The next leg of our journey after the araucarias took us back to Rta 40, up some spectacular and lonely highway (first several pictures in the set that follows), and we arrived after dark to a non-descript town called Malarague where we spent the night. The next day was a LONG drive up the 40 to Mendoza, where we joined the route that connects Mendoza to Santiago, Chile. This highway was choked with trucks as this is the main Atlantic/Pacific link between between the Panama Canal and Tierra del Fuego. In fact we were delayed about 45 min while they hauled a crashed truck out of the way. They need a train here! Unfortunately, Argentina let most of its train system deteriorate over several decades during the middle of the last century. In one of the last pictures you can see a bridge from the abandoned train line that once linked Mendoza to Santiago. Sad. But good news on the way: a model at the airport depicted the cross-Andes rail tunnel that appears to be in the works. Hooray!
We reached Aconcagua (tallest mountain outside of Asia) late in the afternoon and it was spectacular and worth the long driving. After enjoying the mountain (we had the viewing area almost to ourselves), we headed back to Mendoza, stopping quickly at the very touristic Punte del Inca, a strange yellow arch over a river formed by deposits from a hot spring, possibly shaped into the bridge with the help of winter-time ice. Anyway, it is also of interest because Charles Darwin visited here and made a sketch of the Puente in 1835. Anyway, right now it is mostly a place to sell trinkets, rocks, and llama-adorned hats (made in China?) to tourists. We scampered on, heading to Mendoza and the promise of abundant Malbec. Full pics here.