Ruta 52 – First adventure with the Ford Ranger.

Route 52 starts just north of the city of Mendoza and connects with the small mountain town of Uspallata, some 95 km away. It traverses the Natural Resource Area of Villavicencio, a thermal source and semi-abandoned resort. Bottled water is produced here and sold across Argentina. From the resort the road turns to a gravel trail that climbs steeply up the Andes to 3200m of altitude (10,500′). Some narrow sections are pretty hair-raising with a view straight down the slope. You continuously hope no one is coming in the other direction, as passing each other would mean one would have to backtrack, not fun! In places rain has taken down some of the side of the road and there is barely enough width left for one vehicle. A mud slide higher up would close the road and impose turning around, somehow, and driving back down.

I had gotten up at 5:30am in order to be above Villavicencio for sunrise. The weather was cloudy so not much hope of anything as far as sunrise. I waited 1/2 hour and a few minutes after sunrise some yellow light hit the clouds and the horizon. With a few photos in the camera I kept driving up and occasionally stopped to take more photos. The views and the solitude are breathtaking. Once up on top the clouds were touching the ground of the high plateau creating some interestingly moody scenes. I passed several herds of vicuñas, of the camel family, but not a single human being in sight. I detoured to the ruins of the mines of Paramillos. Based on ancient Inca mines further developed by the Spaniards, and now abandoned. I spent the rest of the day driving through the desert and taking photos of odd rock formations, enjoying the solitude and absolute silence. Up there there are kilometers of desert tracks that seem to go forever, Argentina is a big country!