Ruta 40, Argentina

On and on, the landscape never changes. Low flat hills lead to a faraway horizon. The boredom is interrupted by the occasional herd of guanacos, the wild cousins of llamas, or flocks of rheas, the great flightless birds. The wind is relentless, blowing westerly at about 30 knots or more. Hawks are everywhere, feeding on feral bunnies or Patagonian hare.

This is a photo of a herd of Guanaco

This is a photo of a herd of Guanaco

Every so often we would find a scene of incredible beauty, such as the glacier fed lakes that are home to bright pink flamingos.IMG_0796 (800x600)

The road is Route 40, described as the Argentinian version of Route 66. We understand why the Lake District around Bariloche is so popular, as lakes and trees appear to be in short supply anywhere else in this country. The road is in good shape for the most part, but as we got further south we encountered more and more gravel.

Ruta 40

Ruta 40

January is high season here, and accommodation is hard to find. Hotels, cabanas and campsites are full and a few times we drove for miles trying to find a place to camp. The camper is comfortable, and feels like home, but has a few drawbacks. We have potable water in our water tank.  Potable water to refill the tank is often not available, so we ration our water. As a result we have never used our shower. Besides, our shower is outdoors. Refilling the propane tank is not easy either, so we haven’t used the hot water tank. Public toilets and showers leave a lot to be desired, and sometimes provide a lot that is not desired. Wi-Fi, always promised, is usually only available in an obscure corner of the campgrounds. The free campsites are really beautiful, but lack all amenities. Our personal appearance deteriorates. We can understand how easy it is to become homeless.

Campground in apple orchard in El Bolson

Campground in apple orchard in El Bolson

We buy food and water at markets. Some are just corner stores. Others are owned by WalMart and are smaller versions of their parent company. The chocolates, coffee and breads are very good in Argentina, but sometimes we get confused by the names. Did we really eat vicuna the other night? After we got it home we realized the label on the meat said vicuna but it looked and tasted like beef.

It tasted great

It tasted great

Renting a cabana is the height of luxury for us. Cabanas are typically a small cabin with a kitchen, a bedroom and our very own bathroom. When our guidebook described the country as cold steppe, and we had discovered that the incessant wind blows off the glacier, Nancy vetoed camping at Calafate on Lago Argentina. We stayed two nights but had to change locations, as the cabana we rented for the first night was booked for the second night.

Down jacket time.

Down jacket time.

We made a side trip to see the Glacier at Perito Merino. It is advancing at a rate of 2 meters a day, whereas most glaciers are retreating. It calves constantly, but we didn’t see any major burgs break off.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier

Along the road, we ran into the driving force behind the economy here, sheep. Or was it a sheep drive? Sorry, we need to learn how to edit video, but the sound you hear when Bill put the camera out the window really is the pitter patter of little sheep.

Patagonia Wool

Patagonia Wool

To get to the end of the South American roads at Ushuaia, we had to go from Argentina to Chile to Argentina again. The border to Chile was so relaxed, and so off the beaten track that we were sure we had taken the wrong turn.

Chilean Border

Chilean Border

Lupines in Chile

Lupines in Chile

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