Wednesday, 2 February 2011
CROSSING THE ANDES
In order to get from Satiago De Chile to Argentina Leana and I had to cycle across the imposing Andes mountains (also referred to as the Cordillera). Crossing the Andes required some hard pedalling up from Chile - the gradual uphill started soon after we left Santiago, with some big hills closer to the border (one sequence of switchbacks had about 30 bends - each one numbered, but the numbers were increasing as we climbed so we had no idea where it would end!). From Santiago we took the direct highway to the town of Los Andes, and were driven through a 3km long tunnel by the highway authorities. At the top of the mountains there is another tunnel at an altitude of 3 185 m, where we were also taken through by van from the Chilean side (the border is in the middle of the tunnel). In the following 2 days we cycled through a number of shorter but narrow tunnels - the Argentinians obviously aren't as concerned about our safety as they were in Chile. We also passed a number of ski-resorts on our way up and down on both sides (strange to see the deserted hotels, unused ski-lifts, and exposed stony slopes where there is a thick bed of snow in winter). The descent on the Argentinian side of the "Cordillera" is spectacular desert-like scenery, and we also had a good view of Aconcagua (the highest peak in the America´s). The road on the Argentine side was mostly downhill almost all the way to the city of Mendoza where we are now. Mendoza is a pleasant city with wide leafy streets and attractive plaza's, and is also the centre of the Argentine wine region - which reminds me of an over-sized Stellenbosch in SA. We'll rest here for a day or two before heading East across the Pampas in the direction of Buenos Aires. Distances cycled since my previous report from Santiago were:- Los Andes 81 km; Portillo 51 km; Puente Del Inca 40 km; Uspallata 71 km; Potrerellos 58 km; and Mendoza 72 km. Total distance cycled on this journey is 70 970 km. Total in South America so far is 4 483 km.