We crossed the border out of
Then onto a gravel road for 100kms, thankfully recently graded, to meet the shorter ferry back to the mainland from the northern part of
We crossed the border at 11.30pm and finally found a hotel with a room at 1.30am next day in Rio Gallegos on the Atlantic coast of
Routa 3 runs northwards parallel to the Atlantic coast all the way up to
Routa 3 must be one of the world’s most boring roads. Some of it is brand new tarmac, most of it is one great big roadworks with gravel temporary roads running alongside, too much of it is old tarmac in a poor state.
Heavy goods vehicles do a lot of damage to the road surface, hence all the improvements. The bits they haven’t got to yet were just as damaging as ripio. Instead of constant vibration we would manage 80kph, dodging potholes, ridges, gouges and all manner of contortions but sometimes we just couldn’t spot them all and that is when the suspension took sudden and severe shocks at speed.
After one day off ripio, we discussed how lucky we had been not to do any more damage to suspension and not to have any tyre damage, just normal wear and tear. The next morning we awoke to find a flat rear tyre. It was a slow puncture so we were able to get through the day by reinflating at regular intervals. In Commodorio Rivadivia we found the offending rear tyre was split inside which had pinched the tube. Hence the slow puncture. There was no sign of damage on the outside of the tyre. So, we ended up with Michelins all round with just an odd tyre left on the spare, and one spare tube. The Blue Goo worked to a point so that the tube didn’t completely deflate, hence the slow puncture.
We were still in guanaco and armadillo country but the hares were less in evidence with more sightings of skunks, mostly flattened on the road. These little guys are cute in a Walt Disney sort of way, black with a white mohecan stripe from between the eyes all the way to the tip of the tail. After coming across the first squashed skunk we simultaneously started singing:
“There’s a dead skunk in the middle of the road,
Wind up your windows and hold your nose,
There’s a dead skunk in the middle of the road
And he’s stinking to hiiiigggghhhh heaven!”
There were a lot more rheas around in big pre-school nursery groups with a couple of adult care assistants to keep them under control. They seemed to favour the road verge, possibly because the sparse vegetation was greener from the rain runoff. What a nightmare keeping tabs on so many youngsters.
There were still cyclists slogging out routa 3. OK, it was sealed, but so boring and featureless. We could not fathom out their motivation, not that of a guy walking routa 3, or rather pushing a handcart with his rucksack and other camping clobber. He had a sort of benign grin all over his face. He must be on something. Whatever launches his boat, he needs sectioning.
The further west we traveled the greener and more mountainous things got; the drive northwards to Bariloche parallel to the
The whole area is a popular tourist destination summer and winter, and justly so. Many people told us it was like Queenstown on
Our next target was
Somewhere along this trip we found we had broken a front shock absorber mounting bracket. We blame the poor state of some of the sealed roads rather than the ripio – we checked the shockers all round regularly. We discussed the options and decided to proceed to
After the green and pleasant scenery of the
Further east green appeared again and suddenly, the traffic got a lot heavier. We were traveling through a fruit growing area – apple, pear, plum, cherry and stone fruit orchards spread for a hundred kilometers along a wide river valley. All this traffic vanished along with the orchards as the scenery returned to dry and brown again.
It was on one of our peestops that we spotted our first South American snake. Now, we know that Anacondas are bad news, but what were we to make of a 60cm long, green, gold and black reptile? I didn’t want to be bitten on the bum, well, not by a snake anyway, so what is a girl to do? Scream? Faint clean away? Back off slowly? Did it have reinforcements? Was it poisonous? How many per square kilometer? So many unanswered questions. I chose option three.
The traffic was building fast as we got to within 50kms of
We had sorted a hotel with secure parking, so secure the entrance took some finding. It was supposed to be a four star hotel. Whatever. Walking the streets looking for a meal was fun. The place was full of milling crowds of locals and tourists just promenading around the narrow streets. There is music everywhere, not blaring pop music but sophisticated tango music. There are street artists, tango demonstrations, hawkers, an all-pervading smell of leather, classier than usual souvenir shops and leather jackets for
Restaurant cooked meat has something of the Inquisition about it. Parrillas and Asados (grills and roasts) are several steps closer to the dead animal that the sanitized versions we get in Europe and
On Sunday we morphed into tourists, so we headed for a craft market in the uptown area of Recoleta via wide boulevards and tree-lined streets.
Recoleta is an old fashionable area populated it seems by well-to-do old ladies with dogs which they parade around streets and allow to foul pavements. Our mission however was the Sunday craft market in Plaza Francia. Jewelery was the most sold item, including a very interesting, if not eccentric guy selling pendants reflecting one’s birth sign according to the Mayan calendar. Apparently I am a Luna sign governed by the Wind. It is Mayan for “I talk a lot”, or in
We accidentally stumbled across
With the number of policemen and security guards on the streets, all “tooled up”, pickpockets would have a hard time making a living, except in the areas devoid of such security. We have no problem with guns so long as they are not pointed at us. As soon as we lost sight of a gun, we headed back to where they were in evidence. Is all this armed security a preventive measure, or a reaction to an existing problem? What would it be like without them? There are armed security men at all supermarkets, banks and most public places. I prefer them to be there than not. To be absolutely honest, we never felt insecure.
The older guide books tell you to keep away from the docks, but recently the whole dock area has been tarted up and is now fashionable apartments, offices and restaurants. We meant to carry on to La Boca, another tourist area, but the heat and humidity got the better of us. God bless airconditioning.
Tomorrow we head for
Bob and Lynne