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Hotel Carollo, Mendoza. 14.5.15

May 14, 2015

Uspullata, Argentina. 6.5.15

If first impressions mean much then visitors crossing into Argentina at the Paso Cristo Redento border crossing would be very impressed with the Customs and Aduana officers on the Argentinian side. People travelling into Chile do the paperwork for both countries at the Chilean office. Those travelling the other way do it all at the Argentinian offices. It saves having to stop at both border posts. But the women manning the Argentinian post were a delight.. They couldn’t be more helpful. All spoke a smattering of English and one of them was having an in depth converstaion with Joan before being reminded that people were waiting to have their cars inspected. I asked for an 8 month TIP for the bakkie, no problems, I’ll make it for January 2016. So different to the Chilean starchiness.

The 29 hairpin bends going up to the border were much easier to negotiate than going down. The bakkie was going well and you didn’t have to rely on brakes at all. On the Argentinian side we were once more overcome with the array of colours and formations in the mountains surrounding the valley the road passed through. It is a very impressive drive.

A few kilometres east of the border is a natural phenomenum called the Inca Bridge. It is a natural bridge but sulphurous run offs from surrounding thermal activty have coated the bridge with layer upon layer of coloured pigmentation. It was able to be crossed by vehicles in the past but has become unstable due to earthquakes and man made interference. A British company ran a hotel neaby with hot baths for the guests next to the bridge, that was until an earthquake damaged the hotel and made the pools unusable. Earthquakes seeem to rule here.

A little further down fro the Inca Bridge is a cemetery with 40-50 graves all with a variety of mis-matching head stones. They are of the climbers killed climbing Aconcagua or nearby peaks. It is a reminder how dangerous these mountains in the area can be.

Calangusta, West of San Juan. 7.5.15

I’m sitting here alongside the bakkie in the Calangusta Municipal Camping Ground, a game of hockey is being feverishly played a short distance away by school kids while the setting sun lights up the eroded hills to the east of the town. We didn’t cover much distance today but we have tiime up our sleeve, it is good to arrive at a camp site early, relax and catch up on a bit of reading etc.

This will be my last post. In a week we will be in a hotel, the van packed away, ready for us to fly home. Time to look back on three months of independent travel. Many highlights, a few disappointments but we both say that for scenic beauty, the places we have been to on this trip would be hard to beat. The deserts and isolation of Tierra del Fuego, the glaciers on the cruise and Perito Moreno, the island of Chloe, the grandeur of the Andes and the many passes crossed. It is overwhelming. The cruise though to Cabo de Horno would be the ulimate experience especially the storm after visiting the Horn. For that to happen in the area where so many lives and ships have been lost was fortunate but scary. I don’t think the passengers realized the danger involved when the captain changed course to go with the storm instead of fighting it. When everything went arse over kite.

I loved the fishing. Didn’t catch many but to be alone on these streams and rivers, with the amazing scenery around me,  casting a line and watching the fly for a take was memorable. I regret not taking up fly fishing thirty years ago.

Then there a the little things that we will remember: the Argentinian jam, especially BC and Accor are sublime. Every morning at breakfast we comment on not getting jams like this in AU. They must start off with top quality fruit and I think put less sugar in than we do. It is a taste full of the flavours of the fruit, not sugary syrup. The people have been fantastic. We are sorry we couldn’t converse more with the locals due to our lack of Spanish  but the ones we do have been open, helpful and understanding. Take Juan, the bloke at this campsite, before we knew it he had given us a jar of jam and a big slice of what we think was a block of pear glaced fruit.

A few disappointments: I think the standard of the camp sites leave a lot to be desired. This one is an exception. Clean, hot water and everything working. It doesn’t happen very often. Also the rubbish and trash on the roads is disappointing. The cities are generally pretty clean but once in the country people seem to just throw everything out the window despite the signs asking them not to. The picnic areas are usually quite disgusting. They don’t have to be that way. The Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego near Ushuaia was spotless, the toilets were cleaned every day despite them being portable ones situated in the countryside. We have camped near a couple of towns where the locals have taken pride in their community, the place is clean with no rubbish. Unfortunately they are the exception. The lack of wildlife was also surprising.

The roads have been excellent in both countries. Some of the gravel ones were corrugated in places but not excessively so. We have driven over 14000 kms in the 12 weeks so far, similar distance to our other trips. It hasn’t been an adventure. Africa was an adventure. This has been a fascinating drive through some of the most spectacular scenery you would find anywhere. Most of it wouldn’t be included in a two week highlights tour of South America. It’s only having your own transport that gives you the ability and the time to explore further and suss out the local highlights that people tell you about. That’s not knocking tours, timewise, for most people that is the only way they can travel.

The bakkie is going well once more. All set for the next trip. Augusto and his crew in Santiago did wonders. It’s done almost 200,000kms now and rearing to go into the next 100.000.

So what about GaznJoan. three months literally in each others company twentyfour hours of every day could put a strain on things. But we do enjoy what we are doing and have learnt the value of working together. This trip seem to have had fewer hiccups than others.

What of the future? We come back in August for three months to look around Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador and maybe Columbia. Other overlanders rave about all of those countries. It should be a good trip. And after that I’m not sure. There is a bit of talk taking the bakkie up through Central America to the US and beyond or selling it. Then there is the option of shipping it back home and using it to visit parts of AU the VW couldn’t take us. We shall see.

From → Patagonia 2015

One Comment
  1. Denis permalink

    G & J..It has been exhausting following your adventure.. Look forward to catching up on your return
    and getting the final story.. Love Denis & Sandy

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