Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Puerto Fuy, Chile to San Martin de los Andes, Argentina

The BEST chocolate-raspberry torte ever!

Awoke at 6:45 to cold, damp and windy conditions on the beach. My pocket weather station showed it was in the 50s, but the wind chill felt substantial. "If I'm this uncomfortable now, it doesn't bode well for Tierra del Fuego and the Salar de Uyuni!" There was a slight sense of panic.

Under these conditions, it's easy for organization and discipline to break down. Fairly simple things, such as packing up gear, become much more difficult.

The ferry departs Puerto Fuy at 8:00 a.m. and sails to Puerto Pirihueico on the far end of Lago Pirihueico. From there, it's a short drive to the Argentine border.

This morning, including mine, there were eight vehicles, three with trailers, lined up for the ferry. Signs tell you to call a number for reservations, but last night the folks at the restaurant said "just show up. No problem." After boarding, I paid the 4,000-Peso ($8) fee for me and the motorcycle.

Aboard the ferry that will take me across Lago Pirihueico toward the Argentine border

Into the early morning sun, the ferry winds its way along the narrow Lago Pirihueico. On board, typical campers: cars and trucks stuffed with camping gear, with roof racks or maybe a modest camper trailer. Motorhomes are a rarity.

A very pleasant cruise, slowly winding through the narrow passages of this unspoiled lake. Except for the ferry, and an occasional navigational marker, there were no signs of human activity along the way!

Over the course of an hour and a half, it was so strange to travel pristine waters, the lake shores showing no human trace, except for an occasional navigational marker.

At Puerto Pirihueico, I was first off the boat and down the dirt road. (It was like a race though with cars sliding to a halt right behind me at the checkpoint parking area.) By 10:30, I was through Argentine customs. Easy. No waiting. Dirt all the way to San Martin de los Andes ("SMAndes"). It's a busy road and dust is a big problem, especially heading into the sun (as I was doing this morning and yesterday evening.)

San Martin de los Andes is like so many resort towns: flooded with outdoor gear stores and upscale boutiqes. Façades of golden pine, like ski resorts worldwide. A very nice aesthetic, but the moment I see it, I want to move on.

I have to struggle with this negative reaction to resorts and development. Certainly it can't all be bad? And, of course, I realize this is true: "there must be a good coffee shop in this town!"

In San Martin de los Andes, Argentina, an outstanding bakery !

I found it in "Unser Traum" ("Our Dream"), an outstanding bakery and cafeteria. I sat down to a table along the sidewalk. A couple seated nearby, a bit younger than me, introduced themselves. They're riding through "the Lakes District" on bicycle. They came over from Chile yesterday. And they had ridden around Volcan Villarrica, following the same road I had attempted. I was impressed!

Ordered a tostada (toasted sandwich) as price of admission to the pastry case. The chocolate ganache with fresh raspberries was one of the best desserts in memory! And, as in Pucón, you're served a glass of sparkling water with your expresso or cappuccino. A nice touch! ("Should I just stay here?")

Inside "Unser Traum" ("Our Dream")

A Buenos Aires family that sat down later said I must take "route of the seven lakes" (which, as it turns out, was my intended route to Bariloche, though I didn't know it was called that.)

The bill was 26 Pesos, "cash only". Fortunately, I had 30. "Must be fate!"

Walked downtown and found an ATM, but it would only permit a $100 withdrawal. While standing before a series off pictures representing the four seasons, it seemed to me in Latin America people really only talk of two seasons: invierno (winter) and verano (summer), not of otoño (autumn) and primavera (spring). I couldn't imagine a world without Spring and Fall!

I had walked past a barber earlier, trimming a customer's hair, and decided to go back. "It's time." (Okay, no follicly-challenged jokes.) This barber happened to be a wine lover, and recommended I try such brands as Norton, Fin del Mundo, Bianchi, Lopez, and the Cabernet Sauvignon of Umberto Canali (from Rio Negro). He also said I should go to "Crucetta" restaurant" in Bariloche.

The haircut was only $5, a bargain. (No jokes, please.)

Without really stopping to relax here, I wanted to get a sense of this town, so I spent some time wandering on the motorcycle.

Many of San Martin de Los Andes' streets are lined with orange-berried cassis and grand Araucaria trees

Young families everywhere. The world now belongs to them. My generation, which had so long commanded the spotlight is now being marginalized. We are becoming invisible. It will be humbling for the "Boomers", a generation that "had everything" to yield the stage.

Thistles along the shore of Lago Traful

Continued down the highway. The "route of the seven lakes" runs from "SMAndes" to Bariloche, and it's about 120 miles in length. With stunning scenery, it is hugely popular, much like America's Yellowstone or Yosemite National Parks. The images are of snow-capped craggy mountains, ancient forests, sparkling clear waters, and that pure, deep blue sky.

Looking west to the Andes, across Lago Nahuel Huapi

But it's an insane place too. Crossed by dirt roads, there is a pall of dust that hangs low over the forests, lakes and rivers. If there were ever an argument for paving, this might be it. This must be choking not only humans, but plant and wildlife as well.

The road is hell for bicyclists and pedestrians, and there are so many back-packers trying to hitch rides. They're clearly miserable as the cars roll past, sending successive waves of dust their way. My face shield required frequent cleaning as it quickly clouded up with dust. There was just no escaping it (unless you were to hike far from the road.)

The road "features" sand, dirt, gravel and washboard but it's easily manageable.


Something I was never prepared for is my whole instinct for direction being turned upside down in the Southern Hemisphere. When my brain is saying "we're heading north-northwest" and it's afternoon, I must think in opposites. "If this were morning, which direction would it be?" "South-southeast". "that's the direction we're going." And checking the compass shows this "reorientation" is correct. But since I don't have GPS, and rarely use the compass, I don't often challenge the perception, so I'm repeatedly surprised when things turn out "not as they seem". (If you didn't follow this discussion, don't worry. I'm confused too.)


At 4:40 p.m. the odometer turned over to 40,000 miles. For some reason that seemed significant!


Tim Spires said...

Ohhh boy does that look good! By the way I was the one who left the anonymous note "Eat some dark chocolate for me". I'm a chocoholic but I didn't mean for it to be a mystery. I hadn't yet registered.

timtraveler said...

You'll be interested to know that today I visited "Abuela Goye's" chocolate shop here in Bariloche. I had to try a selection of Grandmother Goye's wares. Afterward, I crashed - I needed a three-hour nap. It's tough business representing my readers down here!

Dicky Neely said...


Evan said...

Tim--I gained a pound just LOOKING!!

timtraveler said...

Okay, you guys. 50 sit-ups. RIGHT NOW!!!

Anonymous said...

5 comments (moved here during post consolidation):

babycondor said...

You love of your subject matter shines through in these photos. I can see you've found your "spot" in the universe!

Evan said...

"Never met a carbohydrate I didn't like!"

timtraveler said...

And a BIG spot it is!

Tim Spires said...

These are great pictures! Thanks for sharing them!

timtraveler said...

It's really my pleasure.

I hope at some point you too can see this in person!