We took our time leaving Cajón Grande, but we were still quickly back onto the Ruta 40, which according to our information, was paved but with lots of potholes. There were more potholes than tarmac in fact and riding in the gravel that lay at the sides of the road was preferable to the rim-wrecking road surface.
Volcanic landscape south of San Rafael
In contrast, the scenery was again spectacular, rocky desert suddenly gave way to a valley filled with lava, at one point the river, which had previously meandered, shallow and wide through the valley, was forced through a narrow gap in the lava which had all but blocked its path. In the distance, the source of the lava flows, we counted 6 or 7 volcanic cones, all now dormant, having spent their energy a long time ago.
We had hoped to reach Zapala, however the bad road had put us behind and a chance meeting delayed us again. Two bikes were coming towards us, loaded up with luggage – must be travellers! And so we met Bernd and Jörg from Germany on BMWs of course. Their luggage system was one of the largest I’d seen so far, aluminium panniers with extra compartments attached plus a huge extendable alu topbox. Plenty of room for all those travel luxuries!
Bernd & Joerg, with their large panniers
After camping the night at yet another friendly YPF fuel station we rode on towards the Lakes area and San Junin de los Andes. Stopped in town to visit the supermarket and internet café, two or three people asked us if we were in town for the bike meeting. Well, not intentionally, but as we were in the area…………..
Getting ready to leave for Lago Paimún, a couple of guys came over for a chat. One of whom turned out to be the president of the bike club organising the meeting and so we were formally invited along for the weekend.
We had time for our ride out to Lago Paimún, a good gravel road along Lago Huechulafquen then a narrower road through the forest towards Volcan Lanin and the campsite by the lake.
Riding by lakes and volcanoes
It was a beautiful spot and peaceful, despite the fact that almost every camping spot was taken.
We rode slowly back to San Junin, found the campsite and signed in for the 4th International Encuentro de Motos. No sooner had we pitched up our tent in a relatively quiet corner, than two other travellers rode in our direction. Jürgen and Sabine, from Germany but not travelling on BMWs, Yamahas in fact.
Juergen and Sabine arrive at the campsite
We all really enjoyed the meeting, everyone was friendly and wanted to chat. There were the obligatory bikes games and then the ride around the town, much tooting of horns, especially past the police station, and then by the main plaza everyone parked their bikes for all to see.
The last of the bikes to ride into the main plaza
Sunday morning and it was time to leave, we were all sent off with stomachs full of pastries and hot chocolate (supplied by the army in a huge 500 litre tank).
We headed south again towards Bariloche, via San Martin de Los Andes and the so called Seven Lakes Drive. It was a beautiful route, some of the road paved, some gravel that wound its way past lakes and mountains. There were several free campsites along the way, so decided to make the most of one of them and spent the night next to Rio Caleufú. The next morning we leisurely packed up and rode towards Villa Angostura.
One of the 7 lakes between San Martin and Bariloche
There was much more traffic this morning, a constant stream of cars making it a very dusty ride. Ate lunch on the banks of Lake Nahuel Huapi, then rode into Bariloche. Was strange coming back, there were a lot more people in town and we were lucky to get the last 2 bunks at the hostel we had stayed in the last time we were here.
We had planned to take the train over to Viedma, unfortunately, being high season, it was fully booked, for a week. Now the question which of the 3 routes over to the Atlantic coast to take. Most direct of course was the gravel road, two paved roads, one looping north, the other south, were also possibilities. We had ridden the northern route the last time, the southern route was much longer and so in the end we decided on the shorter gravel road – probably the last of this trip!
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