Part Two - 2019: Days 88 and 89 - Mendoza to Uspallata... Up, Up, and Away!!
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
And then.... after a 33 month hiatus, in February 2019 I was back! Back in Mendoza, to pick up where I left off in May 2016. Days 88 and 89 onwards from Mendoza up to Uspallata turned out to an intimidating start to the 2019 chapter.
The road out of Mendoza and over to Uspallata climbs 2200 metres quickly, from 700 metres up to 2900 metres via a National Reserve. For a lucid moment I thought I might try knock off the 110km in one go, until Argentina decided to turn on a heatwave. Instead of Mendoza’s February average of 27, a week of 36 degree highs rolled over so I figured splitting it over 2 days seemed a tad more relaxing.
That left a dilemma as to where I would sleep, since there were were no settlements enroute, so it looked to be a night in the tent somewhere. The only civilisation along the way was a small shop and cafeteria at a lookout point about halfway along. Staff there told me I needed to be wary of camping as the National Reserve is a successful regeneration zone not just for wild pumas but also for some form of wild dog. Both are nocturnal hunters, so being outside at night isn’t advised! Fair enough. They told me where the park rangers building was though and suggested I could put my tent there. It’s in a clearing and has external lights that come on at night so the animals steer clear. There were 3 park rangers living there who were friendly and chatty, if disconcerted that I was attempting the Reserve road in a heatwave.
The 2nd half of the climb through the reserve was epic yet tough as the road collapsed from pavement into the dreaded “ripio” (gravel). I never got to see any pumas or wild dogs, but guanacos (a species relative of llamas and alpacas I guess) were out in abundance and seemed curious and friendly, even coming on to the road to take a closer look at me.