Director Jud's Blog

An Argentina Update from Adventure Teen Camp Director Jud Millar

Posted by Jud Millar on Tue, Feb 23, 2016

 My time in Argentina has been incredible. After a nine-hour flight from Miami, Florida, I arrived into Buenos Aires in a foggy haze of sleepiness and navigated customs and immigration. From there, I boarded a flight to the second largest city of Argentina called Córdoba. My four-hour layover in Córdoba, a university town, allowed me to explore the city’s downtown before boarding another flight to my final destination, the mountain town of Mendoza.

I was met at the airport by my old friend Carlos Lopez. I had not seen Carlos since 2006, but, as it is with old friends, we reconnected immediately and it was if no time had passed. Carlos proceeded to give me a tour of the city with the highlightsimage.jpegNew Call-to-actionbeing beautiful downtown Mendoza and its many parks. From there we went to Carlos' home where I reconnected with his wife Flor and met his children Emma and Pedro. That night Carlos prepared a traditional Argentine steak barbecue meal.

The following day, Tuesday, February 16, we woke early to a traditional Argentine breakfast of cookies, bread with sweet jam, and strong café con leche. Before my arrival, Carlos asked what I wanted to do while I was in Mendoza and I replied, "Let's go have some adventures in the Andes Mountains." I soon found out that Carlos took this request seriously as that morning we traveled northwest up the Mendoza River valley to a hot springs resort with both hot and cool pools in a glorious mountain setting.

After spending a few hours soaking in the natural pools, Carlos told me it was time for our first mountain adventure. We soon met our guide named Charlie who gave us climbing harnesses and helmets and led us to an old railroad bridge over the Mendoza River. After a brief safety talk, Charlie instructed me to climb over the railing of the bridge and repel 150 feet to the river bank below. The exhilarating feeling of the repel was increased tenfold by the stunning mountain setting and rushing river nearby. Once I reached the ground it was Carlos' turn. This was his first ever repel and he bravely climbed over the rail and began his decent. Once Carlos was on the ground we high fived and decided to do it again!


After our first adventure we took a break for lunch of "pollo y ensalada" (chicken and salad). Once our bodies were refueled we traveled down the Mendoza River valley three km to a river outpost where we met with Charlie again. Time for adventure number two of the day - hydrospeeding down class 3 rapids! Hydrospeeding is sort of like knee boarding with handles and spots for your elbows rather than your knees. We donned wet suits, helmets, flippers for our feet, and PFDs. We hopped in the river for a brief safety talk followed by instructions. I soon learned that hydrospeeding is a very immersive experience as you are literally in freezing glacier melt water using your legs and body to power yourself to the "sweet spot" in the rapid while working to avoid strainers and "holes" in the river. For five river miles Carlos and I followed Charlie through riffles and rapids stopping only to catch our breath and regroup. What a rush!2-week-summer-camp-ag.jpeg


Once we were done on the river Carlos explained that he had something to show me so we set off traveling northwest on Argentine Route 7 past Embalse Potrerillos Lake and the village of Upsalla, deep into the Andes Mountains traveling towards the border with Chile. The mountain vistas were incredible with a dry arid climate and craggy peaks all around. After traveling about 220 km (136 miles) we arrived at our destination: the main trailhead for Mount Aconcagua. At 6,962 meters (22,838) it is the tallest peak in South America and the tallest peak outside of the Himalayas. It was getting late in the day but we decided we had enough time to hike far enough to get a view of the mountain. About an hour later, Aconcagua came into view and both Carlos and I were awestruck. Out of breath due to the steep incline and elevation, the views of Mount Aconcagua were unbelievable and certainly worth the effort.

After pausing to take in the view and capture the moment with the obligatory photos, Carlos and I headed back down the trail. We made our way the 130+ miles back to Mendoza stopping along the way to see a natural land bridge with hot springs over the Mendoza River and to check out the closed ski resort called Los Penitentes where Carlos used to be a ski instructor.

We arrived back into Mendoza at 11.30 pm and Carlos announced, "Now we go to a birthday party for my aunt!" We arrived to find a birthday dinner in progress with three generations of extended family sitting around a table enjoying a typical Argentine meal of steak, cured meats, and local Mendoza malbec vino.

The following day we toured a winery in the Tupungato Valley followed by a trip to the Manzana Historico (Historic Apple Tree). Here we partook in a heavy lunch of clay oven-baked steak. Next we traveled again deep into the Andes Mountains on a dirt track following a glacier fed stream. After two hours of driving up and up and up we reached our destination - the trailhead of an unknown (to us) Andean peak. Two hours later we reach our fourth "false summit" and decided to take in the view and start our decent. The summit was 5150 meters which means we came up short about 500 meters of the top which put us right around 15,250 feet of elevation. From our highest point in the Andes Mountains we could see over the border into Chile!

We made our way back to our vehicle and 3+ hours later we returned to Carlos' house where Flor had prepared an incredible Argentinian dinner of homemade pasta and salad and malbec vino from the vineyard we visited earlier that day.Adventure-teen-camp-pa.jpeg

The following morning (Thursday) I boarded a flight and traveled back to Buenos Aires were I met up with Pam and Biff at the Hotel Salles. I also met some other members of our Habitat for Humanity group and we enjoyed a dinner together. Today (Friday) more of our group arrived and tomorrow we begin our Habitat for Humanity Argentina adventure together. On Sunday we travel by coach north to the rural city of Santa Fe to begin our project. I am excited to get to know our group and to work towards building a house for an Argentine family.

About Director Jud's Blog

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