Uspallata – a real gem in the shadow of the Andes

At the end of my last post I arrived at around 9:30pm in a village called Uspallata. I only intended to stay overnight and leave early the next morning but I loved it so much I stayed for the weekend. Close enough to the Andes for them to dominate the horizon, and at an altitude of just over 2,000m, this village has a lovely climate. In the summer it’s hot and dry but the heat is less oppressive than in Mendoza, and the skies are huge with a deep shade of blue. There are a few things to do here, such as visit the nearby Incan petroglyphs and go walking in the colourful hills (including nearby Cerro Siete Colores). Apart from that, you can just relax in this peaceful place. It’s pretty festive too at the moment, which is great. Lots of houses have fairy lights outside and there is a tree decoration in the centre. In the background you can see a huge dust cloud obscuring the mountains – a dust storm whipped up from Patagonia overnight. I finally managed to try the Lomo Simple sandwich. Steak, lettuce, tomato and grilled cheese in a brilliantly tasty oversized ciabatta bun. It was absolutely delicious, and a bargain at $150 pesos (£6.50) given the quality of the meal. Plus the Andes beer, served ice cold is very refreshing. I had plenty of time to relax and I read a whole book – the afternoon siesta is essential here as the sun is just too intense to be out and about. I also met Clarence from Montana and had such interesting conversations that I didn’t want to leave. He stays in Uspallata for 4 months of the year, Montana with his wife for 6, spends another month in California and the final month in Colorado. He retired in 1974 and has always travelled, rarely staying at one job for more than 4 months. His life has been incredible. He has been everywhere and he’s got a really kind heart so he is looked after wherever he goes. He has had so many different jobs including climbing and white water rafting instructor, to metal fabricator, to garbage truck driver, to search and rescue operator in the Alaskan mountains. He has studied so many different things from geology and history to particle physics, and amazingly, his Spanish isn’t particularly good but he gets by. He has bought a plot of land in the village and his house will hopefully be completed next year, it would be cool to come back and see it one day! Now I’ve got to hit the road – next stop, Mendoza for some quick souvenir shopping and then I’ve got to jump on the night bus to Rosario to meet Steven, my friend from the UK, for an exciting few weeks of travelling around Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay!

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