A mountain range marked by different events since its formation millions of years ago until its recent history defined by a flourishing diversity of civilizations, the Andes sprawls across the western coast of South America covering about 4,500 miles (7,242 km) long across seven countries notably, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. It is associated with some of the active and inactive volcanoes resulting in an eclectic range of mountains, and, besides, it is a place of different views and perspectives for everyone who wants to visit it.
My traveling experience happened in a very special place along the gigantic mountain some years back with a bunch of friends, where I got the chance to learn various aspects about myself. The trip began in the city of Medellin around three in the afternoon at the local airport to make a stopover in Lima, Peru, which took around two hours and a half by plane. With my friends, we boarded the plane heading to the wine city of Mendoza in Argentina. The trip was about three hours, and I must confess that during the flight when passing over the Andes, we were experiencing turbulence which really terrified me. But thankfully, I tried to shift my attention to the beautiful night sky contemplating the twinkling stars, which let me imagine as if these celestial bodies were fireflies trying to guide us, illuminating the path to our final destination. Once we arrived at the local airport in Mendoza, we took a taxi to reach the city center at our hotel. As we reached our hotel room, all we wanted was to take maximum rest for the next day.
My first impression of this charming city was its splendid urban architecture that resembles that of Europe. Every little corner of this place exudes a chic ambiance, think of beautiful tree-lined streets, bustling plazas, and impressive irrigation systems that were inherited by the natives, who lived in this area during the prehispanic period. These irrigation systems were conserved for agricultural purposes during that epoch until now, and some of them are still used in the vineyards around the Mendoza province.
In the evening we had the chance to relish the delicious ‘bife de chorizo’, one of the popular steaks in Argentina to pair it with Malbec wine, a recommended wine one should consider trying when visiting this region. Another reason to travel to Mendoza is to experience the amazing fusion of Italian and Argentinian cuisine deriving from the local heritage that dates back to the 19th-century, where there was a massive wave of Italian immigration, similarly to the one that happened in New York. When the immigrants came here, the local Argentinians adapted the new Italian cooking style with their own traditional way to make a harmonious fusion of the two different cuisines.
Besides its rich local heritage, Mendoza is a land of gigantic mountain, so the day that followed we decided to make a trip to the tallest mountain in South America-the Aconcagua Mountain which reaches its maximum altitude at 6.962 meters (22841 feet) above the mean sea level. Usually touted as the roof of South America, Aconcagua is a much-sought-after destination for avid mountain climbers coming from different parts of the world to go through some serious physical and mental challenges.
We took a car, and set to the mountain, where we had the opportunity to discover magnificent places like the artificial lake “Embalse de Potrerillos”, a family hot-spot to indulge in some thrilling water sports and enjoy the traditional ‘Asado’ (barbecue) typically known in the South American countries. On our way, I was mesmerized by the awe-inspiring natural sceneries of the snow-blanketed mountains contrasting with the vivid surroundings. These were some of the best views that I have seen so far in my lifetime.
And as we were heading to our destination the dramatic landscapes kept on unfurling in front of my wide eyes. Being a geologist over the years has turned me into a deep observer. I could not help but notice details of various rock outcrops along the highway. Their colors distributed throughout each different layer represented a history marked by millions of years waiting to be revealed. Likewise, I was amused by contemplating other types of rocks, such as the magmatic rocks, which are a result of the melting of the rocks found thousands of meters beneath the earth crust by the dynamic interaction between the tectonic plates found in this region, and in this case, they are the Sur America and Nazca plates.
After two hours of drive, we finally reached the Aconcagua Mountain nestled in the Provincial Aconcagua Park. There was a small cabin located at the entrance of the park, where visitors can gain insightful information to access the pathways, and find practical equipment to use during the climb (ideal between November and March). But during that time, we were advised to take ‘La Laguna de Horcones’ and ‘Laguna Espejo’ routes (located within 1.3 miles/ 2 km from the cabin) to access the mountain as it was not suitable to take the Polish Traverse, which is normally a less busy route.
I was dumbfounded by the spectacular scenery revealing itself as I made my way further. I trod slowly, listened to the sound of the flowing creeks, and breathed the fresh air. To my surprise, I found some fossilized mollusks carved within the block of rocks distributed on the ground. These rocks were once beneath the ocean, and presently they are above the actual mean level ocean surface due to the interaction of the tectonic plates.
And as I kept on walking, I experienced the sheer beauty of nature and thought about how we can contribute to preserving our environment in the easiest way possible, no matter how little that might be. I have also noticed that the moment I was allowing myself to be way more open to experiences, I was enjoying my time more deeply and in a more meaningful way. Traveling to this part of the world has definitely taught me to be less judgemental, and more humble.
About the Author:
I am a geologist currently living in Medellín, Colombia. I am passionate about traveling, learning different languages, technology, and coding. Most of my travels are in different cities and towns of Colombia, and also in some of the Latin American countries. Travel has allowed me to meet many people from different cultures and places, which of course has helped me grow personally and professionally.