Thursday, 19 January 2012

Into Argentina, Mendoza, San Rafael, Chos Malal, San Martin de Los Andes & San Carlos de Bariloche.

Thursday 12th to Wednesday 18thJanuary

We have been on the move to make up some distance & with poor or no internet so appologies for this single entry covering a few days.

We depart into the hills on Highway 57 heading for the ‘Cristo Redentor’ Pass & rise to 10,500ft via 29 hairpin bends, the bike is going great after it’s service with the extra air from a clean filter making all the difference.

Outside of Santiago we see more evidence of prosperity with fields of crops, grape & Kiwi fruit vines, again just before Los Andes we come across another landmark statue with this one representing the battle for Independence, if anyone has more details then please let us know as I can’t find anything on Wikipedia.

The border crossing at the top of the pass is a little confusing as its some 12km into Argentina with no obvious signage, once there the Chile & Argentinian officials sit together but we still need about 6 stamps on a slip of paper before it’s all done, our bike papers are also hand written due to a printer failure.

The views of the Andes are stunning with Cerro Aconcagua in the background (partly hidden by cloud), this is the highest peak in South America at 6962m.

Throughout Argentina there are shrines to ‘Difunta Correa’, during the civil war in the 19th century she was a young woman who died trying to escape the fighting & was found with her baby at her breast. People leave a full bottle of water for her to bring them luck during their travels, as you can see they look a bit like rubbish dumps!!

As we descend to Mendoza it’s easy to see what it’s famous for with vineyards & bodegas all along the side of the road, we arrive at around 5pm find a Hotel & have a beer for a change, later we take a walk with Roger looking to buy a ‘The Good The Bad & The Ugly’ outfit to go with his cigars.

Mendoza is a wealthy town with some great public squares & fountains, here 3 of us pose in the ‘Plaza Espana’, it’s very hot with the temperature reaching 35+. We are off to San Rafael today to visit Annette & John who brought a Finca here 6 years ago having left Camberley after 3 years traveling the world on their bikes.

Look what we had when we arrived!!

We are made very welcome by our friends from Surrey, the life here is not easy but despite some setbacks like a frost killing 1000 newly planted Olive trees they are enjoying the adventure with crops of Plums, Grapes & Walnuts covering the 14 hectare plot.

We stay 2 days & take a short ride to the local Dam that provides water to the town as well as hydro electric power, the water level is very low due to a lack of snow on the mountains & the hotter than normal summer weather, great for us!

The group shot on departure, thanks again for the great welcome, hospitality & that Thai curry was fantastic.

Shortly after leaving San Rafael we enter Patagonia, this was the ultimate goal of the trip & hence we now enter into the last leg. From now on in order to visit the best bits we will have to negotiate about 1000km of off-road before we reach Ushuaia, better front forks on the BM’s would have been a worthwhile investment.

The desert scenery gradually turns greener as we ride towards Chos Malal & pass through a number of oil fields with the usual ‘nodding donkeys’, although Argentina has oil it does suffer from intermittent petrol shortages as most is exported to Chile, it’s strange how world economics work!!

Outside our Hostaria we are ready to leave for San Martin de los Andes when I notice my rear tyre is flat, oh s*** our first puncture!!!
Luckily there is a repair shop around the corner so 30 pesos rather than a lot of sweat & swearing does the job, Bob also notices that his centre stand is missing a nut, normal running repairs I guess with a delayed start to around 11.

Great roads & scenery again.

The rivers are full of water again, that a first since Bolivia.

San Martin de los Andes is a Ski resort (the slopes are actually 25km away) & has all the appearance of an Alpine Village, it also has the costs of Europe with everything being more expensive that other SA countries. I gues this is where the Polo set from BA ski in the winter.

The town is situated on a lake at the start of the stunning ‘Circuito Chico’ which we ride tomorrow, 20km of dirt on the way, this is a great place to stop if you are out this way.

View as we pass the seven lakes through the ‘Parque Nacional Lanin’, this is so different from what we have seen for the last few months.

The scenery is green again although the 20km of dirt road has become 40km due to roadworks, good practice for what is to come?

As we ride to San Carlos de Bariloche the volcanic dust from the volcano Puyehue in Chile is thick on the ground, it’s wrecked the summer tourist season here but it’s a great sight & something I’m unlikely to see again, normally there is snow on the mountains but this year it’s ash.

Roger is amazed at the floating pumice stones on the lake, another deposit from the volcano, there must be some force to carry these over 500 kilometres from the source.

El Boliche de Alberto is our target in Bariloche tonight, it’s been recommended for great steaks & does not disappoint, the Argentinian wine is pretty good to!!

Bariloche is also known as ‘Chocolate Town’ & it’s easy to see why, the shops are everywhere along with Artisan Ice Cream vendors, we are all concerned about our weight but decide that can wait till we get home, how much is Gym membership at the leisure centre?

The lake view is spoilt by the ash in the air so there is no point going up in the cable car, at the moment however the worst deposits seem to be further North, the locals hope it stops before the ski season starts in June.

1 comment:

  1. Doing a grand job there Terry. Watch those dirt roads!