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Julia | January 2023

Crossing the Andes once in a lifetime - on foot!

I've wanted to realize this dream for a few years now. But when could this wish be realized?
Unlike crossing the Alps, where there are various options with official hiking trails, huts and countless tourists with the same plan, this project turned out to be quite challenging. Fortunately Aventura A
ustral was on hand with help and advice.

In January 2023, the time had finally come. With an obligatory stop in the capital of the newly crowned soccer world champion, I flew on to Mendoza. I was greeted at the airport with a breathtaking view of the Aconcagua (6961m) - the highest mountain in the Andes. It wasn't going to be quite that high during the crossing the Andes, but it was definitely enough to give me a little respect for the longest mountain range in the world. Fortunately, in Mendoza and the surrounding area there are plenty of opportunities to drink your courage with a good Malbec or two, of course always with a view of the mountains. It was not only the awe of the awe of the upcoming hike but also pure anticipation. Christian decided to embark on the adventure and after some research, and traveled to Mendoza from Bariloche. In a bodega south of Mendoza, we were given the ultimate refreshment with an excellent lunch - of course with the perfect vino to go with it. vino. After all, we had no idea how exquisitely we would be spoiled with food and drink over the next few days. In the evening there was a meeting with the Argentinian tour group, our equipment was checked again with a strict eye and any missing equipment was added to our luggage.

And then it finally started. On the first day, we first had a long journey. We were to follow in the footsteps of the Argentinian national hero José San Martin who, with his army, contributed to Chile's independence along this route. Four days before we crossed the border into Chile, we had to disembark in Argentina at the last military base. When we arrived at our first night camp at an altitude of around 3500m, we didn't see much at first apart a lot of scree and a fog bank. Perhaps there really was a reason why there were no tourists to be seen far and wide? But first of all we had to get used to the altitude. And what a better way to do this than with a proper Argentinian asado? While some of us worked for the chef, the others were allowed to set up the tents. The oxygen saturation levels were checked by everyone and one or two of us spontaneously took a siesta. Slowly but surely, the fog lifted and the Argentinian gaucho family who were to accompany us over the next few days, joined us. And while we enjoyed the asado, we couldn't get enough of the spectacle that we could now enjoy every morning after getting up: How the gauchos drove their horses and donkeys from the surrounding hills down to us. And only then we could realize the beautiful surroundings in which we had set up our camp. This was followed by our day hike, then a short walk with explanations about the the next day before we retired to our tents after a delicious dinner and a local wine.

The group was split up the next morningo; half wanted to make the journey to Chile on foot and the other on horseback. However, crossing the Andes without a horse would have been difficult even for us, part of the hikers, because we had to carry all our luggage and some of the river crossings would probably not have been possible without sitting on the saddle for a short time (even one horse disappeared into the water up to its hips!). Right at the start of the hike, you reach the highest point of the next 3 days: 4300 meters above sea level - with a spectacular view of the first snow-covered glaciers. The fog, which was also initially noticeable on this day, disappeared and we were able to start the hike that was to follow with its ever-changing panoramic views. The pictures can only give a small impression of the beautiful landscape, the unbelievable vastness and the spectacular views - totally cut off from the rest of the world. And the best thing about it: no tourists far and wide and always accompanied by our lovely Gaucho family. The time flew by and the hike was not very demanding for us overall (T2-3). The final ascent to cross the border into Chile was quite a challenge and the altitude felt intense  (highest point 4000m). The gauchos are not allowed to cross the border with their horses, so it was time to say thank you, goodbye and take all our luggage for the subsequent descent. Once we reached the bottom, we had to cross a raging river one last time before we could relax in the natural thermal baths after the exertions of the last few days. In total, we had climbed just over 2500 meters of ascent and over 3000 meters of descent over the days. down. And I personally can only recommend the hike to anyone who is at home in the mountains. For me, it was definitely THE highlight of this South America trip.

We then continued on to Valparaíso with a short stop in Santiago de Chile. This historic, colorful port city is a must-see on any trip to Chile and my second visit to this metropolis. Just the right city to relax a little and admire the local arts and crafts. From here, I flew on to Bariloche (Argentina) - the next wonderful destination on my trip. Temperatures of over 30°C in February and visits to the beaches in this famous lake district and the local breweries were not to be missed. Unfortunately, it was also too hot for longer hikes, so after a few days I was drawn back across the Andes to Chile - but this time much faster and more comfortably by catamaran and bus. My next destination was Puerto Varas - another popular tourist destination for nature lovers. From here on to the legendary Isla Chiloe. Historic wooden churches, colorful stilt houses and rugged cliffs make this island more than worth seeing. From the Isla Chiloe we continued along the Carretera Austral to a small village called Futaleufú. This is where I met up with Mari and Christian again. Futaleufú is known for its rivers, which are ideal for rafting and kayaking adventurers. Of course we We didn't want to miss out on a rafting trip. What a fun! :)