Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Pass to Mendoza 2

Monday 26th

It´s colder. It´s windier. It´s raining. Again. And the weather forecasters have got it wrong.



These are worrying developments. We are at 1000m altitude. Rain here means snow at 3500m altitude. Lots of it probably.

We pass Los Andes town and turn East towards the mountains proper and we climb.



Welcome to the Andes...



And we climb... 55kms?!!



And it gets colder. Way colder. Brazilian Braulio, used to the sun and beaches of warmer climes begins to notice. "I´m sooo cooold man. I can´t feeeeel my feeengers" he drawls.

After 80kms and 1000m of climbing we reach Guardia Vieja in freezing rain to some bad news. The way is shut and there are some serious looking hombres from the Carabanineros (Chilean Police) telling us of snow and ice on the pass from behind a sturdy looking barrier. These guys mean business and we retreat to a local restaurant to dry off by a wood stove.

And meet Marcelo.

Marcelo is a local miner who insists pisco sour is the best way to warm up and promptly buys us all a couple of rounds. We´re going nowhere, so game on....



"Saint" Marcelo owns one from only 3 world cup winning cycles that exist in Chile, his son tours and he´s a real cycle enthusiast. He insists on taking us to another restaurant that has cabañas, and once we are adequately housed we join him for many more pisco sours and a round of steak dinners.

This man is a diamond and the only payment he receives is the ritual humiliation of us all at arm wrestling...



I always think, "never beat a man who´s picking up the bill" and let him win.... Yeah right - he could have ripped my arm off!

We have a great night and pay for nothing as Marcelo wobbles drunkenly off in to the freezing night. Many, many thanks go to that outstanding man!