There is an 8 gigabyte memory card in my camera. Shooting at the highest quality setting, I can store about 630 pictures. When I went to Europe and China, gone for a total of 3 months, I did not fill up the card. When I returned after a month in Colombia, the card had plenty of space left. In the more than 3 months in Bariloche, I could not fill it. But in less than 6 hours on the Carretera Austral, the infamous north to south road through Patagonian Chile, I packed that card like an elephant in a phone booth.
I have never known such dramatic changes in scenery, switching from dense jungle, to arid plains, to snowy mountains, to lush green pastoral valleys, to never ending desert. It’s unbelievably beautiful here. And I mean that in the most literal sense of the word.
The last few days of driving have seemed like a dream, my mind unable to comprehend the shifting landscape. You can never predict what the road will present next and that doesn’t just refer to the environment. At one point, after staring slack jawed out the window for nearly 3 hours we came over a pass and found an actual litter of real puppies. I’m not talking about malnourished, garbage dogs on the verge of dying, feasting on roadkill. I’m talking about 6 dalmation puppies, well-fed and playing in a bed of what appeared to be Easter grass.
We have spent two nights sleeping in the car, by the side of the road, and one in a hostel. Yesterday we picked up a few cheap sleeping bags to make car nights more comfortable. We have nearly gotten lost several times, had our salami stolen by a Chilean border guard, witnessed a house burning down, witnessed a burning house being put out, drank an entire bottle of Pisco liquor on a park bench, swam in a glacial stream, eaten lots of bad bread and smelled horribly. There is more, but recalling it in a semi-coherent way is difficult.
If you want to track our route, here’s a list of cities we have visited, in order, I think. Bariloche, El Bolson, Futaleufu, La Junta, Coyhaique and today we are in Perito Moreno. We are going to try and reach Gobernador Gregores by tonight, but it is unlikely. The next stretch of road is the most remote of all of Ruta 40. Stretching a few hundred miles with no gas stations, mini-marts, repair shops or hotels.
After driving through Chile, we are glad to be back in Argentina. Our experiences with Chilean people weren’t particularly inviting, just about everything was more expensive and their cheap beer is not as good.
There are only a few pictures below. The internet here is very slow and it has taken a few hours to upload these few. When we get good internet, you’ll get more pictures. Until then, too bad.