Our route so far
Cunco’s wet weather lasted another day but we were in the comfort of a cabana sheltered from the cold rain which tends to sweep in from the southern Pacific. Leaving Cunco in brilliant sunshine, we headed east again to Argentina. The early paved road was excellent after the recent rain with traffic all but non existent. As we drew closer to the Andes the road to Paso de Icalma turned to ripio (gravel) but the dampened track was in great condition meaning ‘no dust’. Although a little soft in some sections, this hardly deterred our progress, high into the mountains over steep hills, through forests, snow and around sapphire blue lakes.
Road between Melipeuco & Paso de Icalma Chile
Road to Paso de Icalma Chile
Lago Icalma Chile
Departing from Chile, the border crossing went too easy. Hope we did not miss anything….Rolled down the dusty gravel road into Argentina and processed the necessary papers…a little hiccup….they had no electricity so there was no computer and our documents have not been numbered. We have plenty of stamps though. The next little village we stocked up on a few days supplies and headed back through the border into no mans land to camp on the edge of Lake Alumine. To explore this area was not on our original agenda, but our good friends John and Annette from the finca in San Rafael recommended this scenic spot. We were not disappointed.
Dinner with a view of Lago Alumine Argentina
Lago Alumine Argentina
Campground Trenel was isolated to say the least and we were the only campers. Sitting on top of a very steep hill we cast our eyes over a magnificent view. Snow covered mountains plunging into a very deep blue lake framed by a dark green forest of pines. We suffered this for a couple of days enjoying very warm days and freezing nights. We were also a little concerned about our sleeping bags but they held up well despite hitting zero on the first night. The campsite was still being upgraded for the coming summer tourist season, however our host Carlos extended a warm hand and we learnt more Spanish words along with a few of the equivalent Mapuche Indian ones.
Mirror image on Lago Alumine
Ruta 11 between Moquehue and Norquinco Argentina
Leaving this idyllic spot was difficult but the road calls as we headed around the lakes south to San Martin de Los Andes. The ripio road was great, although a little dusty, and we stopped for a cup of tea and a bite to eat on the banks of the Alumine River. The setting reminded us a lot of the Bloomfield River behind the Lions Den Hotel in North Queensland. San Martin is a pretty town, a little touristy, but the pace was slow, and everything was within walking distance of our cabana. Our taste for this type of accommodation grows. Standard varies but in the off season prices are low and the facilities are excellent. Usually, a double bed + as well as a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom is the norm. This one also had Wifi. The weather was predicted to deteriorate but the gurus were wrong and we enjoyed two beautiful days of sunshine.
Ruta 11 after Norquinco Argentina
Crossing Rio Alumine Ruta 23 Argentina
Lunch beside Rio Alumine on Ruta 23
Our route around Lago Traful
Our 250 km day ride around Lake Traful was superb. The road was 90 percent ripio and had a lot of tourist traffic meaning buses and rent-a-cars. Quite often we were drowned in their dust but the effort was worth it. The WOW factor was around almost every bend.
San Martin de Los Andes Argentina
Pichi Traful on Seven Lakes Drive
Ruta 65 to Villa Traful Argentina
Ruta 65 to Villa Traful
We stopped for a coffee at a small café in Villa Traful. It was well needed, as the weather was really very cold despite the sunshine. On the home run we rode over Paso Cordoba which could have been much better if the hour had not been so late. The road would have appealed more in the warmer sun than a cool twilight hue. We arrived back in San Martin just before 8.00pm.
Road to Paso Del Cordoba Ruta 63
Ruta 63 Between Paso Del Cordoba and San Martin
Heading for Bariloche the next day we repeated part of the ripio road traveled the day before. Talk about traffic… So many buses, cars and dust …This was part of the ‘Corridor of the seven lakes’, a road that winds through seven lakes and three national parks. Road works dominated in the latter stages with stop and go flags slowing us enough and enticing us to take too many pictures. A total of 220kms traveled through some really fantastic terrain.
Ruta 234 Seven Lakes Drive
Road works on Ruta 234
View from our Bungalow Bariloche
Bariloche was all we expected, big, buzzing and touristy. Once again we opted for a cabana as all but one of the campgrounds was closed. The only campground open was too far out of town. We were finding out that this is a problem on our chosen route south with the summer tourist season not yet started. Collecting a map and an accommodation list from the tourist office we traveled along the waterfront of Lake Nahuel Huapi. The map was invaluable but the distance road signs were the best. At kilometer 5.7 we found our cabana with a waterfront view to die for. Playing tourist for the next couple of days was great…Ice creams, empanadas, rides around the mountains and lakes topped off with some great Argentinean wine.
Lago Perito Moreno Oeste near Bariloche
View from Punto Panoramico near Bariloche
Chocolate shops are everywhere in Bariloche
With all the motorcycle travelers in South America we expected to see at least a few heading south but to date we have seen none other than a Spaniard and his partner on a hired 650 Dakar at the Argentinean side of Paso de Icalma. Occasionally we see groups of large BMW’s traveling together, a flash of the headlight and a wave and they are gone. Probably doing a package tour and no time to spare… No doubt we will see some when we get further south. Maybe we are heading down earlier than most.
Ruta 258 Bariloche to El Bolson Argentina
Ruta 258 Bariloche to El Bolson
A short day of just over 140kms on Ruta 258 we cruised into El Bolson. The description in the Lonely Planet intrigued us, “alternate life style folks” “non nuclear municipality”… Worth a look at least… A local market is held Tuesdays, Thursdays and on the weekends. We cracked the Tuesday one and it was a pretty quiet affair however we did enjoy some great food and locally brewed beer…The short walk back to the cabana was delayed as we decided to walk the town for a good look around as there is so much sunshine late into the evening. It was a really pleasant day.
Markets at El Bolson
Grande waffles El Bolson Markets
Tasty, cheap food at the El Bolson Markets
Great local beer El Bolson Markets
Our departure the next day was a little delayed. Matthias a local motorcycle mechanic whose workshop was just a few doors away from our cabana offered us some information on the road conditions relating to our envisaged route. We plan to head back this way as a German couple, Klaus Schubert and Claudia Metz, who rode Yamaha XT500’s around the world for 16 years have taken up residence in the area. We endeavored to contact them but they were heading to Bariloche the day we were leaving. We look forward to speaking with them about their adventure and how they stopped!
Ruta 258 Between El Bolson and Esquel Argentina
Ruta 258 Between El Bolson and Esquel
Another short day…only 180 kms….We certainly aren’t exhausting our selves. Arriving in Esquel the wind that chased us all the way increased. Then by 9.30pm it had disappeared, amazing. Our routine now is to find the tourist office, get info on the all possible cheap accommodation including camping which generally is not open this time of the year. Cabanas are the way to go as we can cook so then it’s off to a supermarket to get a couple of days’ food. Tourist highlights are also obtained with Carol generally walking out to the bike clutching a wad of brochures and maps. After dinner we plan our moves for the next day or two.
Road to Trevelin
Our Cabana Esquel
After our time in Esquel our plan is to head to the East coast via Ruta 40 and 20..Next stop Sarmiento then Comodoro Rivadavia.
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