Day 55 (18th Jan.) Bariloche to San Martin de los Andes
After another excellent breakfast at the hotel, we packed up and headed to San Martin de los Andes, a little over 100 miles north. We filled up with fuel, bought some coolant for the bike’s engine, and followed Ruta 40 to Villa la Angustura, a pretty tourist town with Alpine architecture and many bars and shops selling chocolates and Artisan products, where we had a coffee.
We rode through an area called the ‘Siete Lagos’ (seven lakes), enjoying the magnificent mountainous scenery inset by the lakes, reaching San Martin de los Andes in the late afternoon.
San Martin itself is sited in a spectacular part of the lake district, next to Lago Lacar. The roads were twisty and the views from every angle amazing – whilst a relatively short ride, in distance, the time taken was longer due to the constant tight bends and slow traffic, but we were more than happy to potter along taking-in the scenery. The weather again was fairly hot at around 30 degrees, so we decided to camp as the town was busy and it would probably have taken a while to find a place to stay. We looked on our ‘i-overlander’ app and noted several campsites in the area. We pulled into the first one, Camping El Zorzal, a small family-run site just off Ruta 40, and a few kilometres out of town.
We immediately liked it – there was a small but well-stocked shop and the pitches had electrical sockets and outside lights which were very useful. We very quickly put up the tent and settled-in. Most of the others staying here are either trekking or cycling around the area. Three Canadians on hired Kawasaki KLR650 motorbikes checked-in shortly after us. They had just arrived in Argentina, having collected their bikes the previous day in Chile, and will be doing roughly the same route as us, so we were able to advise them about the unpaved parts of Ruta 40 which we have already ridden.
The campsite came to life at around 10pm, with many people setting-up BBQs and chatting outside, just as we were thinking about going to bed!
We’ve mentioned a lot of place names over the course of our blog. To give some sense of meaning, geographically, here’s a map of South America. We started in Santiago, which is on the Pacific (left) side of the continent, towards the bottom. It’s actually around 2000 miles from Santiago to the far south (Punta Arenas and Ushuaia). In brief, we went south from Santiago to Puerto Natales, which you can see on the map, near to the bottom. We then headed north via El Calafate to Pucon, which you can just about see (next to Temuco). To date, we’ve covered around 4000 miles.
The exact route is sketched out below.
Day 56 (19th Jan.) A day in San Martin de los Andes
Despite the other campers having had a late night, they were up and gone before we surfaced from our tent at around 9.30am. We had a lazy morning sitting in the sunshine and reading our books. We’ve both recently finished a book called ‘Miracle in the Andes’ by Nando Parrado, a true story about a plane crash in the Andes in the early 1970’s. The author and his rugby team mates were on a flight to Chile, from Uruguay, when their plane hit bad weather and crashed into one of the mountains near the end of the flight. They were given up for dead by the authorities but many survived – they were stranded for 72 days, with the author eventually trekking for many miles, over the mountains for help. It was an astonishing account of an unimaginable ordeal, made all the more real for us as we have both flown and ridden very near to where this occurred. Since only one of us at a time can read our kindle, getting more reading matter has been a bit difficult. However, we found a few second-hand English books at a bookshop in Bariloche, where we bought ‘Dr Nightingale rides the Elephant’…..it was not as bad as it sounds ! We will relax here for another day at San Martin and then head over the border to Chile and onwards to ‘Motocamp’, approximately 140 miles on from here.
Day 57 (20th Jan.) Another day in San Martin de los Andes
We had a lazy morning and then went for a swim in the lake to cool down as it was another hot day. Tomorrow we head for Chile.
Day 58 (21st Jan.) To Motocamp near Pucon, Chile
There was a thunderstorm last night but not as much rain as when in Pumelin Park a month ago, so by the time we started to pack-up our tent was relatively dry. We rode towards the Chilean border and passed through the beautiful National Park Lanin on the way. We went through passport control very quickly on the Argentinian side, where we handed back our bike’s Temporary Import Permit. We then rode through the usual section of ‘no-mans land’ on to the Chilean customs to get our passports stamped and a new TIP. Rather inconveniently, we had to take almost everything off the bike to be put through an x-ray machine, which was a pain as it took quite a while. One of the customs officers also noticed the spare tyre we’d strapped to the sidecar – he insisted that we had to keep the old tyre after we fit the new one, that is if we were coming back to Argentina. We could only guess this was to prevent us from selling it in Chile without paying import duty, and he wrote a note to this effect on our TIP. The crazy thing is, it would’ve been far cheaper to buy the tyre in Chile but then we didn’t know if the old one would last until Chile (which of course it has).
We arrived at Motocamp in the early evening and expected it to be busy. However, when we arrived we were the only people there! We had the option of either camping or staying in a 4-bed bunk room. The showers and facilities are amazingly good, and the decor industrial/workshop themed. Plus there is an on-site café/restaurant. There is also a workshop for visitors to use for bike maintenance. We opted to camp as the weather was good. However, another storm had been forecast for the night, so they kindly said that we could use the bunkhouse anytime during the night if the weather got too much for our tent!
We enjoyed a tasty BBQ and salad supper at the café/restaurant, sitting outside in a large decking area, with an excellent bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. We were the only two people there and we were waited on as if we were royalty!
Motocamp was recommended to us whilst on the Navimag ferry a month ago, by the Australian friend we made, Mark (www.motorcyclevagrant.com) Apparently, we’ve now just missed him as he was here, at Motocamp, only a few days ago, and is now flying back home to Australia (via Miami to pick up his diving gear). Motocamp is a stop-off primarily aimed at motorcyclists, with the option of either camping in the grounds or hiring a bunkroom, plus a workshop for bike maintenance, with staff on hand if any help is required. It’s all very well equipped and remarkably clean, plus there’s the option of getting restaurant food or using the kitchen for cooking one’s own food. And there is a bar with a very appropriate beer dispenser.
Whilst we’re here, Mark will carry out some bike maintenance including replacing the bike’s rear tyre and changing the engine oil/filter.