Ruta 40 - Day 1

Perito Moreno Travel Blog

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As I was leaving Rancho Grande Hostel in El Chalten, I noticed their cool, sticker-laden door.

Today begins my 2-day bus journey from El Chalten to Bariloche, via the town of Perito Moreno (not to be confused by glacier of the same name).

(I am not sure if I have written about this yet - but for the last few days I have been struggling with deciding on the next part of my journey.  Do I go to east coast of Argentina to Puerto Madryn, where I might catch the last few days of whale watching?  Or do I go up to the Lakes Region and see the town of Bariloche - famous for chocolate, paragliding, trekking, rafting, etc - that I have heard so much about from other travellers?  To make a long story short, I decided to go to Bariloche.

This was taken from side of our bus. I was about to embark on a 20 hour bus trip north along Ruta 40. Unpaved. Desolate. Windy as hell.
  The risk of not seeing any whales was too great.  I´d heard from people that in September you can take a boat out and see 30-40 whales.  And I talked to a guy who had just gone a week ago, and he said he say 1 whale.  I know I´ll be coming back to Argentina at some point later in my life, so I´ll save Puerto Madryn for that future trip - and time it for better whale watching opportunities perhaps.  Thus, it´s off to Bariloche I go...)

I ate breakfast at the Rancho Grande Hostel and hopped on the ChaltenTravel bus outside.   The drive would take us north on Ruta 40 - a famous "highway" if you can call it that.  I forget all the stats, but it´s hundreds of kilometers of unpaved road, carving it´s way through a desolate, barren, windy stretch of Patagonia.

We traveled for hours without seeing a building or any other sign of civilization.

Taken during one of our brief stops in the tiniest of towns.
  It was like being on another planet.  At one point, we saw a couple guys in a broken down car...yikes...they were screwed.  Help would be hours away...and in fact I don´t know how they´d call for help because there was no mobile phone reception.  Our driver did stop for a minute to talk to them...maybe he got their info and somehow radioed in their position and situation.  I couldn´t hear, or understand the very fast spanish!

Traffic on this highway, btw, was pretty light.  In fact, in 10 hours we probably saw just a handful of cars.  Maybe 10 or 20.  Usually, the drivers of cars wave and/or hock at each other - especialy other bus drivers.  It´s kind of cool.  Oh, and we had a "crew" of 3 for our bus.  Drivers Ernesto and Luis, and "guide" Monica.

I thought this was a cool shot taken from within the bus. I like the driver´s face captured in the rearview mirror.
  The drivers swapped every 2-3 hours to stay fresh.  I took a short video of Ernesto saying hola to San Francisco - I´ll see if I can post it.  They also played great music - Guns n Roses and I think the Flashdance soundtrack.  Hilarious.

Despite the light traffic, there is a HUGE project underway to pave the Ruta 40.  The effort is massive - the crew can only work in the summer, and just to get to the "middle" of the project could take hours of driving!  It´s a bit ironic to see so little traffic, and yet a huge construction project to improve the road.  But I guess with the pavement comes more transport efficiency and traffic.  You see, the other north-south route several hundred kilometers to the east is apparently several hundred kilometers longer than Ruta 40.

A quick shot before sunset. This shows just how barren the landscape is. Nothing around for hundreds of kilometers.
  So when Ruto 40 is paved, it will become the thoroughfare of choice for north-south transport.  At least that´s the idea, I guess.

Anyway, we stopped a few times during the first day.  At one stop, as we stretched our legs in front of the bus - taking cover from the crazy strong wind - I broke into conversation with two girls from Holland - Marieke and Dayenne.  I had seen them at America del Sur hostel in El Calafate, and again at Rancho Grande hostel - we joked about who was following whom.  Apparently, we were also all going to Bariloche.  And so began a fun travel buddy friendship...

When we got to the town of Perito Moreno, we stopped for the evening.  All the bus passengers checked into little Hotel Belgrano, and then made a mad dash for the ATM to replenish cash supplies that had been drained during our stay at the ATM-less El Chalten.

They are actually building a new Ruta 40 alongside the old road. This new one will be paved. Not ready yet, though. Bummer.
  I walked down with my new friends Marieke and Dayenne, and then joined them for a steak dinner back at the Hotel Belgrano´s restaurant.  Although we chatted sporadically through the day at random stops, this dinner was the first time we really got to know each other a bit.  They are cool.  (And I´m not just saying that because they are probably reading this.)

One thing we talked about was our plans for Bariloche - and more importantly - how to visit neighboring El Bolson.  I had planned to get to Bariloche, and then visit El Bolson as a day trip.  Marieke and Dayenne pointed out that this was sort of stupid, since our bus was going to drive right through El Bolson on the way to Bariloche.  The girls were just going to hop out at El Bolson and spend a couple of days there first.

Naturally, this made way more sense than what I was going to do.  So I decided to join them on the stop-over in El Bolson.  More on that in tomorrow´s entry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As I was leaving Rancho Grande Hos…
As I was leaving Rancho Grande Ho…
This was taken from side of our bu…
This was taken from side of our b…
Taken during one of our brief stop…
Taken during one of our brief sto…
I thought this was a cool shot tak…
I thought this was a cool shot ta…
A quick shot before sunset.  This …
A quick shot before sunset. This…
They are actually building a new R…
They are actually building a new …
Perito Moreno
photo by: mariemak