Dr. Eric Conway writes:
Day 6 of our Argentinian tour was another day of travel. We now drove to the city and province of Mendoza, the site of our next concert. Before checking in at the Mendoza hotel, we traveled to the highest mountain in the southern Hemisphere Aconcagua, a mountain close to twenty-three thousand feet high above sea level. Aconcagua is part of the Andes, the largest mountain range in the world stretching throughout the western part of South America from Colombia all the was to the southern tip of Argentina. We traveled virtually all day to get to the highest point that one could arrive by bus. One will notice in the photos that due to the arid climate of the province over hundreds of years, much of the water in the Mendoza river is dried up. You will see photos of sites that were obviously full of water, now totally dry. The views of the Andes mountain ranges were spectacular. As you can imagine, driving up a mountain with altitudes miles above sea level, was somewhat of a challenge given the high altitude and lack of acclimatization. On the way to Aconcagua, we ate a very fine lunch at the Uspallata Village. Aconcagua is about 15 kilometers from the Chile border. Often when mountains separate countries, the borders are somewhat disputable. Our guide shared with us that both governments would like to claim that the peak of Aconcagua is on their side of the political division, but officially it is part of Argentina. We arrived at photo site for the mountain, with temperatures in the lower 40s.
On the way down from the mountain, we visited another popular tourist attraction, Puente Del Inca, a natural arch that forms a bridge over the a river on the mountain. It is quite striking to see. Adjacent to this natural structure, water from hot springs ooze from a mountain formation, making this a popular spa site over the years. This spa area is now closed by the government due to increasing landslides over the years making it too dangerous.
After Puente del Inca, we stopped into a small town that was celebrating Argentina's national holiday. May 25th was a national holiday in Argentina, celebrating the anniversary of the creation of their first national government. This village was enjoying a parade to celebrate their holiday. We then drove directly to our hotel.
To give you a timeline, it took us three hours to travel to Mendoza from San Luis, another four hours west of Mendoza, to get to the drivable top of the mountain range, and another three hours to return to the Mendoza hotel. After twelve hours in the bus this day, we were ready for the Amérian Executive Mendoza Hotel, which was the nicest hotel that we have stayed in on tour. We felt as though we earned these nice accommodations.
On day 7, concert day, we began the day with a guided tour of Mendoza. Mendoza is an interesting city in that there are plazas all around, every couple of blocks or so. More interestingly, there are the channels around the city to collect all the water that falls from the sky. Typically when it rains in urban centers the water just rests and eventually evaporates. Mendoza, is basically in the middle of a desert. In trying to keep the city as irrigated as possible, and of course to make sure all the vineyards are properly watered, the city collects every drop of water that it can. One must be careful where one walks as to not fall in a gutter! We climbed a huge park high above the city - the Alameda of General San Martin for another photo op. Mendoza clearly was the most picturesque city so far on the tour.
After a few hours of downtime, we walked to dinner and then drove to another concert, this time at the Iglesia de Ntra. Sra. De la Merced. The concert was hosted by the Mendoza University Choir. We enjoyed another great concert, in their most historic church. Again, we had a great attendance and great response. After the concert, the Mendoza choir hosted an elaborate reception. Unfortunately, we could not stay long, as we had to fly back to our arrival city of Buenos Aires early the next morning.