Three nights (two complete days) in Mendoza. This was spent looking around the centre of the city, organising permits for Aconcagua and walking out to the Parque General San Martin (the city’s largest park). Here there was a serious boating lake, classic cars being shown off, a mass aerobics group exercising to music pounding from huge speakers, joggers and people enjoying the sun just like we were.
The city is quite a chilled place with wide streets and squares, coffee shops spilling out on to the pavements, street entertainment on the main shopping drag and so forth. Here are some photos that Derek took.
It has a Mediterranean type climate. When we were there the temperatures were around 24 degrees C with light winds – very pleasant. It forms part of the fourth largest metropolitan area on Argentina and is at an altitude of only 750m (2,500ft).
There are plenty of eateries. We had one very good meal and one outstanding meal in Mendoza. Recommended eateries are Ocho Cepas (the outstanding one – pre-booking normally required) and GioBar (good if quiet). This is where we had our first taste of the renowned Argentinian reds. I found the local Merlot better than the, perhaps, more famed Malbec. We saw some of the vineyards on our departure from Mendoza. Viniculture only works around Mendoza because of the snow melt from the Andes, otherwise it would be too dry.
Obtaining the Aconcagua permit was a bit of a palaver. First we had to visit a tourist office. We were not allowed to fill in the forms until our outfitter was there to countersign them. He therefore needed to be found. Fortunately a representative was actually in Mendoza. We then received piece of paper that allowed us to go to a kiosk about 200m from the office to make the payment for the permit. The receipt then had to be taken back to the tourist office which would then issue the permits. All of that took about three hours.
In the meantime, because the kiosk only accepted cash (and Argentinian pesos at that) we had to change US dollars. That involved some, technically, illegal activity on our part. There is an official exchange rate and an unofficial one. The unofficial one is catered for on what is known as the blue market (yes, blue not black). There are known spots on some of the streets where, as you walk by, you are approached by people who say “cambio” to you. These people are normally on a commission and earn their money by enticing people like us to a back street money exchange. So we were taken to one such exchange to do the business. It turned out alright in the end and we had our pesos (and therefore our permit).
So it was good to spend some time here recuperating before the final stage of our expedition.