Fabulous Fitz Roy trekking views.
National Park Perito Moreno - sunburn one day, frostbite the next.
A trekkers favourite meal - a BIG plate of curry!
Rio Gallegos to Los Antiguos
We re-enter mainland Argentina to meet a hyper customs officer bouncing toward us, FULL of huge smiles and gushing about how FABULOUS our truck was - a very nice welcome.
Our next stop is in El Chalten where the famous Fitz Roy mountain is. Rock climbing, trekking and glaciar walks can be done here - Rose’s idea of heaven. I do not enjoy outdoor sports so wasn’t as enthusiastic but I agreed to spend a week, went on some of the trails and really enjoyed them.
We took a drive to Lago Desierto and on the way back stopped to give a climber a lift, Rose opened the rear cabin door to let him put his backpack in when a gust of wind caught her and threw the door open with her flying like a flag, holding on to the door handle for her life! Back in El Chalten Rose showed me her bruises, because she had been laughing at the time I had not realised how badly she had been injured - I was amazed she hadn’t broken her leg.
We met some overlander friends there and a couple of backpackers from the UK - Neil and Donald - very nice lads. It was a place Rose could have stayed one month but I was keen to go - there is no good place to camp with the truck and I was genuinely concerned that Rose would never want to leave! Ha ha
Route 40 is the famous road that snakes it’s way up the west side of Argentina - it is a mix of asphalt and ripio (gravel). We meet lots of overlanders, most are heading south, and we see 3 separate groups of bikers being followed by their support vehicles. Looks like the south is going to be FULL of overlanders now.
We re-enter Argentina via the very pleasant Welsh settlement of Trevelin and spend a few days camping in the lovely Parque Nacional Los Alerces - washing in the cool lakes and sharing our meals with the local hawk.
Christmas is fast approaching and we decide to stay in El Bolson at the local micro-brewery (which also has a camping area and wi-fi) - very handy for all our video skype calls to family and friends and absolutely nothing to do with the fact they sell superb beer - honest!
Our travel tradition for Xmas is a nice steak so where better to be than Argentina - with the finest beef in the world (chocolates, wine, apple pie and pizza are also superb). MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS!
Boxing day brings 17 mobile homes - it seems www.seabridge-tours.de have arrived. Argentine children are removed from the football pitch and customers are asked to move their cars from the car park. It would appear that the 30 empty camping pitches to the rear of the building have been overlooked. Watching such gross selfishness entertained us for the evening, that and the fact that each vehicle was washed on arrival -is it a group rule or just a German obsession?!
Trevelin to Bariloche
Most overlanders avoid Bariloche due to crime problems (see info page) but we felt there was a compromise to be made. Mountains, lakes, forests, lovely ‘log cabin’ architecture, excellent shopping and very friendly people make the city and the Llao Llao loop well worth a visit. We bush camped by the lake near town and really enjoyed our visit - our compromise was that one of us always stayed with the truck.
Unfortunately since Xmas our weather has become cool with lots of rain - not what we expected. We drive around Lago Traful to Angostura but see nothing because of the torrential rain and blanket cloud cover!
Xmas in El Bolson,
Villa la Angostura church &
Bariloche Cenrto Civico
PN Los Alcerces and yet another dinner guest!
We drove to NP Perito Moreno, a very isolated park with bad tracks, only to find overlander friends there which was just as well as we arrived in sun but woke to heavy snow. Both vehicles were covered in thick mud by the end of the slippery 16km drive back to the entrance gate. Although the weather is much warmer, we still are getting caught with bad route conditions some days.
We visited the famous ‘Cave of Hands’ full of 9,000 year old cave art work but, to be honest, we enjoyed the surrounding gorge scenery more.
Finally we arrive in Los Antiguos - a very small border town that sits on the edge of a lovely lake. We decide to stay in the campsite for 2 weeks as it’s the ideal place for Rose to clean out the truck of all the ripio dust, do laundry and update the web page, whilst I make some changes to the electrics of the truck. I fitted our fans for the front cab, hopeful of hotter weather, and upgraded our mains electric hook up point. Other overlanders come and go and we enjoy hearing their stories and meeting them.
We forgot how unbelievably dusty Argentina was until we re-entered - the truck was FULL of thick dust and sand within minutes of arrival! Our plan had been to visit Parque Provincial Payunia which is home to the worlds largest collection of volcanic cones - over 800 of them. Unfortunately we saw nothing, the scenery was completely hidden by blowing sand and dust - we couldn’t even see the road. It was very dangerous.
Other travellers complain bitterly about Argentine ‘social skills’, we were advised to avoid the country during the January and February holiday season because of loud music and adaso’s lasting until the early morning. We have encountered this once before when a family appeared on a lovely remote beach with a generator and large spot lights. We left shortly after not wanting to spoil their fun.
This time we have been amazed at the silence we encounter everywhere - no music and quiet asado meals. Most Argentines have their evening meal around 11pm, just as we are going to bed, it’s strange for Europeans!
Malargue to Cristo Redentor
Malargue is a friendly little town that could tempt us to stay for 2 weeks but we are in a big hurry to meet up with friends in Mendoza. We stop for the day to visit a gaucho friend called Walter in San Rafael, who advised us to drive RP 173, a beautiful drive following a river then a canyon through lovely rocky scenery. Walter entertained us the whole way with stories of his hunting and eating exploits - we were still laughing about it days later. What a great guy!
We rush onto Mendoza through lovely vineyard scenery and arrive just in time to meet Christine and Terry, who we last met in Kyrgyzstan, this time none of us have visa woes but we still manage to drink a few beers and local wine! Happily we also meet fellow overlander friends we last saw at Xmas and spend some time with them in the campsite - it’s such a treat to meet up with everyone again.
Has anyone seen the road? Driving to Valle Hermoso Lovely Canon de Atuel & Valle Grande
The Ronnie Barker appreciation club!
Mendoza is a lovely city of tree lined avenues, traditional houses, plaza’s and parks. Yet the residents are keen to warn us of how ‘dangerous’ their city is - ‘We have the second highest crime rate in Argentina!’ Because of the wine industry the area obviously attracts many migrant workers and beggars (the first we have seen in South America). We must confess that we never felt at risk but we listened to the warnings and paid to stay in a campsite when in the city. The friendship, help and kindness that has been extended to us by the people of the city and the whole of the Mendoza region has been overwhelming. We leave the region via the Cachueta thermal baths where the police love Nessie so much that they invite us to spend the night camping by the police station!
Puente del Inca sulphur spring and Cachueta termas
After more than 2 months in Chile we return to Argentina with the absolute plan to drive east to Paraguay and into Brazil. We are in for a surprise. The costs have risen by 25% from fuel to food and all the tourists have left Mendoza leaving the city feeling unexpectedly unfriendly and unsafe - but it is still nice to be back. We go to bed with the plan to leave the next day and drive towards Cordoba, but waken the next morning and drive back toward Chile! No-one is more surprised than us!
This is where we make our first big logistical mistake on our trip - we should have stayed in Chile and driven north on the coast to La Serena (the north bound route we took out of Mendoza was rather boring). But the drive over the fabulous Agua Negra pass more than made up for our error - it was without doubt the best Andean pass we have driven and the highest at 4,765m! Only 7 days in Argentina - that has to be a record!
Mendoza to San Jose de Jachal
Friendly high altitude road workers on our way to the international border at 4,765m (15,724 feet).