Cueva los Manos and Mt. Fitz Roy in Patagonia

ArgentinaPosted by Espen Thu, November 10, 2011 18:20:52

The landscape changes dramatically when we cross the border to Argentina from Carretera Austral. Suddenly we are back on pampas and plains that go on forever. We were almost out of foood and fuel as we chose not to stock up in Chile before crossing the border. Not that we've had any issues with food going into Argentina, but you never know. The fuel in Argentina is also a little bit cheaper than in Chile, especially in Patagonia as they hav a few cents "Patagonia-discount". Probably some kind of subsidizing from the government for people living in a region considered to be quite far away from everything.

The first gas station sent us away with a "no hay gasoil". Da##! We wondered if the fuel situation could be as bad as up north. Also note the South Argentinean word for diesel - gasoil. Dangerously close to gasolin, and we did actually run into a german backppacker couple that had just bought a car (petrol engine) in Chile, and got it filled filled up with diesel as soon as they got across the border... They had filled up somwehere ut in the sticks, and had to spend the night at a run down hotel full of local truckers. The funny part was that we had driven past that same hotel the day after they got going again, and thought it was kind of a strange place, like out of a roadmovie.

After some asking around in Perito Moreno we found a Petrobras fuel station that had proper diesel and filled up. Next up was finding a supermarket, but for some strange reason everything was closed. It was Sunday, but normally shops are open. We soon discovered that it was election day in Argentina this day, and everybody was over at the city hall to vote. More asking around, and finallly we found a small Tienda with some bread, cheese, pasta, vegetables, and even chicken filets. But anything with alcohol was completely out of the question.

The roads on the pampas are normally fast and good. Most are paved, but here and there we come across roadwork that slow us down. In a couple of years you can probably do the PanAm in a Ferrari...

Some of the smaller roads are still gravel, of course, but with good suspencion you can still blast across the plains doing a hundred kilometers per hour.

On our way south we stopped at an UNESCO world heritage site, Cueva los Manos. This is an amazing site where you can study 9000 years old rock art up close. Take a close look at the pictures. These are the original paint. No reconstructions!

The road we are now driving south is the "Ruta 40". This road runs for more than 5000 kilometers parallell with the Andes mountain range from the northern part of Argentina and all the way down south. Now mostly paved, but this was THE adventurous rute for years and years. Getting closer to the Park Nacional Los Glaciares, we took off and headed west towards Mount Fitz Roy and the town El Chalten.

El Chalten is a nice little town with camping in the town center, and many nice and cozy small restaurants (and good wifi :-) ). For the first time in weeks we also start to see other overlanders. Getting further and further south, there are fewer roads to drive, and my guess is that down in Ushuaia it will be almost crowed. We'll see...

The next day we had a hike up to Lago Torres. Fantastic views! A little later in the season this must be paradise for hiking and climbing. Still a little cold, and with snow in the higher areas. I think we both could have stayed here longer, but we have to make it to Ushuaia and back to Punta Arenas within a week. Now we really start to feel the end of the road coming close!


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Lake district Argentina

ArgentinaPosted by Malin Sat, October 29, 2011 05:05:09

After crossing into Argentina at the Paso Hua Hum border crossing, we were in the Argentinian lake district, and it seemed like a relaxed place where people stop along the road for a chat. From here it was just a short drive to San Martin de los Andes where we stopped by the tourist office to ask about campgrounds. We are probably of the first tourists to arrive for the summer season which starts in December…, and most campgrounds are still closed. But halfway on the “camino de los Siete Lagos” – “road of the seven lakes” - at Lago Villarino, one camping area without facilities should be open for camping.

Driving south from San Martin de los Andes we started to notice a lot of grey dust along the road, and suddenly we realized it was not just along the road, but all over, kilometer after kilometer. After some time we understood that it must be ash from a volcano eruption. The further south we got the ash layer became thicker. At Lago Falkner, the campground with facilities was still closed, but they were working on removing the ash from the camping area.

We found our spot for the night at Lago Villarino, and we were careful to clean our shoes for ash before climbing into the tent that night. It was a beautiful location for a camp site, and we enjoyed a slow morning with breakfast and reading our books.

Leaving Lago Villarino the weather was perfect with clear blue sky and sun, but the closer we got to Villa La Angostura we drove into a strange grey “cloudy” fog. In some places it looked like it was winter, with snow and berms along the road, but it was just more ash….

Getting closer to town we could see how they were working on moving all the ash. People were working with spades and brushes in places where they could not use machines, and then the trucks came in, got filled up, and then drove out of town somewhere to dump the ash.

I guess I have seen images like these in newspapers and on TV before, but like always its different to see it with your own eyes. At the tourist information we learned that the ash came from the Vulcan Puyehue in Chile that erupted on the 5th of July, more than four months ago.

We had a desperate need to do laundry and get online again, and while looking at campgrounds (that did not really look that tempting with all the ash) we got a good offer for a one room apartment. It was great to live indoors again for four full days, and we spent most of the time in Villa La Angostura inside the apartment.

Through our windows we could not see any of the surrounding mountains on Saturday because it rained the whole day, but on Sunday it was a clear day and we had excellent views to the mountains. When we were leaving on Monday the strange grey “cloud” was back again. We wondered if the “cloud” reappeared on Monday when they started to move all the ash again. The cloud covered a huge area until south of San Carlos de Bariloche.

San Carlos de Bariloche did not look so nice as it was under a grey cloud, so we just stopped for lunch at the lake and quickly drove through the city. In El Bolson the sun was shining and we found a campground where we camped under blooming apple trees. It felt like spring at home. Before entering Argentina again we had decided to eat a proper Argentinian beef before going back to Chile.

With recommendations from our camp host we had a great dinner that left us wondering why we are never able to find beef this tender in Norway even if you buy the most expensive meat you can find. We still don’t know. The plan was to leave the next day, but I had enjoyed a bit too much red vine the day before, so it was an easy decision to make to spend another day reading books under the apple trees.

It also gave us the opportunity for a BBQ dinner with more good meat.

The next morning we were ready to leave Argentina and find our way to Carretera Austral.


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Fiambala to Mendoza

ArgentinaPosted by Malin Thu, October 06, 2011 02:15:46

After one of the nicest and most relaxed border crossings at Paso San Francisco we had now entered the last country we would visit on our travel from Alaska to Ushuaia. We wondered why not all border crossings can be like this with polite and friendly officers. Maybe it has to do with the work load... We crossed the border late in the afternoon and in the book (the immigration officers wrote everything into a big book by hand) we could see that we were car number three and four crossing into Argentina this day.

After entering Argentina we were driving through landscape that looked like it was painted. Descending as far as we could before dark we got to about 3000 meters and found a place off the road somewhere to camp for the night.

Next day we followed again some coordinates in our GPS… Toyotours.com had the coordinates from some other travellers that had camped there earlier. About 200 km from the border in a narrow valley was Termas de Fiambala. We had no expectations to this place, because we have seen many different kind of hot springs on this trip. We paid 40 Argentinian Pesos (about 10 usd) per car to camp at the parking lot of the Termes, and we would then have free access to the hot spring 24 hours a day. Our intention was to spend one night here and then keep on driving to Mendoza, but it was such a great place to relax so we spent three days soaking in the springs and reading books.

Before arriving in Fiambala we had driven every day for 13 days, since Sucre in Bolivia, and it was time to stay in one place for more than one night. We would definitely have stayed longer if they had internet. After nine days offline Espen felt the need to find internet and see if the world was still the way it used to be.

Before leaving Chile we had filled up our fuel tank and the jerry can with diesel because we had heard reports from other travelers that northern Argentina was rationing out fuel. One couple had spent 5 days filling up their limit of 20 liters of fuel per day to get enough fuel to get to the next gas station in Bolivia. We were also travelling in less populated areas, and from the last gas station in Chile to the first in Argentina, if driving over Paso San Francisco, it is about 460 km. When we got to the first gas station in Tinogasta the line of cars and motorbikes that waited to fill up went around the block. Still good on fuel we drove another 130 km to Chilecito. Here we found a gas station with just a short line up, but first we were told they could only fill up for 150 pesos (27 liters). We said ok and were ready to continue our search for more gas stations afterwards when the guy just fill up the tank for us. We don’t really know how this works or is supposed to work, but we didn’t get as receipt so we think the guy was just being nice to us. Anyway, now we had enough fuel to get to Mendoza.

Up on Ruta 40 we saw this sign saying 4000 km to Ushuaia if you follow the road straight south. We will make some detours into Chile so we have some more kilometers to go. A grim reminder, though, of the end of the road getting closer…

A couple of photos from the drive towards Mendoza. Andean sunset and an arch on an island in a lake by Rodeo.

Since starting this trip we have talked about Mendoza and its fantastic beef and wine. In 2006 we had a few days in Mendoza and we remembered it as a really nice city, and it still is, only this time it is spring and a bit colder. Espen found internet again, and we had some relaxing days in town with good food and red wine.

With full bellies it was time to cross back into Chile, this time at Frontera Los Libertadores. The road from Mendoza to Santiago, Chile, takes you across the Andes and a few kilometers from the natural bridge at Punta del Inca

you can get a glimpse of Americas highest mountain and the highest mountain outside the Himalayas, Aconcagua.

This time we just looked at the mountain from the road, but in 2006 Espen stood on the summit 6962 meters above sea level.

I turned around after base camp with a lung infection, and the doctor told me it was either antibiotics for 6 days in base camp or leave the mountain. It would have been great to give it another go, but we are a bit too early and the season on Aconcagua has not started yet.

So with a glimpse of Aconcagua it was time to say goodbye to Argentina for a few days, and dip into Chile again.


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