Malbec wine and Mendoza. The two are inextricably entwined. Mendoza (photos) is unquestionably the wine capital of Argentina. There are over 1,000 wineries in the Mendoza province that are responsible for about 70% of the total wine output for Argentina. The Malbec wines put Argentina on the map in the wine world but Mendoza is producing a wide variety of red and white wines.
The fact that anything at all can grow in Mendoza is owed to a network of irrigation canals or acequias. Mendoza gets very little rainfall, less than 8 inches annually. All of the vineyards and the entire town get their water from these canals which are supplied with water from the nearby Andes precordilleras or foothills.
The route into Argentina from San Pedro de Atacama crosses the Andes through Paso de Jama, a mountain pass at about 13,800 feet above sea level. It was first necessary for us to get stamped out of Chile which is done at their border control office located just outside of San Pedro, 160km from the border.
As a traveler, such as us, there is very little reason to visit Puno other than to explore Lake Titicaca (photos) and some of the unique island communities that are a part of it. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable body of water in the world by virtue of the fact that it has a ferry service that provides regular island transportation. The lake surface is at about 12,600 feet above sea level.
Returning to Cusco from Puerto Maldonado, we crossed the Andes, topping out at over 13,000 feet above sea level. At the peak, it was snowing.