Double Crossing the Andes by horse

First piece of Gilberto Mendez's travel diary

And I want to share with everyone the joy of this unique  journey.

It all started with the surprising letter from my son Matthias.


..Are we going to cross the Andes on horseback? He said in a short and urgent paragraph. Five days among the Andes.

Without hesitation I said yes and today I would say yes again , because all the shared experiences, not only with him but with those fifteen strangers, in the most amazing places you can imagine, leave no room to doubt about being part of that expedition again.



That Sunday was cold in Malargüe, in the province of Mendoza. Then I would realize that it  always gets cold in the Andes.


The guides kindly asked us to leave cell phones, watches, portable radios and anything that would link us with "civilization".


We heard a brief talk about how we should handle us the next five days and understand how we should get along with the horse assigned, our new friend would be the only one to take us to a safe place. We got a small knapsack where we load our  clothes, a camera, sunglasses, scarf, hat and a flashlight. Five days! ... In the middle of nowhere ... and just with a few things! ...





But no. Leading the way, a local guide with two mules loaded with what would be the logistics: Tents, kitchen sets, various goods and food for five days. And later, much later, the towering Andes Mountains. The adventure  began.


Sunday afternoon and we received the first order: to get covered with some of the clothes we were taking as the clouds predicted rain and blizzard.

We went to a place called Las Loicas, close to the border with Chile. Someone pointed at the distance the Cerro Campanario, boundary between the two countries where we should be by Wednesday.


In the evening, we crossed the Pehuenche pass while we were watching the route that was two or three kilometers away. Later our guide told us we would not use conventional ways, the whole trip would be through steps that were not on the maps.


After that I could not resist to remember the epic crossing that San Martin did in the 19th century. We felt a little grenadier in such majesty.




The first night found us in a wide green valley, it was called Puesto Villarino. On one side giant rocks formed walls that protected us a from the cool wind. A deep hollow marked the presence of a stream. Our source of mineral water. For free!


With the last light of the dusk they gave us the second order: get covered again with our clothes.

We could see that there was no shelter. It was true that we had to spend the night under the stars. Thought the tents were setting up for those who did not fall into grace with the idea of the stars above our heads.


After the first dinner, the first bonfire, it was time to tell each other where we came from and why we were there. Our voices were heard quite strange coming out from a flashlight in our foreheads just like miners escaping from fairy tales. The darkness made us imagine the faces and gestures; the orange shades, did all the rest.


The laughter of countless anecdotes died down with our tireness .We went slowly to the places chosen to spend that first night, cold, star-studded, with a deep, enveloping darkness, a night full of expectations and new friends.



During those six days the time stood still, over there only  sunrise and sunset were counted. The silence of the vast plain, surrounded by multicolored mountains, called Cajon Grande, took us to some hot springs away from everything but warm in their essence.

Later,  the first ascent up the slopes at the edge of the cliff that I would never imagined to transit,  walking or riding. There I learned to fully trust in the animal, in its safety that with its patience, dodged all kinds of terrain.

I watched the landscape that was constantly changing. The presence of the condors cutting the air, sometimes high ... very high and others too close. Their shadow was telling us who were the owners of the place .At that point I felt good about the idea of being there.



The second night found us in a place called El Rezago. The reigning cold was accompanied by a strong and penetrating wind ...




To be continued ...


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