Friday, December 2

A Long Hour Drive to Enjoying the Streets of Mendoza

From Buenos Aires, the team traveled by bus to Mendoza. This is one way of acclimatizing to the place and  besides  the fare is cheaper. What was originally a 14 hour bus drive becomes a 15 hour one. We decided to get a semi cama seat, for a reason that it is cheaper than a full cama without stops. Though not a fully reclined seat but we thought we are used to this when we do long travels back in the Philippines. So we thought that would be good enough. True enough it is, it's just that the trip becomes longer.

We leave Buenos Aires passed 7:00 in the evening, the bus is on time. The first hour we enjoy the view of the city until it goes further to the less buildings and more wider plains. The sun sets late at around 8:30 in the evening so we have clear view of the places we pass by. I was hoping for the food to be served earlier as well but it was served almost 11:00 in the evening. After eating, we settled on our individual seats and just sleep.

I wake up with a good view of the place,  already far from Buenos Aires and near Mendoza. It's a wide flat plain of land, all flat as far as my eyes can see. There are trees but it is mostly a plantation of several crops. Establishments and houses are mostly near the road. I am beginning to see mountains on the left side of the road until I am seeing mountains with snow. I am sure this is now the Andes mountain range. I get excited. I am sure what we will be climbing will be much  more higher than what we are seeing now. We arrive Mendoza Omnibus Terminal without our pick up transpo, Rodrigo of Acon Trek give us instruction to just get a taxi and proceed to our hotel, Hotel Balbi. I am now seeing the beauty of Mendoza as we go to our hotel, I heard so much good story about the place, true enough the place is beautiful. Among the many things to see, I first notice the big trees beside the streets, every turn on every street are trees, most of it big tall ones. We are already at the main street of the city yet there are big trees before the tall and not so tall establishments. And beside the streets are ditches, some are open so are closed. Cesar passionately explained to us why they need the ditches, it is to water the trees. Menodza being a desert place build an extensive irrigation system that water their plants not just on their vineyards  and plants but up to the trees in the middle of the city. And each family that owns a house or establishment is required to plant a tree. I wonder how come we do not adopt such system.

On our arrival at Hotel Balbi, we are meet with a warm welcome by our lead guide Lito with Cesar and another climber Tito. We are six in the team, with me the only female, the team is now complete. After settling to our individual rooms with Ramon as my roommate, we have to go to Secretariat de Torismo, the tourist office of Mendoza to get and secure our climb permit. We need to do this personally. We just walk form the hotel passing by Plaza Independencia. It's just a short walk, passing by the stores, restaurants and establishments.  I am enjoying every minute of our walk.

Getting the climb permit is not a long process, each climber just need to fill up a climb application form and a waiver. After which we are going to pay it in a nearby establishment outside the tourist building, then go back to the tourist office. Together with the application form, payment receipt and passport, this will be processed by the tourism officer. Upon release of the receipt, they will ask each climber to read the rules and regulations of the park with fines and punishments if violated. Claro, intiende, that's all I said before the officer hand me my climb permit, permiso de asenso.

After getting our permit we proceed back to our hotel passing by the other side of Plaza Independencia while asking them of where we could possibly eat lunch. It's already late and we need to eat, I am already hungry. Mercado Central is their suggestion, so we check it out. It's seista time (until today, Mendoza still practice seista), so only the restaurant portion is open. We check on the food and cost, we find it pricey compare to the cost of food in our place. After checking form other restaurants and even Mc Donalds, we decided to go back to Mercado Central and order food. I got spaghetti for AR250.00 (PhP250.00). When my order arrive, its a lot but because I am hungry, I finish all of it.  I am happy with my food so as Zean and Mondy.

With stomach already full, we go back to our hotel. Lito and Cesar will be back around by 5:30pm to check on our gear. Mondy prepared his stuff, while I just take my sweet time enjoying my bed. When Lito arrive, he check on Mondy's gear first. Actually, it's a show all your gears to them thing. This is to make sure that each one of us bring the right gear as stated on the gear list forwarded to us few months earlier. And this is to check too if what gear do we need to rent. We already have that in mind and infact already confirm with the them early on. When done with us, Lito and Cesar transfer to the next door to check on Zea and Tito's gear. Leaving all our gears in mess on our room, we went to the next door to see how they are doing.

When done, we go down and walk to the office of Aconcagua Trek, this is to give the balance of our payment and ofcourse meet them personally. Heber was there, Rodrigo and the other one (I forgot his name). We meet other climbers as well, and they have huge packs. After which we trek to the gear rental store. It's a further walk but in this city it seems like everything can be reached by just walking. It's summer and hot but not humid making it friendly to just walk. I meet Miriam at the gear rental store, I have been in constant communication with her prior to the trip. The store is full of mountaineering stuffs both for rental and for sale. After waiting for all our gears to be arranged and paid, we walk ahead of Tito and the others. They will just meet us again in the hotel for dinner.

I started arranging and packing my things the time I come back to my room. The things I packed several nights prior to this trip needs to be packed before I will rest for the night in preparation for our travel to Penitentes tomorrow. Before we know, it's already time for us to go down and meet the guides for a welcome dinner by Aconcagua Trek. We are going to eat at La Marchigiana, one of the finest and oldest Italian Restaurant in town. I am excited, I am already hungry. The place is nice, it's for fine dining, the ambiance is superb, the waiters are friendly. The entree is good but my main course of mixed sea foods has been so salty. There was no rice so I make use of eating the bread together with my mix sea foods. We end our meal with a good dessert then proceed to our rooms. Lito and Cesar will meet us 10:00am tomorrow to pick us up for our trip to the mountain.

I still have tones of gears to pack before signing off for the night. I have to separate all my mountaineering things in my XL TNF duffel bag, putting inside my full pack. On my approach pack will be the gear that I will be needing for the bus rise including water and food. On a separate smaller duffel is all my side trip clothes with my laptop and other electronic wires. We will be bringing this to Penitentes as well and leave it at Los Puquitos office (Aconcagua Trek office in Penitentes) in care with Emmanuel. This I have to carefully pack and make sure I did leave anything behind.

Expenses for the day:
Taxi from Omnibus Terminal to Hotel Balbi - AR14.00
Though this is paid by AconTrek, I'd like to take note that it's easy to get taxi around the city. Just prepare small bill because the em barker (the one that calls for next taxi in line and will help fix your things in the compartment area) will ask for tip.
Lunch at Mercado Central - AR25.00
Gear Rental (Sleeping Bag and Ice Axe) - AR
It turn out one of my best investment in this trip is the sleeping bag, the rental is so expensive but it was a wise decision to get a good down sleeping bag, it is a much needed one in the high camps. The ice axe, I only use it in the High Camp 2 when clearing our campsite form tons of ice before pitching our tents. But ofcourse I dont wish to see and use my ice axe on ice arrest, I cannot imagine how to use it even if we practice it on actual snow and on my mind.
Water -  AR16.00
Climb Fee Balance - USD2,800.00
Postal Fee and other documentation fee - AR86.00

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