Los Penitentes – Get yer mule loaded

Spotty internet,  weren’t sure if this would go through.

Last two days in Mendoza were hectic and this coming after running through an airport with 160lbs of gear and pleading with staff to let us on the connecting flight.  There have been some changes in Argentina recently (politically),  however there systems still operate pre- credit card and internet. Had to slowly draw money out of bank accounts with a withdrawal limit per day and then hand over a wad of bills this morning to a lady at a western union. That bought us our permit and got us to this lovely local.

Left Mendoza at noon and followed the aptly named Mendoza River northwest in the Andes. The river a familiar rotting apple brown, made us both wonder if we will ever be able to filter the water. Dry hills with scraggly grass, a few shrubs and the rare cacti surrounded our drive in a 30 person mini bus with just the two of us and our coke swilling driver – a friendly unilingual chap. Laura got on famously (as usual) and I hummed and pretended to nod along – making up stories of their Spanish conversation in my mind.

Which brings us to Pedro/Juan, a misplaced mule and the continuing saga of our journey. Los Penitentes, the part where we start to walk. We are now at 2750m (7000ish ft) – kind of like the Canadian Rockies. Still both rocking head colds. We got in at 3, and tried to call Pedro. Eventually Juan came, threw our packs in the back of his rickety white van and ourselves and 5 company crew headed for their office in Los Puqios to weigh our bags. Bit of confusion on our part led to some confusion on theirs and our mule is headed the wrong way. Should be rectified by tomorrow… fingers crossed. We have about 70kg of gear for the mule to haul so had been worried about extra charges. No word yet on that, but Laura and I kept our mouths shut so it’s looking good.

A quick visit to the decaying cemetery and a bit of food for thought. Drove back with Juan (who Laura already had a crush on) and dinner at 7:30, Laura with steak and myself some pork with couscous,  Laura bought as usual as I’ve been faking my credit cards ‘not working’ – to many purchases at Christmas time (she can’t really complain). Have been pumping water from the tap using our water filter. Have a nice system setup in our off-brown tub right now and started taking our diuretic – have never peed so much in my life, starting to feel like Laura (she doesn’t like me talking about her tiny bladder syndrome… Haha) .

Late start tomorrow, ourselves and the mules will start out at 9,  but only about a 4 hour trek and only 400m elevation change from tonight. Probably won’t have any internet service until base camp (Plaza Argentina).

Wish us luck.

Laura and Logan.