The next morning we were off again, this time to see the highest mountain outside of Asia (22,841ft), Aconcagua. It is about a three hour trip from Mendoza through some of the most beautiful countryside you will see anywhere in the world. On the way Javier filled us in on various points of interest and Argentinean folklore.
The road side is peppered with memorial sites for those who have lost loved ones and two specific to the Argentineans, Gauchito and xxxxx.
Gauchito was a legendary figure who died in 1878, according to Javier and Wikipedia, Gauchito’s real name was Antonio Gil. Gil was a farm worker and he had an affair and fell in love with a wealthy widow. When her brothers and the head of the police (who was also in love with the widow) found out about their relationship, they falsely accused him of robbery and tried to kill him. He enlisted in the army to escape from the hands of the police. He fought valiantly against the Paraguayan army and came home a hero.
In the end the policemen caught him and tortured him, hanging him by his feet. Then the gave him the choice of being shot, hanged or have his throat cut. He was a big man but they botched the hanging. Just before a policeman slit his throat “Gauchito” Gil told him “Your son is very ill. If you pray and beg me to save your child, I promise to you that he will live. If not, he will die”.
When the policemen came back to his village, Gauchito’s killer found out that his son had in fact fallen very ill. The policeman fell to his knees and prayed to Gauchito. After a long illness his son recovered It is believed to this day that Gauchito saved his own executioner’s son. Very grateful, the policeman gave Gil’s body a proper burial, and built a tiny shrine for “Gauchito”. Today the highways of Mendoza are littered with homage to Gauchito.
The legend of Deolinda Correa whose husband was forced into the war the Argentine civil war. He fell ill and the army deserted him. In an attempt to save her husband Deolinda headed out across the desert with her new born infant. She ran out of water and died in the desert. When gauchos found her body the infant had lived by feeding off her dead mother’s breast. Today mixed with Gauchito memorials you will find homage to “Difunta Correa” with a shrine surrounded by empty water bottles.
Aconcaugua is right on the Argentinean and Chilean border. It is technically an easy mountain to climb and takes about 10 days but every year many people make the summit, ut also records one of the highest mountain climbing death tolls in the world.
When we got to the mountain there the wind was howling and there was a light cloud cover over the mountain. The scenery was gorgeous, a three hundred and sixty degree landscape that peaked over 22,000 feet!
On the way down the mountain we stopped at a hot spring that had closed. There was once a beautiful resort and church on the site but an avalanche came down the mountain and destroyed the hotel but left the church untouched. At one time there were tunnels that lead to the springs for the enjoyment of the guests. Now there stands just an old abandoned church and remnants of the structures built around the hot springs. The springs are full of minerals which have stained the side of the cliff yellow, in fact so many minerals that the locals place objects under the water for a couple of weeks it coats the object with a bright yellow mineral coating which they sell to tourists.
For dinner Javier made reservations at a beautiful restaurant called 1884 which was started by a famous chef, Francis Mariman. The dinner was excellent, service was impeccable and Lou and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary again with an incredible bottle of 1979 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux an old friend gave to me several years ago. Thank you Chris! The steak was so good, Lou brought the leftovers with us on the flight back to Buenos Aires and then again on the flight to the US, making it through multiple security checks and even customs. It was Atlanta before she could part with that steak.
Javier acted as our guide and lined up everything up for us including reservations and transportation for our evening. On the way home the taxi driver pulled up to a home that was not our hotel or a place we were familiar. I thought that maybe he was stopping by his home for a quick stop when the door to the house opened and out stepped Javier.
He had asked the cab drive to bring us by his house to meet his family. They were having one of their best friends over to cook wild boar and they invited us into his home. Meeting Javier, their three little girls and their friends were what I call a “magic moment”. We left Mendoza with some new friends, what a finish to our Mendoza adventure! You can reach Javier at firstname.lastname@example.org.