I had a great Christmas and New Year this / last year. It had been a while since I’ve been home so my mother and younger, but several feet higher, brother decided to come and find me in Argentina.
I met them in Buenos Aires and we traveled west, across Argentina to the town of Tunuyan in the Uco Valley, Mendoza province. Tunuyan is a quiet little town surrounded by apple, peach and cherry plantations as well endless grape vines. It is here, with a backdrop of the magnificent snow capped Andes, I have the great misfortune to live!
After a very jolly Christmas, where my Irish family got to meet my Argentine family for the first time, we all went on a camping ride up into the mountains. Chano, our guide, is an old friend of mine who first guided me across the Andes with Pancho.
This time of year a beautiful bush of the Verbena family, with a pretty pale purple flower, covers much of the lower part of the hills, though in the summer the Andean foothills are an explosion of colours from all sorts of wild flowers and the air is filled with the smell of wild Thyme.
However, as you climb higher the vegetation gets sparser until it eventually gives way to just rocks.
We spent much of our second day climbing up through these bleak rocky slopes. Until, when we reached around 3,000 meters, the steep ascent suddenly dropped away to reveal a vast bowl cut into the mountains. At the bottom of which lay the shimmering turquoise surface of the Campanario Lagoon.
At 3,000 meters it wasn’t exactly hot but we still thought it would be alright for a dip. I tested the water which didn’t seem too bad. However, after jumping in it fast became apparent it was several degrees lower a foot below the surface and you can see from the following video it didn’t take long for me to get back out.
After arriving back to the lowlands, we waved goodbye to friends and family of the Uco valley and set off, back across Argentina, this time further south to the Peninisula Valdes on the Patagonian coast. The riding along the craggy coastline and sandy beaches was stunning.
Though the biggest attraction of the Peninsula is the wildlife, it is a world heritage site and due to its two protected harbors it is one of the best spots in the world to see marine wildlife. Thousands of southern right whales, killer whales and dolphins pass by its shores each year and it has some of the world’s largest colonies of Penguins, Elephant seals and Sea lions.
There also loads of things to get up to: there’s great kayaking off the craggy coastline,
and trekking along the beaches.
However, for me the highlight was snorkeling with sea lions. This is as incredible as it sounds, a truly unforgettable experience. Below is a short film made from footage Ernie one of our guides took: