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14-21 MAR 2023

Hiking in the Andes

This blog is about N5581M trips, but this page contains very little of our little star. Still waiting for the mechanic in Villa Mercedes, it plays no role in the hike described here.

March 14th began with an early breakfast, followed by walking back to the central bus terminal in Mendoza. We took an Andesmar bus into the Alta Montagne. It is a 3-hour bus ride to Punta de Vacas.

We left the bus there, shouldered our backpacks and started hiking.

This part of the Andes is pretty dry. Being Mid-March, most of the snow has melted and many of the tributaries are dry. Only the Rio Mendoza and other bigger rivers had some water. It was ice cold and often not clear, full of sediment. Lush grass alongside the river was an exception, usually vegetation was scarce.

Hiking in 2500 m height without acclimatization is laborious. After only a few hours of hiking, we stopped for the night in a primitive hut, tenting inside. Outside, the stars of the southern sky appeared.

On day 2, the terrain became rougher and sometimes steeper. We followed an imaginary line on our GPS, as often no path could be seen. Gravel and boulders made every step difficult and sometimes dangerous. We had to cross the river several times.

After sunrise, the scenery became beautiful, sometimes spectacular.

But the sun was hot, burning all unprotected skin. We showed a deep respect to the wind, protecting tent nails with big boulders. We spent the second night in 2800 m, sleeping warm and secure.

On the third day, we doubled milage and altitude gain, ascending to 3700 m and enjoying the stark color differences, for which large parts of the Andes are famous.

Day 4 included the tour’s highlight, ascending to 4450 m. The picture shows the entrance into the canyon for the final peak. Navigation was exclusively done by GPS. Water resupply was difficult and water usage in the dry air pretty high:

Above 4000 m, we felt the lack of oxygen in our muscles. Fortunately, the weather was good and the winds usually light.

The peak has no name on our map and the sign on its top is unreadable. Happily, we enjoyed an hour up there.

Going down, mighty Aconcagua came into view. The area around it is crowded, they say. Many people want to hike there. You have to make an online reservation and buy an expensive ticket, we found out. Not what we wanted. On our whole 5-day hiking trip, we saw no other human being.

Last camp was again at 3300 m.

On day 5, after 50 km, we reached the valley with the road from Mendoza to Santiago de Chile again.

Last part of the hike was following the old railroad tracks to the bus stop at Puente de Inca, at 2700 m. From there, we took the bus back to Mendoza.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to stay in Mendoza. We didn’t go to any of the famous wineries, and we didn’t party in the beautiful parks at night. Instead, Leon took an airliner back to Buenos Aires and I the bus to Villa Mercedes, to see how we get N5581M back into business.

After a 6-hour drive, the bus reached VM. Early next day, March 20th, I walked to the airfield and met the 140. The mechanic arrived, opened the voltage regulator, and showed me what he did during my absence: Using a screwdriver, he had simply adjusted the gap of the lowest of the three mechanical relays. The generator charging issue was fixed. But the weather was bad, sky obscured in maybe 600 feet. I decided not to fly, but to take the evening bus to Buenos Aires. Another 12 hours bus ride.

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