again another strict border control. A queue for our entry stamp, then you wait a while longer for the other buses to be checked. Hand luggage is checked and all hold luggage is taken off and scanned. 3 hours later, we’re done and can resume the journey. A bit tedious but not as bad as entering Chile!

It’s only another 2 hours through the mountains and we pass the highest one on the continent Aconcagua at 6962m asl. There are trips to hike this beast but being winter, it isn’t possible.

Sunny weather greets me in Mendoza which is most welcome. I arrive at the hostel and meet Yoann from Belgium. We plan to do a few tours together over the next few days and go for dinner – first place in Argentina….it has to be steak and red wine!

Thursday afternoon we do the city walking tour. There was a lot of info but very little content and with virtually no history. The city receives little rainfall and suffers annually with droughts. The lack of snowfall the last 2 years has added to the impact of this. The city was founded in 1561 but lacks a lot of the character of other colonial cities due to a big earthquake 300 in 1861 which pretty much wiped everything out. The city was rebuilt and a limit was set on the number of floors a building could have although with technical advancement, this has changed. Mendoza has quite a lot of parks, with 5 in the centre and a big one on the perimeter.

There’s a lot focused on San Martín here – one of the main streets, a park and four other streets named after him etc. José Francisco de San Martín (1778-1850) was an Argentine General, governor, and patriot who led his nation during the wars of independence from Spain. He was a lifelong soldier who fought for the Spanish in Europe before returning to Argentina to lead the struggle for Independence. Today, he is revered in Argentina, where he is considered among the founding fathers of the nation in his famous battle across the Andes. He also led the liberation of Chile and Peru.

The plaza named after him is seen as the main square rather than the larger Plaza Independencia. There is a statue of San Martin here. I was told that if a horse has his front 2 legs up it means the person died in battle.

I’m not sure if this is true but it isn’t in this case as he died whilst in exile in France!

We visit to other parks – Plaza España and Plaza Italia. There are a lot of Italian immigrants in the city. Both parks have statues with the Spanish holding books. It apparently represents the culture of learning versus work. That the Europeans have more knowledge etc. This I find extremely odd that an artist would depict something like this. Surely you would say your equals or even the other way round….

We end the tour in the beautiful San Martín building.

It was built to be the tallest building in the city – at 4 stories high! With the problems of earthquakes in the area people thought it was a crazy idea but after it survived the 1829 earthquake, it became a much sought after location and now one of the most expensive locations in the city.

Back at the hostel I get chatting to and meet loads of new people whilst sampling some of Mendoza’s finest Malbec.

Yoann and I go for another gorgeous steak, a walk through the park

and continue the party back at the hostel. With a few wines down and after receiving an invite to catch up with a friend who’s going to Brazil, it seems like the perfect time to book some flights to go meet her!

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