After spending a week of lounging about and not doing too much in the way of exercise we decided to head towards a lake famous for windsurfing. Having seen pictures online it looked like a stunning place to spend a week and it was on our route anyway so that would be our next stop. On our way out of town we visited a small distillery which made a pisco type spirit, however didn’t try any as we had hours more of driving to do. They did also have some tasty sauces and we picked up a jar of pesto which is a luxury for us despite it being a staple uni meal at home!
An hour of driving later and we heard some pretty funky sounds coming from the engine. We found the closest mechanic about 20 minutes away and gritted our teeth to head there – as we were on a one lane windy mountain road stopping where we were would have been dangerous for everyone involved! Luckily we made it to the mechanic but in typical north Argentinian style they were taking a 4 hour lunch break and didn’t open until 5! We resigned to waiting around as at this point our timing belt had actually fallen off…
It turned out one of the bearings on the timing belt wheels has completely worn down. Somehow miraculously in this small town in northern Argentina they had the perfect part to fit our Dodge and fitted it within an hour for less than a tenner! Definitely less painful that we feared getting it done. We then spent a couple of nights at a bike packer hostel catching up on life admin with good internet. It had an inside room and as no one else was there we enjoyed spending the day using the inside space. The day we left we made sure to stop at the old cable car. We didn’t have the patience to visit the museum so no fun facts about it but it looked… old? and it was very interesting! Topped off with an incredibly generous portion of Mexican lunch we proceeded on one of the most beautiful drives of the trip.
Diverting from our course heading south to Mendoza, we headed west into the Andes. The lake we were heading towards wasn’t too high, which was good as at this point we were done with the altitude. Still, the road followed a gorgeous shining blue river and striking rock faces. It was worth it just for that, which turned out to be a blessing. When we rocked up to the town of Rodeo it seemed a little tired and shut down… and this continued as we drove up to the lake. We sadly realised there was absolutely no wind – this was supposed to be a windsurfing treasure! Unfortunately, as with so many times on this trip, we’d come at the wrong time of year.
Nonetheless, the lake provided an absolutely beautiful backdrop – and we were armed with far too many bottles of wine. We found a free camp spot, and it had been a while since we had wild camped so it was nice to be completely on our own with no lights at night. We enjoyed the view over the lake, tested our shower out again and had two lovely bottles – there was even government wifi around the lake! In reality it was better than many of the paid campsites we’d been to in Argentina!
The drive from the lake to Mendoza was a good 8 hours, so we decided to split it into two days as we had just gained a load of time we would have spent windsurfing. We stayed at a municipal campsite just outside of the large town of San Juan for the night, and both picked up our running shoes to start getting back into it. Annie was joined on her run by all of the campsites dogs racing at her heels! Whilst it might sound cute it was intimidating to begin with. After the run we completed the journey into Mendoza where we would spend the next few days.
We’d read about a car park owned by a local called German, who had spent some time in the USA. He had a great deal catering to overlanders where he charged the equivalent of £6 for 24 hours of parking, but that included use of the WiFi in the car park, a toilet and and also the gates being open 24/7 – which gave us free rein to explore the city! Definitely the best deal in town, and as we parked up at around 5pm we headed into town to see what we could find. Being back in a city, and having already had our fill of wine, we found a local brewery on a really nice street with loads of lovely restaurants. The original plan of having a pint and moving on quickly turned into two or three as we realise they were 2 for 1 until 8pm meaning the drinks were only a couple of quid each! We stayed, had some hot dogs for dinner and pretty much as soon as happy hour ended we headed back to the car park to get an early nights rest. We had quite a lot of things planned for Mendoza and it didn’t disappoint!