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San Rafael, Mendoza Province. 23.4.15

April 23, 2015

Lago Nahuel Huapi. Nr Villa La Angastora, Chile. 15.4.15

There is a road between San Martin de Los Andes and San Carlos de Bariloche called Ruta Siete Largos. I think the name does it an injustice. There must be at least ten lakes on the route, not the seven they say. It rained all the way but that was no deterrence to the beauty of the route. Mountainous but a good road with sweeping bends. As soon as the road left one lake it was approaching another. It is the time of the year that made the drive today something out of the ordinary on a trip that we have experienced so much out of the ordinary. The mist cloaked mountains rose from narrow valleys and all of it covered by three types of southern beech at the moment gaining their autumn colours: sepias, bronze, yellow, cinammon, red, auburn it was an artist’s pallet on steroids. There was the occasional stand of Lombardy poplars to add their touch of yellow but it was a scene that could not be captured on camera.

Yesterday also was an interesting day. The night before we camped in another national park, once more on our own apart from the humming birds hovering over my head while I cooked outside and the hued hued bird calling its name from the nearby bush. It is the area of the araucana tree, a pine like conifer the cone of which was the staple diet of the indigenous people of the area. We know it as the Monkey Puzzle tree. Even today the Indians are the only people allowed to harvest the fruit of the tree.  After breakfast we climbed to a low pass over the Andes and back into Argentina. From the lush green heavily forested Chilean side it was suddenly dry, tussock covered country on the western side of the cordillera. What a contrast. But the scenery was no less impressive, maybe more so.

Junin de los Andes and San Martin de los Andes are the centre of the trout fishing scene, I hope to try a bit more before heading north to the more warmer climes. Haven’t done much for a while, I didn’t have a licence for Chile, I am sure the trout were relieved.

Rio Collen Cura. Not Near Anywhere. 16.4.15

Last nights camp site was very strange. The signs were on the highway for it, even giving the tariffs etc. But the office was empty, there were some signs on the door which I could not decipher. We drove down to the camping areas, great spots on level ground metres from the lake. But the place was deserted. The toilet blocks were there but the WCs had been removed, the shower heads were not there, the same with the wash up sinks. All gone. Yet there were signs of new tables and seating being installed. No one turned up, it was a free camp night for us. Maybe another sign of a business failing yet it was the perfect spot.

The guide books spoke of a very pretty village some 35kms off the main road called Ville Traful situated on the edge of Lago Traful. They spoke rapturously about it adding that Ted Turner of CNN had bought a large tract of land around the area. The drive to it was impressive with weird rock formations towering skyward but the town itself was a disappointment. A very expensive camp site, not much to the town and too windy to take a boat onto the lake to try some fishing. We turned around and headed north to this place on the Rio Collen Cura. A free camp close to the water, the wind has dropped, it will be a pleasant evening.

Junin de Los Andes. 17.4.15

Back in the town we were in a couple of days ago. I had seen a sign for aluminium fabrication on our last visit, the back step is only surviving on one leg, it was time to get the other one fixed before splints were needed on both legs. Let’s see if they can fix it tomorrow. There was also a lavaderia here, there are two bags of laundry under the bed that needs washing. There was a fresh coating of snow on the higher peaks this morning. The altitude has been 800-1100 metres the last few days and it doesn’t take much to see the temperature drop. Joan who feels the cold at the best of time has survived very well the last two months. The hot water bottle has hardly been used, tonight it will be cold but there is electricity in this park, it will be very handy.Pilolil, 46kms North of Junin de Los Andes. 18.4.15.You won’t find this place on a map. Maybe Google Earth. Heading north from Junin the road soons turns to gravel, corrugated in places and climbs to almost 1200 metres before dropping into the valley of the Rio Alumine some 700 metres lower. It is once again a dramatic landscape, but there are signs off to reserves for the Mapuche people. We were lucky finding this ideal camp on the banks of the river. It has rained off and on for most of the day, more on than off at the moment. But I was stilll able to get a good fire going to cook a very nice steak. We have eaten well on ths trip. Joan says she should be called Gretel, thinks I am fattening her up with an ulterior motive.

Vicente did a great job of the fixing the step today. Even a bull elephant wouldn’t make an impression if he was to step on it. It’s good to see the bakkie looking almost as good as it was. Just have to get some new clasps for the jerry cans that were wiped out.

With four weeks to go before heading home it will soon be time to look for a place to leave the bakkie. San Rafael and Mendoza look favourable cities that have good flight or bus services back to Buenos Aires where our flight back is meant to commence from. We should be getting to San Rafael in a few days time.

Further Upstream on Rio Alumine. 19.4.15

The last few days we have meandered through many back roads in this part of Argentina.  It’s really the foot hills of the Andes but the landscape is so interesting having to drive slowly because of the gravel roads means a better look at what is around us. The town of Alumine was a destination for us today for no other reason than it was mentioned in the Lonely Planet as a nice town without the trimmings of Bariloche and San Martin de Los Andes. It was a sleepy town made so because we were there at siesta time and also it was Sunday. Things move slowly in this area.

I’ve had my last go at the trout today. No catches but some big bites. Alumine caters well for its visitors keen on fishing. All along the rivers are signs where it is suitable to cast a line and there are great areas near the river to camp the night such as where we are tonight. It’s a disused quarry next to the fast flowing river. Any traffic noise is hidden by the rapids.

Las Lajas, Camping next to Rio Agrio 20.4.14

There was ice on the windscreen this morning and yet most of the afternoon we have been basking in beautiful sunshine. Between these two events we crossed three passes all over 1500 metres and visited the Lugano Blanco wetlands. The lake is part of the Ramsar Convention to safeguard wetlands for migratory birds all over the world. The lake is at 1300 metres, the vegetation is all thorns and in shapes suited to protect themselves from the fierce winters. The bird life was impressive especially the black necked swans of which there were many. Talking of birds, the other day, while waiting for the back steps to be repaired, we took a drive out to the picnic area a short distance from Junin. On rounding a corner we came upon at least two dozen Andean Condors circling above a dead animal a few metres from the road. One of the photos I took captured thirteen birds all in the one shot. Many people don’t even see one while in these countries. There were quite a few juveniles amongst them but the many adults were all distinctly recognized by their white collars.

For the second time I was caught out this afternoon when I went to get some diesel. Since arriving in Argentina it is very noticeable the queues of cars that always inhabit the petrol stations. The country seems to be on a continual shortage of petrol. Today I wasn’t aware the queue didn’t stop just outside the bowsers like I thought it did, but continued on the other side of the intersection for a further 50 metres or so. Suddenly there were horns blowing and some wild gesticulating. I pulled out and drove on to another servo that had no queues. Their prices were a fair bit dearer but what the hell. The first time this happened  a few weeks back I had the police sirens wailing at me, the works. I pleaded ignorance and soon had the police woman smiling and waving us goodbye. Diesel doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem.

Another town, another river. There haven’t been too many nights we haven’t camped besides water of some kind.

Camping Municipal,Malargue, Mendoza Province 21.4.15

A second morning of ice on the fly that covers the canvas under which we sleep. Enough reason for a long drive today, almost 500kms over countless passes culminating in the last one that was over 2,000 metres. At least the road was good and although the bakkie doesn’t like cold mornings and wheezes a bit in the rarified air we all managed pretty well.

It is the time of the year when the farmers bring their herds of goats and cattle down from the mountains to the lower pastures fo the winter. That is if you could call the thorny shrubs pastures. We would have passed a good half dozen herds today moved along by the gauchos on their horses and dogs. Unlike sheep, goats have good road sense and don’t panic when a car approaches. The herds were large, I would say the largest was over a thousand animals and all looked in good shape.

The road also ran alongside a national park that has the most volcanic cones in the world. Parque Provincial Payunia has over 800 of them in its 450,000 hectares. I don’t think many if any are active but it is still an impressive sight to see them sprouting all over the place.

Too often we have been disappointed with the camp sites of late. So many are closed and those open are often lacking in the basic facilities. We took a chance today. It was another hot day and the temptation to stop off at one of the many great freee camping spots near the Rio Grande that we had followed for much of the journey was almost overwhelming. But the thought of another cold morning at 1700 metres kept us going to this city with our hopes high. We weren’t let down. Run by two women (of course) the place is spotless, electricity for the heater, hot water, wifi of sorts, and tidy and clean. All for US$5.50 a night all up.  The city is 1500 metres above sea level but the extra distance north we have come may be the reason for it being more mild tonight.

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From → Patagonia 2015

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