Easy Hiking / Great Scenery
On two days of our 5-day Mendoza excursion (see A Town and (Wine) Country Excursion | Mendoza, Argentina posted here on November 29, 2015) we put on our hiking boots and strapped on our backpacks for what hopefully would be several cloudless, sunny days in the mountains.
Unfortunately, our plans to hike Mt. Vallecitos, starting at 9,100 feet and hiking to an elevation of about 11,500 feet had to be modified because of a huge unexpected snow storm. Normally, at this time of year that would not be the case, but because of the effects of El Nino this first day of hiking would not be one of the area’s typical 350 days of sunshine.
No worries, though, our local guide Pedro and his experienced co-worker Natalia took us to another area, where we hiked for about four hours up to an elevation of about 8,300 feet, surrounded by snowcapped peaks on all sides. It was a great way to ease into hiking at higher elevations planned for later in our journey.
Pedro, locally recognized as one of the most experienced high mountain guides in the area, introduced us to a variety of plants, some of which are used for medical purposes. One example is the Carqueja plant (Baccharis genistelloides) which, when used to make tea, could cure hepatitis in just 10 days. Other plants we saw cured respiratory problems and even one is said to reduce fever.
We took our first break at the top of a ridge, sharing some fruit and nuts and water, of course, to keep us hydrated. The terrain might not look rugged, but it was a steady climb up and we were enjoying the fresh air, as well as hearing more from Pedro about the challenges of high country trekking up Aconcagua (more about Aconcagua later in this post).