Crossing the Andes, is a historic route that even today, with technology and progress of the new century, cross the mighty Andes Mountains remains a major challenge. At the end of the day, in a few places in the world are mountains over 6000 meters, which monitor extinct volcanoes lonely horizons and a vast landscape where only the queen and great condor.
This challenge was the same as José de San Martín began in 1817 when, after the hard work of assembling the Army of the Andes were encouraged to tackle the feat of the Cordillera: a feat that is hard to imagine today the full extent because the lack of roads was scarcely a path of no more than two feet wide, rocky and uneven, it must be added the lack of warm clothing, food preservation, of remedies to treat the sick. However, San Martin could write that same year: “In 24 days we have done the campaign, we pass the highest mountains of the globe, we conclude with tyrants and gave freedom to Chile.”
The Map “San Martin”.
Routes crossing the Cordillera were six in all: two primary and four secondary. Mendoza passed through two columns, three for San Juan, and the sixth who was assisted Belgrano’s army was commanded by Triesch and Guandacol Davila and left in January 1817 to Laguna Brava and El Paso de Come Caballos, the altitude of La Rioja. This same route will be recreated from this summer, on a tourist trip that invites visitors to walk in the footsteps San Martín and feel again the strength of that era who beat the obstacles of nature and man.
The starting point is a village in Rioja, called Villa Union, where the band made their final preparations before entering the mountains. The next day, we start early in 4×4 vehicles heading for the Andes: there, in the shelter of the Rock, at 3500 meters, begins the process of acclimatization. The day is passed between successive breaks and short walks to allow the body becoming accustomed to the altitude, unlike the brave soldiers Zelada and Davila, who only had garlic and onion to offset the effects of altitude acclimatization.
The third day of the expedition begins with the preparation of the mules for the trek. It’s a whole day of riding, makes some rest and lunch breaks, until you reach the pads, instead of the second camp. The night in the shelter, in the light of the stars and the sky so blue that turns black, gives rise to fantasies and memories, and helps you start to feel more real in a dimension that was that crossing, 1817.
On the following day, when it gets toward Puch Puch, home of the next camp, the Cordillera is presented in all its splendor is behind that first landscape of cactuses, stayed behind the high plain, and here begin to show in all its height and strength of the southern Andes, with its volcanic belt and erosion left after the last glaciation. Not long now to the main objective, the Horses Come step: the fatigue was going to be felt, because we weigh up the unstoppable force of the wind, the intense cold that is unlike anything known. But while fatigue is irrelevant: all that is necessary is the mountain, the awareness of the feat San Martín, and deep empathy with the sky and the height at the heart of the route of the Andes La Rioja.
See you in another ride around the world…