Sunday, 21 May 2017
The next morning, we checked out of the hotel, had some breakfast and were taken to the local radio station, where Fidgit did most of the talking - the norm for us, since her Spanish is far better than my own. We left town late in the morning, grateful for kind and supportive people and really happy to be walking again. The day was warm with a lot of humidity and clouds looming in the distance. As we walked, our legs stretched and my mind wandered. Road walking is a different being to me than trail walking (or, sometimes, bush-whacking). When road walking, you can see very well where you are going and all you have to watch out for is vehicles and bicycles. It can be mundane, though it can also allow you to process through thoughts and ideas more thoroughly. I enjoy being able to space out and not have to worry about mis-stepping or getting lost.
As the day wore on, the clouds began looming closer and closer, until we were being rained on. Lightly at first, then as we neared a small building, the downpour began. We knocked on the doors of the building, which turned out to be a small clinic, though at first no one answered. The downpour became a deluge, so we knocked harder and tried the door knobs to see if any were unlocked. Finally, an older gentleman came to one of the doors and guided us into the waiting room of the clinic, where we stood dripping water for a few minutes until the gentleman and his wife invited us back to their living quarters. It turns out we had woken them up from their siesta and surprised them. Fidgit and I apologized, though they said 'no problem,' and we talked and drank mate the rest of the evening as the storm raged outside. Cristina and Antonio ended up offering us a bed for the night and building up a fire so we could dry out our soaked clothing.
In the morning, the rain had dissipated, so we packed up, said our goodbyes, and walked on, with the added weight of a few gifts from the couple. We didn't feel weighed down, as the overcast sky and cooler breeze made for excellent walking weather. Before we knew it, we were 10 km from Portrerillos at 5 p.m. We talked over whether we should camp outside of town, or push in and meet up with a connection we had there. We both decided we wanted to push in. Our feet nearly revolted, but we made it into town just after dark and met Alejandra and her husband at their house.
They warmly greeted us and showed us a room that we could stay in, then left us to shower before dinner. We all had dinner together and talked about many things. I enjoy being in the presence of like-minded, adventurous people, and over the next day we had many thoughtful discussions. Fidgit and I learned that the couple (Alejandra and Koky) had begun their business almost by accident, fixing worn out PFDs, and now they make many of the PFDs sold in Argentina. We would have liked to stay longer, but we had made plans to meet out friend Pablo (from Mendoza) near Uspallata, 40+ kilometers down the road.
We walked out of Portrerillos late in the morning to walk along the abandoned Ferrocarril Transandino next to Rio Mendoza. The railroad tracks took us along the valley floor and after a scary bridge crossing, stepping from railroad tie to railroad tie with air between, we set up camp for the evening. The wind died down and we slept well. The next day, we walked mostly along the road to get into Uspallata, and it was beautiful scenery but boring walking. We left Uspallata after resupplying and made our way out to an Artist's residence outside of town where we planned to meet Pablo and his family. We arrived before they did and talked with the artist for a while, and when Pablo and his family arrived, we toured the grounds to see all of the works that had been constructed. The artist and his daughters put time and energy into each one, and it showed; all the pieces were beautiful in their own way.
We left the Art Garden, as they called it, late in the day and walked for another 10km or so to the first INCAN RUINS we've come across! According to most people we've talked to, as well as the history we've learned, the Incas built their road as far south as Uspallata. So we are officially in Inca territory. The ancient Inca roads stretch from Argentina to Ecuador and are a UNESCO World Heritage site. We hope to be following them closely at least up to Cusco, Peru. We camped near the ruins of a Tambillo/Tambo, or an area the Incas built to store things for future use. I would liken it to a kiva in the American Southwest, though much larger.
The next morning, we made our way north along the road. I was bracing myself for our first long dry stretch - 100 km. As we walked, we saw a truck stopped in the distance. It idled for a bit and then drove on. As we approached where the truck had been stopped, we came upon a large shrine with many full water bottles stacked around it. These shrines are for a folklore saint named Difunta Correa - look her up. We were able to use some of this water to get us through the next day of roadwalking. The next morning we came upon another Difunta Correa shrine near Parque Nacional Leoncito and were able to get water for the next day of walking until we arrived at a Gendarmeria station, and the men there gave us water. We were then able to make it into the town of Barreal. It is amazing what things show up at just the right time on our trip.
Sunday, 7 May 2017
Santiago to Tupungato and our side trip into Mendoza: Crossing into Argentina through Pasos Puiquenes and Portillo
|Fidgit on the phone in San Gabriel|
|Some of the super helpful Caribineros in San Gabriel|
|Neon in front of a reservoir that holds much|
of Santiago's fresh water reserves
|Hot Springs before going up to Paso Puiquenes|
|We made it to Paso Puiquenes!|
And the Chilean border!
|The view coming down from the pass|
|Camping with the Arrieros- we deemed|
this the 'meat tent'
|Fidgit pondering during our wood|
collecting with the cowboys
There were beds at the refugio and they were squeaky, so I didn't sleep very well. I woke up around sunrise and waited for Fidgit to stir before packing up. We made our way down to the Argentine border control and were officially stamped into the country of Argentina - eight days after we had officially been stamped OUT of Chile. We continued down the road and were invited to share some food with a couple of guys on dirt-bikes. We accepted and ended up camping outside the guys' motor home. Dario and Martin were on vacation from Mendoza, and they offered to show us around the area on their 'motos,' as they call them. We stayed for another day, riding around and eating meat cooked over an open fire.
|The 'dangerous' river crossing at the base of the valley|
We arrived in Mendoza weary and stinky. Upon meeting Dario's mother, Susanna, we felt right at home. She gave us towels and washed our dirty clothes after setting us up with mattresses and bedding. We were immediately brought into the family, sharing meals, Fidgit sharing stories. Dario, Susanna, and Sole (Susanna's daughter) were so kind and giving, showing us around the city, as well as sharing recipes and time. We felt so cared for that it was tough to leave, but the trail was calling to us and we made our way back to Tupungato to pick up where we had left off.
|Fidgit and I with a couple of the kind|
Ejercitos in front of the refugio militar
|While I slept, Fidgit attempted to learn a|
new and very confusing card game.
|First Guanacos since I can't remember when!|
|Heading up to Paso Portillo|
|We made it! At Paso Portillo|
|Dario and Martin talking with Fidgit|
in Manzano Historico
|Dario and Martin's 'camping' setup- a 1969|
Mercedes bus and their toys
|Road walking the day away|
|A view of Aconcogua- one of the world's|
seven summits- from near Mendoza.
|Centro de Mendoza|
|Wandering around town with Sole|
|Ladies' night in Mendoza-|
Neon, Sole, Tia, Susana, Fidgit
|Homemade Alfajores- Yum!|
Sunday, 2 April 2017
|A reprieve from the heat|
|The trail isn't overgrown...yet.|
|Looking from our first pass along the trail to our 2nd pass|
|Fidgit looking out on the firesmoke-filled valley|
|Road walking to Aguas Buenas|
|One of the many human traces at the mouth of the valley|
|Re-entering the forest|
We descended the other side of the pass, and again walked for a few kilometers without trail before discovering an old campsite. We found horse trail from the campsite that we were able to follow the entire way (about a day's walk) down the valley. The horse trail took us along the mountainside and past a couple of well-worn camp sites before it spat us out onto the road which led us into the town of Coya. We caught a bus from Coya to meet some people in Santiago.
Making it into Santiago by bus, we met up with some friends of Fidgit's that had offered to bring some goodies down for us - thanks for the pole tips, new gadgets, and goodies, Matt, Mike, and Chris!! After hanging out with those guys and getting semi-cleaned up, we went to meet (in person finally!) Jan and Meylin, the creators/initial explorers of the GPT, who were only in Santiago for a short time. We were able to spend a full day and a half with all of these people in Santiago before bussing back down to Coya.
|Fidgit knew what these were, I had never seen them before.|
|Found horse path along the way|
|Fidgit, Meylin, Jan, and me in Santiago!|
Road walking into the city of Santiago was very different than it would have been in the states. The campo pretty much abuts the city with a small village in-between. There were no sprawling suburbs filled with McMansions and strip malls; there were no shady characters leering from the edges of shadows. Instead, there were people out walking their dogs, talking to their neighbors, and riding their horse into town. As soon as we crossed the bridge into Puente Alto, the city began. People were everywhere, selling wares, walking along the wide sidewalks, doing whatever it is city people do. Fidgit and I walked straight to the subway station and hopped on the subway towards where we would be staying. We had just walked from the southern tip of South America (near Ushuaia, Argentina) to Santiago, Chile!
|Some of my gear was struggling too|
|As we neared Santiago, it was like my clothes knew|
and began falling apart, one piece at a time.
|Looking down at the mine from the ridge we walked|
|Fidgit walking up the road, along the caracoles|
|Thanks for the juice, passing trucks!|
|The view from near our 3,200 meter pass|
|Fidgit looking down into Reserva Rio Clarillo|
|Some horses visited us at our camp the evening|
before we reached Santiago