Thursday, October 21, 2004

Che, Boludo!

The crossing of the Andes from Santiago was spectacular, as the road serpentined up right through the
middle of the chunky granite peaks. I thought of San Martin crossing the Andes, and the journalist hero and heroine of Isabel Allende's Of Love and Shadows escaping to Argentina.

After that I dozed while we dropped down through dry canyons into the vineyard heartland of Argentina. Coming into Mendoza we left the multi-laned freeway full of rushing traffic. The city itself, with its broad avenues lined with shady deciduous trees, has a 19th-century feel, and immediately reminded me of Paris or Kensington in London. The sheer modernity is overwhelming too; full of bright shops and restaurants and tiled sidewalks, Mendoza doesn't seem on the same planet, let alone the same continent, as central La Paz. It's hard to believe that Argentina has economic problems; everything seems more modern and advanced even than in Chile, and no one even looks like they're thinking about asking you for money.

The big old trees, forming canopies over the middle of the streets, are most welcome. Although it is still only spring, the sun is fierce and the temperature climbing into the high 20s. I imagine it's a bit of a cauldron here in mid-summer.

After a lot of travelling and some late nights, I crashed into a dead unconsciousness yesterday evening and slept right through until this morning, oblivious even to a loud party that was happening on the poolside patio of the hostel. Today I'm hoping to sort out some tourist excursions, to Aconcagua (to see, not to climb, the latter takes 13-15 days) and the vineyards.

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