Wednesday, 21 January 2015

0184 San Martin de los Andes to Villa de Angostura

19th Jan 

I reckon that the coldest time of the night is just before dawn.  It certainly was this morning !  I woke up at about 4.30 am and was quite snug and warm in my sleeping bag, but within half an hour or so I was getting really cold and had to reach for the blanket.  When I eventually checked the thermometer the sun was already coming over the mountain tops, and it was still only 2.4 deg C.  I don’t think it actually froze, but it was cold !!  And then, because there was a heavy dew, as soon as the sun struck the bushes around me, the heat caused instant clouds of steam for about 5 minutes as it dried all the moisture on everything – The dunny looked like it was on fire !   Or something !!

Didn’t have far to go today so was looking forward to a nice relaxing day……..

I headed south down Ruta 40 from San Martin de los Andes, and after a while we passed Lago Machonico which was almost millpond smooth in the morning before the wind got up, reflecting the surrounding hills on its surface.  Carrying on down the road we passed treeless mountains, old farm huts beside the road, and a waterfall – The Cascada Vullignanco, the first I have actually seen around here.  There are supposed to be lots of coloured deer round here, but my roo shoos on the car must have scared them all away…….

A little further on we came down between two lakes – Lago Villerino and Lago Falkner, and there is a wide sandy beach there.  As I past it, I saw a Land Rover parked there with  German number plates, so did a U turn and went to investigate.  Having started with my best (and only) German “Guten Morgan”, it turned out they were Dutch !!  Jos and Marig – They had started some time ago up in Surinam and had come down the east coast, and are now heading north
up the west coast to Cartagena, and then possibly shipping from there to Alaska.  They were with another Dutch couple,  Kees and Corry, who had flown out and rented a camper in Ushuaia and were going to Mendosa before dropping it off and flying home.  Spent a fun half hour with them swapping stories and web sites and map information before I continued in one direction, and they in the other. 

Shortly after this was a turn off to these to Villa Traful, and running for some distance beside the Lago Traful.  This overall route I was doing (roughly) is known as La Rute de los Siete Lagos, or Route of the 7 lakes, and about this road the travel book says, and I quote :”A spectacular road between towering snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, and dense pine forests, this is a 110 km Lake District classic.  Bike it, drive it, tour it or bus it – Just don’t miss it.”  Unquote.    So I took the Trayful turn off even though it was going in the wrong direction, because it should be good – The last dirt road I took a couple of days ago was fantastic.

Well, this one isn’t.  The road is atrocious, even in a 4 WD.  Again, I quote “….it is 26 kms down a good dirt road to Villa Traful, passing scenic lakeside campgrounds”.     Well, not only is this road not “good”, I am surprised some of the vehicles on here made it, as there are rocks and boulders and corrugations in the road worse than any
we encountered in Alaska or any other dirt road I have been on.  But even worse was the amount of traffic – Just a steady stream of cars, probably all reading the same guide book as I had !!  And then, to top it off, the road has all this fine dust on it, so every vehicle raises clouds of it that then hang in the air, and because there is a constant stream of traffic you are just in dust all the time. And as a result, lots of near head-ons on the many sharp corners and steep brows.    I did not take one photo between the turn off the main road and Villa Traful – I was too busy, I couldn’t see anything anyway because of the dust, and even worse, you hardly see the lake itself because of the pine trees between the road and the lake, as well as all the dust.  And the “scenic lakeside campgrounds” they had mentioned ?  Well of course they are right beside the road, so every car that passes sends a cloud of dust over all the tents and vans.   Ghastly.  As for the hikers and cyclists doing the road (seriously !), they were getting covered in dust by every passing car in both directions !!  I thought about turning back, but reckoned the road had to get better if I kept going, and I was about half way anyway, so I motored on – The road did get a bit better, but it still
wasn’t much fun.  I passed one small motorhome (ironically an Iveco like I used to have in Aus) and it was going at about 5 kmh, and the couple in the cab did not look happy.  I will however say that in the second half there were a couple of amazing lakes, and for the last 40 minutes, the most amazing rock formations and shapes – Only trouble was it was hard to stop to take a photo because all your own dust enveloped you if you stopped, and anyone behind you over took you, so everything had to be done while trying to avoid the larger rocks !!  Anyway, completed now, and I will certainly take the Lonely Planet with an (even bigger than before) pinch of salt in future !!  Not a nice road at all.

So then I was almost back in Bariloche, where I had been 2 days ago !  So I just stayed on the main road, and headed up beside Lago Nahuel Huapi towards the Chilean border, and just stopped beside the lake about 30 kms short of the border so I can get there fairly early in the morning (they open at 8 am) and hopefully avoid the rush.  Based on all the late sleepers in the camp sites over the past few days, I reckon the border should be empty at 8 am !!  But the camp site is stunning – I am backed right onto the edge of the lake, and there is no dust !!!

Is the Argentinian Lakes District worth visiting ?  Yes, it is beautiful.  But like so many other beautiful places, everyone likes to go there, so it is very crowded in many areas – Especially now as this is where Argentinians come for their summer holidays !!   But well worth a visit if you pick your time carefully.  Personally I preferred the southern part, west of Bariloche – But that is just my personal preference.

Just don’t bother to drive to Traful unless you have a dust mask and are in someone else’s car !!

Tomorrow, back to Chile……………………

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