Our departure from Santiago went very well, no wrong turns, no traffic jams and before we knew it we had passed the airport and were cruising at 120 km/h on smooth asphalt. We arrive at the Argentina border and fall into line with 3 other bikers from Brazil.
While waiting our turn at customs Roxanne and her teenage daughter who arrived on a bus approach me and she tells me she and her husband lived in Toronto and their children were born there. She and the kids have returned to her home town of Mendoza and her husband will follow in a few months. The three of us have a great conversation while awaiting our turn to clear customs.
The Chile and Argentina governments have a shared border facility which is a huge building that you drive your vehicle into. Agents from both countries sit next to each other in a booth and I'm thinking to myself this will be so easy. I couldn't be more wrong! We stamped out of Chile in a few minutes, our passports are handed to the Argentinian agent and then the confusion begins. We are given a piece of newsprint with a stamp on it, are told we need to provide documentation that we paid $100 to the Canadian Government when we exited Canada, WHAT? We find an interpreter and now have to pay $150 ($75.00 each) for a visitor tax which only applies to Canadian, US, and Australian residents. To pay the tax you are sent across the building to a room with an old, and I mean old computer. The person manning the computer has you sit down and you need to logon to the government web site, create your own login and password so you can enter all your personal information, then make a payment online using your credit card. While I'm doing this the bike is blocking a lane of traffic so no one is moving through customs, Mark is in another lane and the Brazilian bikers are in yet another. So we have 3 of 6 lanes blocked for 45 minutes while clearing customs and migration. When we think we are finished we go to exit the building and Mark is stopped because he doesn't have the piece of newsprint with the stamp on it, after 5 minutes an agent see's the commotion and sheepishly hands Mark his paper and we're on our way. Total time, 90 minutes.
Zig zagging our way through the Andes on Ruta 7 between Santiago, Chile and Mendoza, Argentina.
Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in all of the Americas at 6960 meters (22,837 feet), second tallest mountain in the world
Vineyards in northern Argentina, near Mendoza.
We arrive in Mendoza and search out hostels but finally take an inexpensive hotel that only has street parking. The three of us go looking for an ATM and discover one of the best dining and shopping districts yet. Seems the city had a major earthquake (in 1861) that destroyed much of the commercial district and when it was rebuilt the city had extra wide streets built so if there every was another earthquake the people could flee to the streets without fear of the buildings falling on them. We walk for blocks checking out the restaurants all of which have sidewalk dining and local entertainers providing everything from juggling acts, musical groups, and even flamenco dancing.
Mark and us drove for 2 hours across this desert with only a handful of turns.
100 kilometers of gravel roads today, most of the rocks were the size of golf balls making it a difficult ride.
Rio Grande river.
Stopping for lunch at this restaurant in the middle of the dessert and had the best Empanadas and soup with all you can eat fresh bread. The chef told me he went culinary school for 4 years before returning home to this town of about 500 people. Our best meals have been found in the most remote area's and usually in the smallest, unassuming building.
Ranch buildings are hidden amongst the trees which block the constant wind.
Finally, trees around San Carlos de Bariloche. Unfortunately a few hours down the highway they gave way to the desert again.
Our first view of the Atlantic Ocean near Comodoro Rivadavia.
Monument in Caleta Olivia dedicated to the areas oil patch workers.
Five Brazilian bikers stayed at the same hotel as we did in Piedra Buena.
We really under estimated how long it would take to get to Tierra del Fuego. Originally we thought 4 to 5 days, we are now 8 days with at least 1, maybe 2 more days before we reach Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world. The last seven days of riding in Argentina has been challenging with the gravel roads and almost constant winds through the Patagonia region of the country. The cross winds were 74 km/h and almost tear your head off when a semi passes in the opposite direction. This morning we had frost on the bike and a high of 11 degrees C. Tomorrow's forecast is for 2 degrees C., 39 km/h wind and snow. We'll need to add an extra layer of clothing, bringing Diana to 6 layers and myself to 5 layers of clothing.
Rhea's are an Ostrich like bird but smaller.
Flamingos in ponds alongside Ruta 3
The highway here is littered with the carcasses of rabbits, foxes and guanaco's, about the only wild animals that live in this windswept and treeless region. My guess is that we saw over a thousand guanaco over the past two days, and they graze to the edge of the highway and are unpredictable resulting in us decreasing our speed when approaching a herd of them.
Our plans will be changing again, my dad had a stroke on the weekend and once we reach Ushuaia we will return to Buenos Aries (2500 km) and then a quick trip to Uruguay. We have decided to cancel our plans to visit Paraguay and Brazil which will allow us to return to Canada before the end of April.