We woke early to avoid the heat of the day. Still 3-4 hours hike before we would reach Punta de Vacas. We took our tent down quickly, (starting to get really good at this) brushed our teeth, packed our stuff and were on the trail by 0900. We wished the other teams luck as they headed in the opposite direction. The day wasn’t as hot, clouds made for good cover and a nice breeze pushed the heat past us.
The 4 hours seemed to drag. We were moving a bit slower for some reason (maybe the 3 long days of hiking were taking their toll), however the thought of a hot shower and a burger urged our feet onwards. It was a uneventful day looking for more horseshoes or goodies along the way. We crossed paths with a few other groups and made idle chit chat with each other.
We arrived at Punta de Vacas shortly before 13:00, tired, sweaty, dirty and hot, but very glad to be there. Pedro from Aconcagua Mountain Guides (AMG) picked us up and after probing him a bit with questions, he opened up and became more chatty – in Spanish of course. He informed us that the mules, with our gear coming from Plaza Argentina, would not be here until around 18:00 tonight, so he would drop us off at Puente del Inca where we could look around and get something to eat. Awesome, real food sounded fantastic at this point.
Puente del Inca is a tourist trap. A hot spring hotel once graced a beautiful rock bridge, and waterfall from sulphur hot springs. A number of tourist buses would stop at this point on the road between Santiago and Mendoza for a stretch and quick selfie. Pedro recommended one of the smaller places to eat with an outside patio. Well did we ever eat. Two fully loaded burgers with a side of fries to share, a 2L bottle of coke and 1L of beer to wash it all down. The smell of the food being cooked made our mouths water and when the food arrived, we dug in leaving only crumbs behind for the birds.
I always find it funny how when you haven’t eaten ‘real food’ for a while, how delicious it is when it arrives. If I had that same burger now, would it be as mouth-wateringly delicious? Who knows, but the fact that the meat was still pink in the middle didn’t slow our improper wolfing of it down.
For the next several days, it seemed that all we did was eat and drink. I guess that our bodies craved calories that we had been lacking and they were trying to make up for it.
Pedro eventually picked us up from Punta de Vacas, saving the restaurant from having to call in an emergency food resupply. We had spent the 2.5hours there eating and chatting with 2 Canadian girls from Quebec. Back at AMG ‘headquarters’ in Los Puqios (think repurposed ski shack with mules grazing) we relaxed and waited for our bags to arrive with the daily mule train. We passed the time chatting with a great couple we were able to spend more time with later in our trip, Jack (from Ireland) and Marina (from Brazil). They were part way through a round-south America adventure and were camping at the headquarters for the night. We picked their brains for as long as we could as they had already been through some cities we were expecting to venture into. Eventually, the Irishman stayed true to his roots and pulled out his prized Bushmill’s Irish whiskey to celebrate our accomplishment, I can still feel the burn.
It was a late evening trip back to Mendoza that night. One of the mules had injured a hoof and this would delay their return until around 21:00pm and then a 3-4hr drive to Mendoza awaited. Checked in to the NH Hotel at 00:30 and had a nice, long, warm (did I mention long) hot shower. Then crawling into clean sheets of a cozy comfy bed for a well needed sleep.
We were done. Our minds couldn’t grasp what we had just accomplished. So much remained to now plan for, and this summit would only slowly trickle into our consciousness as being finished. We were done, I was now done the Seven Summits, and everyone kept asking what I had planned for next. That is the tough part, you spend 10 years with a goal and now have to find a new one. Any ideas?