Puente del Inca

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Nov 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
Casa Nico - $50 double room, shared bathroom, no breakfast, basi

Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, March 3, 2008

After our relaxed previous day we managed to get up early again to catch a bus to Puente del Inca.

The place is only 17kms away from Chile, and has a magnificent natural bridge. The bridge has been formed over millions of years with layer up layer of minerals which gives it a splendid colour and appearance.

Sadly in the early 1900īs Europeans thought the thermal waters had healing powers and built a huge hotel right next to it, dug a tunnel towards the bridge and waters and added bathing chambers right on the bridge! Happily a snow avalanche destroyed most of the hotel and nowadays only remains can be seen. However the bathing chambers are still there and spoil what could be an excellent natural bridge.

The town of Puente del Inca only has about 10 houses of which 3 are hostels and the rest tourist shops. During the day the place becomes crowded with dozens of tourist buses, but as we found out later, at night there is nothing open (nothing...nothing...nothing...).

The funny thing is that most tourists and visitors miss the best view of the bridge which is behind the hostel we stayed at (Casa Nico). I guess no one goes there given that the locals use it as the local rubbish dump! (See the picture "best view").

We already knew that there was nothing else to do in the town, and other travellers had warned it was not worth staying there, but somehow we thought that there surely would be something else given the Aconcagua mountain is a few kilometres away. And we were correct....

Starting from the town of Puente del Inca is one of the best scenery treks we have done in our trip. The approximate 3 kilometres lead to the Parque Provincial de Aconcagua and some of the best photo opportunities of the mountain. The Aconcagua is the second highest mountain after the Everest after all...and the sunny day just made it look splendid.

We originally started as 2 in the hike, but a friendly dog with a slight "fox" face joined us half way and stayed with us for the next 5 hours. The dog must of done the hike quite a few times as it was leading all the time, while it tried to catch lizards along the way.

The trek finishes at Laguna Horcones which is a small lagoon with different colours produced from the minerals and a strong smell of sulphur.

Along the way we found a horse shoe (more like a ponies actually) which is supposed to bring good luck so Marcos packed it in his rucksack. The next day when we arrived at the Chilean frontier and they passed the rucksack through the x-ray, one of the frontier guards shouted "is anyone carrying a horse shoe?".

We never thought about it but given the possible diseases on it they wanted to spray it with chemicals. We decided to throw it away to avoid future problems at frontiers! So much for the lucky charm!

Notes for other travellers:
- Casa Nico is next to the post office: very basic $25 pesos per person
- La Vieja Estacion hostel seems to close off season
- Ask for a trekking photocopy map at the main bar "Snack Bar Aconcagua". The owner is a keen mountaineer and very keen to share information if you buy at his place!
- The trek after walking on the railroad looks a bit like a "dump walk" given the rubbish, but after the river crossing it is excellent. A trek of 6 hours return can take you right to the Aconcagua base camp where climbers start their trips.
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