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More Argentina

November 8, 2008

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We are now in Bariloche, still in the mountains of Argentina, but now further north in the part of Patagonia known as the lakes region. Yesterday (Friday 11/7) was quite a rainy day and Jack had his first bout of sickness since we started our trip almost three months ago. Don’t know what he ate or drank that caused the vomiting for most of the day, but he was feeling much better as he went to bed. This morning’s weather looks to be much clearer as the rising sun can be seen coloring the few clouds in the sky. It will be a good day for hiking in the mountains.

Our postings have been a bit less frequent as our car travels through Argentina continue. Making the most of our stops, packing up every 2 or 3 days and then driving for endless hours on dirt roads can be all consuming. Thankfully, we are past the main dirt section of Route 40 and will have paved roads for most of the remaining time. That is much appreciated because we had a few really tough days on the road recently. In particular, our trip from El Chalten to Perito Moreno (the unremarkable town, not the glacier or national park of the same name) was quite a difficult one. The total travel time was about 10 hours or so, with the first 7 hours completely on dirt roads. During those first 7 hours we saw a total of 3 other cars on the road and no people, gas station or other civilization along the way. There were signs for a few estancias, or working farms, but their houses were many kilometers from the road. All I can say is thank goodness that our vehicle did not break down. We would have been in for quite a long wait for another passing driver.

Driving the dirt roads themselves was a bit of an adventure (looking at it with the glass half full), but something I never want to do again. We rarely exceeded 80 km/h (about 45 mph) and often traveled as slowly as 40 km/h (about 25 mph). Rocks frequently hit the underside of the car, making a disconcerting heavy knock at our feet and a loud noise. Kelli and I had to be especially careful not to hit any large rocks head for fear of blowing a tire or hurting the suspension. This was especially important, as we are not driving a 4×4. Instead we were driving a Chevrolet Corsa, or what I refer to as a 21st century Chevrolet Chevette. Let’s just say that it is pretty small and lightweight. Slander aside, it has been reliable and taken quite a lot of abuse from the road. It also has kept us safe in an accident…..

The accident happened as we were driving through El Bolson on our way to Bariloche. We had about 2 hours to go when I stopped to turn left as a car was coming down the same road in the opposite direction. The problem however was that a driver behind me did not take note that I was stopping and thought that he too would cross in front of the oncoming car. He accelerated to make it through and slammed at some speed into the back of our car. He did a fair amount of damage to the bumper and trunk of our lovely rental car, but thankfully everyone was unhurt. Over the last few days I spent a fair amount of time in the El Bolson police station, sending e-mails to the rental car agency and working through resolving the whole situation. Because the trunk no longer opens, we must put all of our backpacks into the trunk through the backseat! The positive out of all of this was that we ended up spending the night in El Bolson, which was really a charming, bohemian sort of town. They have a very active craft making community and it is also the central hops growing area in Argentina. (That meant good beer!) I even found a great international location for our “Boys Mountain Bike Trip”, a combination campground and brewery. (Ken Pugh won’t have to drive long distances to get the kegs.)

So, after the rainy day yesterday we’ll spend one more day in Bariloche, searching out some good, long hikes in the mountains overlooking the many lakes. Tomorrow we head to a nearby Estancia where we will treat ourselves to 3 days of activities (horseback riding, trekking, kayaking, etc.) and a place where all the meals are prepared for us. That will be a welcome break from the constant traveling and guidebook life.

Now, catching up on some photos from recent stops.

Puerto San Julian

This was our most Southern overnight stop on the coast, before we headed West into the mountains. (We ended up skipping Tierra del Fuego, in short because of the tremendous distance that would add to our travels.) Puerto San Julian was a very nice little town that we liked quite a bit. We spent our one-day there traveling the Circuito Touristo, which was a 24 km dirt road along the coast with amazing stops along the way. The kids also found the obligatory playground in town so that they could work off some of their energy after being cooped up in the car.

Parque Monte Leon

Just before heading West to the mountains, we made one last stop on the coast to Parque Monte Leon. It is the only National Park on the coast of Argentina and a very new one. (Kelli needed one last dose of beautiful beaches, sea lions and the coast.) It was quite remote and required us to find a key under a rock and unlock the gate ourselves. The access road then extended for a good 30 km or more before reaching the coast itself. While much of it looked similar to earlier stretches of the coast (at least to me), it had a unique island with thousands of birds and some truly spectacular vistas. We also had some “fun” helping a French couple extract their car from some deep mud on the access road. The kids put rocks under the tires to provide some traction and I (and the wife) rocked the front end back and forth while the husband drove the car. We were the only other people in the whole park and they were quite appreciative of our being there and helping.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Ainsley posted a great article about trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier and I’m posting some more photos below from our walk around the paths in the park right in front of the face of the glacier. The size and scope of it was really impressive and the sounds of huge pieces “calving” off into the water were really amazing. Observing a glacier firsthand and so closely was really spectacular and unlike anything I had ever seen before.

…..not quite!

June 23, 2008

We plan to go here, but haven’t yet arrived. Take a look at the map at the top right side of the home page to see where we are and the “Where?” page for where we intend to go.