Driving from Mendoza to Malargüe

It should have been an easy drive. One road from the airport to the city we’d be staying in. I had no idea how lost we could get driving from Mendoza to  Malargüe.

The Mendoza airport didn’t even look like it should be running. Yet, here it was receiving international flights. We picked up our bags, got in the customs line, walked underneath the falling bricks that had once been a ceiling and pass the coils of electrical wires. Later, we would learn that the airport would be shutting down that week for repairs.

Once we had cleared customs, we found none of the three rent a car kiosks had any cars. However, one of the clerks had a “friend” that could bring us one in ten Latin American minutes. An hour later, we finally had the keys and were on our way. We had booked an apartment in  Malargüe since it was a quick drive to Las Lenas to snowboard.

I had googled the drive and saw that all of the buses stopped in San Rafael. I was grateful that by renting a car we would be able to bypass the city and not extend the drive that would already be four hours long.  As the snowflakes fell, we began to cheer in hope of a big storm that would make for some good powder the following day.

I had plugged the address into Forever Maps, an app that would still give you the directions after you had left wifi. The route was identical to the one that google maps used so I did not think twice as we cruised down the freshly paved road in the middle of nowhere.

According to the map there was a fork in the road that we would take the right to continue onto RN40. However, when we reached that dilapidated excuse for a road, it was permanently blocked by a guardrail and the center road was labeled RN 40. At first, I thought it was a glitch in the app. It would frequently say that we were somewhere else while it would re calibrated. But when it wouldn’t fix itself I let dad know.

“Yeah I kinda noticed that but they both eventually get there. This road is really nice and I’d rather take it as far as we can.”

We continued on but hadn’t gone far when we approached some barricades blocking the road. They were accompanied by numerous signs alerting us that the road was under construction (at least that is what I roughly translated).

“There was a pass to the other road a while back. Lets try that.” I suggested

“That dirt road that we passed?”

“Oh I didn’t notice it was dirt. The map says it is only 7km back”

“I just don’t want to get stuck out here, in this car, after dark, in the snow.” he grumbled as he turned down the dirt trail.

We crept down the road that looked more appropriate for four wheeling than traveling. The snow began to stick, coating the desert terrain in a patchy white glaze.

Twice, a truck full of locals came flying around us, but other than that we drove the dirt road in peace.

“We should be coming up to it here” I told dad, noticing that the road had widened a smidge.

We pulled up to the intersection, expecting a highway, cars, and signs telling us where to go. Instead, we got another dirt road the same size as the one we had just driven 7km on.

“THIS is it?”

It looked less freqently used than the one we had just turned off of. We turned the little 2WD car around and treked the 30km back to the turn off for San Rafael.

We were too exhausted to continue driving and ended up staying in a hotel in San Rafael.

So, If you want to drive from Mendoza to Malargüe and are wondering why all the buses stop in San Rafael, it is because there is no direct road between the two. Please take the advice I could never find:

If you rent a car and are planning on driving from Mendoza to Malargüe, you must drive through San Rafael!

If you are interested in my better days in Argentina, check out my Argentina Photo Journal by clicking here


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2 Replies to “Driving from Mendoza to Malargüe”

  1. Everyone has a horror story driving around that area. Driving from Santiago to Mendoza and crossing the border can be a nightmare.

  2. This post was so awesome, Stephanie! I will try to bear your tips in mind if I ever have to pass that road!

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