Previous experience of crossing the Chile-Argentine border spawned a competition to guess
how long it would take to get across the border when travelling from Santiago to Mendoza.
Thankfully the Customs Official, upon whom all depended, couldn't be arsed and so we were
through in the speedy time of 50 minutes, thus allowing us to wild camp just beyond the
Aconcagua Base Camp drop-off point and then continue our journey to Los Arenales in the
province of Mendoza. This area, access to which is controlled by the Gendarmeria Nacional
de Argentina (which seems to be a paramilitary police force of some kind), is high up in
the Andes and is virtually on the border between Argentina and Chile. A scruffy fellow
with 'Colonel' written on his jacket took all our details and I wondered what military
crime he has committed to be assigned to such a middle-of-bloody-nowhere post with so few
staff that a man of his apparent seniority has to do such menial tasks. Probably passed
the port to the right. In which case he deserves it.
Cultural differences are so important. We arrived in the town of Tuyunán (with us
actually having no idea where we were, due to the excellent communications skills of our
glorious leader Roger) at about half twelve, with an instruction to be back at the truck
for half two. Two hours, plenty of time to get some cash, have a civilised lunch and then
shop for the next few days' lunches. Halfway through enjoying a cool beer and waiting for
the already-ordered lunch we were give the information that the shops close for a siesta
between one and half four. It was now 12:58. Shit. So six of us rush off to the nearest
supermarket ony to find the manager guarding the door rather in the manner of Gandalf
barring the way to the Balrog on the Brigde of Khazadoom (a Lord of the Rings reference,
for those of you who don't recognise it - and shame to you too!). Suitable pleading in
inadequate Spanish secure access for one of us, so there I was playing Supermarket Sweep
for six peoples' lunches for 6 days. So much for the relaxing lunch. Anyway, back at the
Cafe Colón lunch had arrived and, due to the crapness of the woman who had taken the
order, nobody really knew what they had ordered. This, combined with the loss of the
original order, my refusal to pay (expressed in Spanish as well, always an enjoyable
thing) due to mouldy bread, and the random comings and goings or various members of the
now 25-strong HotRock team, brought a whole new dimension to the bistromatics, that branch
of mathematics concerned with payment of group bills is restaurants, one of whose tenets
is that no matter that everybody pays more than his or her share, the total is never
enough to cover the bill. Much argument ensued. So much for the relaxing lunch.
Now, some random observations:
It was an act of purest optimism to bring to South America my TK Max special Karrimor
approach shoes, which have now been replaced at vast expense by a local purchase of a
proper pair of boots by Salomon.
I believe 'gestalt' means 'the total is greater than the sum of the parts'. If so, then
porridge with mixed nuts in for breakfast is an anti-gestalt thing, the combination being
very worse (to my mind) than the two separate parts. Try it for yourself and see.
The hopes that our route was a new one were dashed when we found some tat (bit of tape or
string used to abseil from) at its top.
Abseiling from a big flake which is balanced on another loose block and that vibrates when
somebody 6 feet way moves slightly is a somewhat nerve-racking experience.
The collection of fetid shoes in the shoe box is beginning to get a bit smelly.
If you can't find something it will probably be in the random shit box.
We are in need of soldering flux as the truck radiator is falling apart and is currently
being held together with a seat belt. Simon intends to do something mysterious with the
flux to fix this problem. Will he succeed or will we be marooned in a cloud of stream in
the middle of nowhere?
My new camera is both pink and shit.