Vladimir Lysenko. THE FIRST CORDILLERAS EXPEDITION (ARGENTINA)
(January of 1993)
(Orcones, Las Cuevas, Mendosa Rivers)
After the successful rafting on the rivers, flowing down all fourteen 8-km-peaks, the new idea has seized me - to descend on the water way down the highest peaks of all continents.
The second from such peaks in height after Everest (Asia) is the South-American Mt.Aconcagua (6,960 m), being in Argentina near the frontier with Chile. I started preparing for the expedition. I made arrangements about money with the sponsor-participant of the expedition Victor Mozerov, and on January 11, 1993 we have taken off by flight of Aeroflot from Moscow to Buenos Aires. We made the intermediate landings in Algeria, on the island Sal and in town Salvador (Brazil).
To Buenos Aires we have arrived twenty two hours later, in the evening. But there was the summer, it was warm. In the bus we have reached the hotel "Waldorf" (where the double room cost 44 dollars).
In the midnight, before sleep, I have got out in town to look round and to reconnoitre the site of the bus and railway stations. Buenos Aires lived by cheerful night life. Advertisement amazed by its brightness. It has appeared, that in Argentina there are not many people who speaks English, but I did not speak Spanish. Therefore not at once have found out, that to necessary for us Mendosa the omnibuses of the transport firm "Shevalier" go. They set off there in the evening only, so we shall spend the next day in Buenos Aires.
In the morning we have handed over things in cloakroom of firm "Shevalier" and (after that as at Agency of Aeroflot there were confirmed our seats for the return flight to Moscow) have set off for excursion through town. It has turned out to be very beautiful and pleasant, but rather expensive. The inhabitants are very affable.
In the evening in the two-floor superbus of firm "Shevalier" we have set off to Mendosa. The careful attitude of stewardess to passengers has remained in our memory. There were offered to us the hot food, wine, cognac, cold drinks, coffee, cakes, videofilms were shown, lottery drawing was spent... All this is counted up in the cost of the ticket (equal to 70 dollars).
We have arrived to Mendosa in the morning, have left things in the baggage room and have engaged in searches of the tourist firm, working in the region of Mt.Aconcagua. We have eventually got to the Branch of Department of Tourism in San Martin street, where have received the rather detailed information about the orders in the region of this famous mountain. For the permit for visiting the national park, which surrounds Aconcagua and begins above settlement Puenta-del-Inca, we have paid 30 dollars each. Then have got the bus tickets up to Puenta-del-Inca (for the morning of the following day) and became to get acquainted with Mendosa. We have literally fallen in love with this green, most beautiful town with set of buildings of medieval Spanish style.
Now a half of million about people live in Mendosa. We have visited SARKU - the Association on study of Russian culture. The members of this society though badly, but speak Russian. One family has invited us after the rafting to visit its home.
We have spent the night at the hotel "Halicia", very cheap on the local standard (15 dollars for two-bed room).
In the morning by the bus we have gone away to Puenta-del-Inca (it was necessary to go there for 4 hours). By mistake (because of ignorance of Spanish) we have covered farther, than it is necessary - up to the Argentina-Chile frontier. We had to come back to Puenta-del-Inca. Having examined the Orcones River, running down Aconcagua, we have decided to begin the rafting on it a little higher Puenta-del-Inca, as the water-flow here was small, and upstream the river was practically impassable for our raft "carabuber". But as we stored the permit for visiting the national park Aconcagua, decided at first to make trekking to the high-altitude hotel "Placa-del-Mulas" ("Mule's square") at the height of 4,400 meters about.
For this travelling it has passed two days with the intermediate spending the night in place Confluenc, where two rivers join. On the way we admired Aconcagua (to the point, it is possible to see it also from the road, leading to Chile, in 4-5 km from Puenta-del-Inca). We have got to know Italian and Indonesian climbers and also the company of Argentine trekkers, consisting of two adult men and several boys of school age. To the point, the Spanish-speaking travellers welcome others by exclamation "Ola" instead of habitual for me "Hi".
Then we have come back to Puenta-del-Inca. In the evening at hotel we have got to know the Dutch climber Erik Richter, which besides has turned out to be the professional photographer. We made arrangements: he will photograph a fragment of our rafting before "Inca's Bridge" by his photocamera, then will send us the negatives. And his friend will photograph our rafting in the same place by Mozerov`s Japanese camera.
Next day, having collected the "carabuber", we have begun the rafting on the Orcones and have continued it on the Las Cuevas River, into which the Orcones falls. In kilometre lower Puenta-del-Inca the rafting on this day has been finished. The Dutchmen have photographed us, as arranged. We had supper at hotel, but stayed the night near the raft.
Further during four days we rafted on the Las Cuevas and Mendosa River (into which the Las Cuevas falls). The route has turned out to be of the maximum (sixth) severity grade. The continuous (for about 30 km) slalom on the Las Cuevas between large boulders at the high speed of current was replaced by the rafting on the powerful river, which the Mendosa has turned out to be at the large water (in January on it there is the flood). And in two kilometres (from the place of falling of the Las Cuevas into it near settlement Puenta-de-Vacas) the Mendosa has unexpectedly squeezed itself into the narrow canyon, where has formed the water-throw-down of the height of 2.5-3 meters with the powerful "holes" behind it. One “bublik”-ring of the "carabuber" has stuck in the "hole", but the second ring has pulled it out from this water pit.
For the following 30-40 km the chain of the powerful rapids of 5 (5-6) severity grade has again followed. Then the river calms down, break up into numerous channels and (about in 20 km) in such state reaches Uspallata. After the bridge near this settlement the Mendosa is collected in one channel again and in a state of powerful flow directs into a gorge. Up to the automobile bridge (on which the road passes to the left bank and leaves to town Mendosa) on the river there are the numerous rapids of 4 and 5 severity grade.
Before the named bridge it is recommended to finish the rafting (we have made so), as in a few kilometres after it the Mendosa River leaves on plain, break up into channels and soon disappears in saline soil.
The rafting on the Orcones, Las Cuevas and Mendosa Rivers has required the maximum physical efforts. On the Mendosa lower Uspallata besides the counter wind prevented strongly. Because of the intensive melting of glaciers the water in the first two rivers, passed by us, was of dark-brown colour, and in the Mendosa - of light-brown. It was necessary to settle it a long time before the use for food.
After the rafting we have come back to Mendosa town and during two days were there. We have put up at the same hotel "Halicia". We have visited the family, inviting us, and very pleasantly have spent the evening. At three a.m. we have set off to the hotel. It was Saturday, and Mendosa did not sleep - the streets were filled by the having fun people. But during the first half of following day the town seemed extinct (the inhabitants either slept off, or had a rest in a park). We also have visited this park with the lake, the favourite place of rest of the town-dwellers. And in the evening we have got on a bus and have left to Buenos Aires.
During the next day we roved through the capital of Argentina and then (at the beginning of the night) have taken off to Moscow.
From the hot summer we have come back to the cold winter. The first Russian rafting expedition in the Cordilleras was finished.