Driving around the Andes – Off Road Mendoza

The day started by meeting our host, David, at the General Jose San Martin Park in the City of Mendoza. The park holds a special place in Mendozians hearts as it commemorates the liberation of Argentina from the Spanish in the early 1800’s. Two marble statues of the General were placed in the middle of the idyllic park, home now to two plastic cockney tourists patiently sipping coffee and waiting for their guide.

General Jose San Martin Park

David had warned us that his English wasn’t perfect, and we told him not to worry as our “Espanol es poco.” But this couldn’t have been further from the truth for David; we understood every word that he said from the start and he even translated another Mexican ladies Spanish to us! Instantly comfortable, we left the park and headed out of town towards the imposing range of the Andes.

During the 30ish minute ascent up to the first viewpoint, we slowly drove past people attempting to cycle to the summit. Gauchos casually herded cabras (that’s goats to you and I) up the hill to their Casa de Piedra, a humble dwelling made entirely of stone. 

Throughout the journey, David reminded us about the harshness of the Andes; despite the alluring sun, temperatures can drop within an instant. A number of animals called the area home, including wolves, pumas and even spiders that had ingeniously hidden themselves under rocks. 

The first part of our drive finished at a viewpoint of about 1500 meters where we were treated to incredible view over the valley. We posed for pictures and even saw Guanacos, a type of Llama native to the hills that are protected from hunting by Argentinian law.

Guanacos in the distance

David provided us with a quick snack of nuts, seeds and cereal whilst he explained the remainder of the trip. We would be stopping at 3000 and then 3500 meters, stopping at relevant points for pictures and historic information. Once again, we were warned about the importance of keeping our distance from the animals and also informing David if we felt the effects of altitude sickness. 

We set off once more and travelled for another hour or so, all the while listening intently to David’s Spanish and English. David was impressed by just how much Spanish we had managed to understand, not bad for only being in Argentina for a couple of weeks!

The second leg of our journey complete, we stopped at 3000 meters and already the effects of the altitude begun to take hold. Despite our fitness from back home, Ben became increasingly breathless, whilst Hannah experienced a dull headache. Nonetheless, the view made up it and we managed to snap herds of Guanacos in their natural environment and even Condors on the prowl for their afternoon feed.

David provided us with coffee and juice whilst ensuring we were ready to continue. Giving him the thumbs up, we set off once more for our final stop; a total elevation of 3500 meters and an awe inspiring view of Aconcagua mountain. 

This magnificent, snow topped peak towers over the remaining Andes range at 6000 metres. David informed us of the importance of the peak to both Argentinians and Chileans, explaining that General Jose San Martin himself had crossed it on his way to fight for Chile’s Independence. Feeling overwhelmed by the beauty of the environment, we once again boarded our vehicle for the descent back to the City.

The BEAST!

David was a fantastic host throughout the day and his 4 x 4 tour of the Andes should be on anybodies list of things to do in Mendoza. 

Contact David on +549261 3839003 to enjoy this magnificent tour.

Alternatively, you can book online at Airbnb Experiences.

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