We'd bought food from the supermarket and got the bus to Los Penitentes where we stopped to have a coffee and enjoy the mountain view. An Argentinian came up and asked me if I was American and explained he was studying tourism and had good contacts should we want to do any outdoor sports. Unfortunately I was leaving Mendoza the next day so that was out of the question but Kerry happily took his business card
. We decided to walk to the next town where we would stay (Puente del Inca) as we had all day. A stray dog decided to join us all the way and he was so cute and nice to have extra company! We arrived and checked into a regugio (El Nico) just next to the limestone bridge. Puente del Inca has an odd naturally formed limestone bridge, with the remains of a natural springs spa underneath which was linked to the hotel above (now destroyed by an earthquake I think). The refugio was great and a bargain (18 pesos) with hot water, electric heaters in the rooms, warm beds, well equipped kitchen and the owner was the friendliest person I have met. He offerred us some of the food he had in the kitchen and made an effort to chat to us even with our poor spanish. He worked in the military as the town is mostly a big military base as it's just before the border with Chile. The only other person in the refugio was a French guy who didn't speak much English (and my French is minimal) so we had a conversation half in English, half in Spanish.
Me and Kerry asked a local about whether you can use the thermal springs as I'd been told you could, but then saw it was fenced off for safety. He told us if we waited until 9pm when the park ranger was off guard he would take us but we had to be quiet. We snuck past the rangers house and climbed through the fence, trying not to giggle as we felt like naughty schoolgirls
! We trekked in the dark down under the bridge, got soaked by dripping water and I managed to walk through the water and soaked my feet and then we found there was a new gate on the door to the spa which was padlocked. We did manage to get in another way and see the old spa building by dim torchlight which was cool, but no good spas to go in which would be safe (I think it's fenced off as it could be unstable inside). However, even better we found a spa outside on top of the bridge, completely natural so was simply mud at the bottom. We all sat in and were lucky that it was a full moon and the mountains were lit up bright white - spectacular view but couldn't take a picture as we couldn't use flash otherwise we would have been caught! Getting out was tricky as even though it wasn't too cold that night, being wet made it feel freezing so we had to quickly just put a jacket and trousers over our bikinis. When we got back and got changed, my clothes were soaked and it looked like I'd had an embarrassing accident - see pic. Worse still was when I took my bottoms off and lots of mud fell out!
The next morning we set off early and walked along the road to the Aconcagua park entrance. After 100m we were joined by 3 stray dogs who again, wanted to be our guides. They must like company as they stopped when we did and waited until we started walking again! They also followed us into the park and back to Puente del Inca
. The park is pretty much closed until November so we couldn't get too close to Aconcagua but did get to see it from the viewpoint. Gorgeous scenery and we were the only people there. It was hard to see the trail as it was covered in snow but managed to find our way back as there was this single lampost we'd seen on the way in so we cold use that as a guide (I felt like I was in Narnia, trying to get back to the land of ward-robe...)
Got back to Mendoza that night and went out for a nice meal with Kerry, Hugh, Ben and a couple from Manchester. Turned out they have a close friend from my old primary school, who I think was a mate of my younger brother back then, plus they were both sports students from Leeds Met 2 years ago, although sports management so I didn't teach them at the time. Small world again!
Me and Hugh then got the 35 hour bus to Puerto Iguazu at 9.30. Couldn't get cama (bed) seats but i was promised that semi-cama reclined just as much and the only difference was the width of the seat - big fat lie. Hardly reclined at all and they wouldn't let me have a blanket like you do in cama. Couldn't sleep that night as my joints kept cramping up and I was freezing due to the air con despite wearing winter clothes and a fleece (no suprise there then!)
. In the morning I asked if I coukd have a blanket and the steward said no and I wasn't allowed to get my backpack to get my sleeping bag. He promised it wouldn't be as cold the next night though. Watched a few movies - Chicago (don't bother), Ransom (which I realised I'd seen before halfway through) and Love Actually (which I'd seen but a long time ago). Suprise it was cold that night and the steward woukldn't turn the air con down (this was Andesmar again so yet again bad customer service so avoid them if you can). Food was shockingly bad again and all we got for breakfast was a coffee and biscuits so we were starving when we arrived at 9am here!
Found a cheap room and were both relieved they gave us 2 beds. For 20 pesos each we have our own bathroom, a fan and breakfast and they even gave us breakfast when we arrived this morning, free of charge - makes a difference going to family run places! We then went to Iguaza falls, the national park which was beautiful. Did the Gran Adventura trip which was a jeep ride then a boat ride through the rapids then we went under the big waterfalls and got soaked through. Good job it was about 30 degrees and sunny! We then went to the 5 star Sheraton hotel which sits between Brazil and Argentina in the park and has amazing views and a fantastic (but really expensive) lunch buffett. By the way, the price in the LP guide is way off - I reckon they upped it to drive away backpackers (more than double what the 2004 shoestring book quotes) but worth splashing out for
. Best meal I've had for ages! The waiter was really nice and invited us to go with him to the terrace so we could take some good pictures. He told us it was 300 US dollars a night there for a room!
Tomorrow we are aiming to get to the Brazilian side of the waterfalls then we are heading to Buenos Aires on the night bus - we managed to get Cama seats and not going with crappy Andesmar this time! Meeting Kerry in BA as she has decided to change her plans and get Robbie Williams tickets and come with me which is good. Looking forward to the nightlife I've heard about in BA although not looking forward to the fact that it doesn't start until well past 1am!
On a slow PC so can't upload many more pics now but will when I get to BA.
Been up to quite a lot since last time. Met some nice people at the last hostel, went out for more meals and more drinks. Met a girl called Kerry from London who is pretty cool and we all went to a BBQ at another hostel (Mendoza Inn, an HI hostel, although the food was dire so don't bother). Went to a bar after with a group from the BBQ which was nice but me and Kerry left early (3am!) as we were heading off in the morning to go to Aconcagua national park for a couple of days.