The Mini-Motorcycle Diaries continue in Argentina, my mother’s homeland. After two nights in Puerto Montt trying to arrange a ferry for a roadless section of Chilean Patagonia, we decided not to wait and backtracked 100km north to Osorno, and then east a 100km to the Argentine border. The ferries were few and far between, and I was eager to get to Argentina. Having heard the border generally takes 3 hours, we camped at a National Park (for an outrageous $42/site) before making a break for the border the next morning. The crossing was smoother than expected, and within an hour we were cruising through the Paso Internacional Cardenal Antonio Samore Andean pass, making our way to Bariloche. The forests turned from lush green to stark white and brown, evidence of fire. The ground was covered in tiny jagged grey pebbles that looked a lot like ash, maybe from the surrounding volcanoes. The clouds threatened rain as horses and cattle roamed the range, calves and foals in tow.
We spent one night in Bariloche gawking at the chocolate shops while navigating South American road rules. We had no Argentine pesos yet, so were sent to the back room of a souvenir shop to a Black Market money exchanger who gave us 10 pesos for every 1USD, 4 pesos higher than the government exchange rate of 6 pesos! How and why this system works I have no idea and am trying to find out, but I imagine it is unsustainable and bad for Argentine. One night in Bariloche was enough, and the next morning found us flying south on the famous Ruta 40 with a strong tailwind.
In El Bolsón we were graciously hosted by Roberto, a friend of my mother’s from high school. Although they haven’t seen each other in 40 years, he welcomed us like old friends and made us feel at home in a guest apartment opening onto his fruit filled patio. After two full days of hunkering down from the rain, the clouds parted and we were treated to a panorama of jagged peaks and snow covered mountains as if saying bienvenidos a la Patagonia. From the top of a hill we could see the whole valley and small town running south-north, covered in green forest. A group of youthful Argentines played the guitar while hiking, rejoicing in the change of weather.
El Bolsón is my favorite town so far, with a lively artistic and hippie vibe. The weekly market bustles with stalls selling all variety of artisan goods from homemade cakes and savory pies to jewelry, clothing, healing balms and blow dart guns. Stray dogs roam between feet scouring the ground for crumbs. We saw a man let in 8 stray dogs into his house, and another man pushing a cart with a herd of 10 at his heels and wheels.
We’ll be re-crossing the Andes again soon via the famous Futaleufu river and meeting up with our intended route: The Carretera Austral!!