We left the wine farm of Hans early in the morning go to a mechanic to sort out the trouble we seemed to have with the carburetor. On iOverlander, we had found a mechanic that should be able to address our problem. When we arrived at the location the workshop seemed to have shut down quite a while ago since the only evidence there ever was a mechanic here was a sign faded beyond recognition. Upstairs there was a law firm with the same family name as the mechanic so maybe he had switched professions. Ringing the bell didn’t help since no one answered. Next door there was a small pharmacy where I informed about the mechanic and the lady of the store told me this mechanic was now working at another workshop and she handed me a business card for this workshop.
Within minutes of arriving at the new address, Adrian and his team were checking out the carburetor and diagnosed it to suck in unwanted air from somewhere. He predicted to need a day or a day and a half to fix it and thus Cees and I gathered some clothes, left the van in the hopefully capable hands of Adrian, and headed to the center of Mendoza to check into a hotel. From the hotel on the main square of the city, we only needed to walk a small distance to find a nice place for lunch. I decided to use this downtime to finally fix the blog on the website to be able to publish the stuff I wrote since the boat ride to Puerto Montt while Cees went out to explore the city.
The next morning, I went to check on the progress at the workshop. It seemed that all the usual causes of the carburetor not working correctly were ok and thus Adrian and I took apart the carburetor altogether. When Adrian removed a tiny screw, he noticed a tiny insect that proved to block essential airflow and all seemed to work well again. Solving this gave way to tackling the high revs when stationary. Adrian assured us it would be ready the next morning. So, we booked another night at the hotel and explored Mendoza some more. Early at night, we received some spoken Whatsapp messages from Adrian however and the news didn’t seem to be good at all. There were lots of technical words that surpassed my knowledge of the Spanish language but after some use of Google and translation from Ruth in Quito we discovered something was terribly wrong with the camshaft and we needed to come in the next day to discuss how to proceed. This was obviously not what we had hoped for and the fact that Easter was around the corner worried us even more as we were afraid this might turn out to be a lengthy event.
At the workshop the next day, Adrian showed us that the camshaft was worn out pretty badly and would need a repair. As feared, this would not be finished before Good Friday and thus would be continued after the Easter weekend. Another 5 days at least in Mendoza would be a bit much we thought and thus we decided to rent a car. This didn’t prove as easy as it sounds though. It seemed all cars in Mendoza and vicinity were rented and the first available car would be on Friday. Without any real options, we were forced to spend another day in Mendoza, not that this was the worst place to be in the world but we felt a bit immobilized.
Friday morning the rental car was delivered and we headed west in the direction of the Chilean border. Not that we had any intention to cross the border but getting close to the highest mountain in the Americas was our destination. With 6962 meters above sea level, the Aconcagua is the summit of the Andes. Just outside Mendoza the road soon turned into a beautiful winding mountain road. Due to the holiday weekend, it was pretty busy but nothing too crazy, fortunately. In Uspallata we ate a huge steak, the smallest they had was 450 grams, at El Rancho and from here we drove to the Christo Redentor right on the border between Argentina and Chile. Here there is a big statue of Christ the Redeemer to signify the peace between Argentina and Chile since 1904. The statue itself was not that interesting but the views on the way there and on the top itself were absolutely stunning. The wind made it rather chilly, but the hot chocolate and great alfajores turned out to cure that rather well. We backtracked a bit to a hostel in Puente de Inca for the night since we were not carrying our own bedroom now we were without our van.
The following morning, we rose early to be at the entrance to the Aconcagua before all the tourist buses would arrive. After paying a small entrance fee we drove on to the car park and set out for a walk. Just as we hoped we were the only ones there, the downside of our early start was the cold of the morning and the sun still had to climb over the peaks surrounding us to warm us. The peace and quiet made it all worth it though. On the way back the first groups crossed our path and this made us even more content with our decision to rise early. The experience becomes a lot different with running and screaming children around you or groups speaking loudly.
From the Aconcagua, we drove back to Uspallata and from there headed north to Barreal. Just in time for lunch, we made it to this holiday village where most of the town seemed to be in service of the mostly local tourism. After lunch, we needed to find a place to stay but this turned out to be a lot harder than we had hoped for. So difficult in fact that after 2 hours of driving around, asking the tourist center, and asking some local shop owners we feared that we had to spend the night in our very modest rental car. We decided to try one more place mentioned in the Lonely Planet that we expected to be full for sure, but maybe the supposedly very friendly and knowledgeable owners would be able to help us in some way. They sure were able to help since they even had a room left. This was quite the relief.
While sitting outside of our room I overheard some Argentinian neighbors discussing the option to go to an observatory for a tour. This is something Cees had on his wish list for the trip and thus I went over for some more info. That night at 22:00 there would be a tour, no reservation needed. We decided to jump at the opportunity and drove to the observatory. Parking was a bit difficult since there were a lot of cars there but we ended up finding a spot and when we went in to buy a ticket we were told that the 22:00 tour was full but we could still buy a ticket for the 23:00 one. At that moment our neighbors entered the ticket office and stepped forward exclaiming the had called to confirm if making a reservation was necessary and that they, in turn, had advised us based on the information this wouldn’t be necessary. The response was something along the lines that it was a lot busier than they had expected and that there was nothing that could be done about it. Our neighbors left furious because they didn’t have time to wait for the 23:00 tour, but since we were there any way we decided to wait the extra hour. When 23:00 was finally there something very rare happened, in this region where they have over 350 days of cloudless skies the sky suddenly became very cloudy with some thunderstorms in the distance and at the observatory there wasn’t much left to observe. I did catch a tiny glimpse of the moon when the clouds opened up just a little but we didn’t see the use in staying and returned home. In town, we briefly visited a service going on in a small village church.
The next morning, we went for a walk in a nearby canyon. Again, we were basically the only ones there and this added to the surreal landscape. Colors changed from red to green to greys and blacks. Vegetation was very limited but with spectacular vibrant greens. After the walk, we went back into town for lunch and the rest of the day we relaxed a bit so we could start a new week full of fresh energy that we would need a lot sooner than we had expected…