News release: 17 Dec 2005, Desvio Las Lenas
|Through a long and complicated series of family contacts I had been told
of Jorge Di Benedetto who lives in Mendoza and is one of Argentina's few
microlight manufacturers. He makes his own trikes and imports Aeros
wings from Ukraine. Jorge (Beto to his friends) is an absolute star.
He'd heard we were on our way and not long after we arrived in Mendoza
he found us and he took me off to the AeroClub de Mendoza on the south
side of town to meet the chaps there and to ask if I could base myself
there before we move up the mountain.
Mendoza Aeroclub is extremely ancient, it was founded in 1914,
but reality suggests it has seen better days. It consists of three
hangars, a small office and a 1200m tarmac strip which is quite
overgrown. It is none the less active, they have a couple of club PA38's
and some other light aircraft are based there, and despite the fact that
microlights in Argentina are completely 'outside' the system and aren't
really liked very much by GA people they were more than welcoming; yes,
we would be delighted to offer you some hangar space to put your kit
together and fly a couple of test flights.
Yesterday we set off again up the mountain to look at the place Angelo
had recce'd a few months ago as our 'advance base camp'.
Back on highway 7 again. The three hour drive took us through the
'Pre-cordillera' up and up through increasingly spectacular scenery to
the snow capped Andean Cordillera itself. For most of the way the road
runs alongside a railway line (built by the British) which was sadly
closed after 100 years of use in 1989 as no longer economic, it must
have been one of the Worlds great rail journeys, and the only railway
which went from coast to coast in South America. Still, this was to our
advantage as the abandoned railway station at Desvio Las Leñas* make the
perfect advanced base camp, one of the buildings is in quite good shape
and quite quickly we had it swept out, fixed up some lights from our
generator and generally made it quite cosy.
Tomorrow Nicky and our Children arrive at Santiago, Chile. Angelo's off
to climb Aconcagua on foot and I'm going back to Mendoza to get all our
kit ready at the Aeroclub.
* Desvio Las Leñas: The best translation seems to be 'woody siding' but
there's not a tree for miles...