We awoke to a lovely morning with silence all around us. This was going to be the theme for the next few days. The view down the gorge was spectacular. We were traveling South with John and Betti through the desert scrub with the Andes rearing up on one side with their snow capped peaks. This was the road less travelled and we saw very little traffic for days as we drove along the rough roads.
Before we left that morning we went for a lovely walk down the gorge.
Then it was back in the trucks and back on the Ruta 40. We were now down at KM 3000 on Ruta 40 having been at KM 4500 all those months ago in Northern Argentina. Ruta 40 had certainly changed as we travelled. Outside of Mendoza it had been a two lane dual carriageway and now it was a rutted gravel track.
We decided to head off Ruta 40 to do a loop out to Lago Llancancelo. As we approached the lake though it was pretty dried up and the road did not reach down to the shore. We did manage to find a place to pull off though and camp up for the night. Again it was so quiet with nothing around.
Sometimes people ask how does retirement feel. Well it looks a lot like this.
The next morning we continued on the rough road into Parque Provincial Payunia. This area is full of dormant volcanos. It must have been a very thermally active part of the world millions of years ago but now the volcanos have largely eroded away. There were still a number remaining though and we found a small, perfectly shaped one to climb.
The next morning the rough roads had taken their toll on the trucks. John and Betti’s truck had a puncture and the disc brake cover on our truck was about to fall off as it has done before. This meant before we could get started we had to take a wheel off each of the trucks. Fortunately we had a spare cover so apart from the effort of removing the wheel nuts we were on our way after an hour or so.
We needed to stock the trucks up again with food and water but towns are a long way ie 300kms apart in this part of Argentina so there is not a lot of choice. We headed into the small wind swept town of Chos Malal which was the next one on the road and spent the night there. We also needed to get our washing done but the only launderette in town was close. However John and Betti’s truck has the luxury of a washing machine and they kindly let us do it in their machine. With the dry desert wind it soon dried that evening.
The next morning we headed South again wanting to get back out into the wilds again. At lunch we separated with John and Betti as they needed to go into town to try and buy a truck battery but agreed to meet up with them for New Year. Heading back up towards the Andes the scenery changed from dry desert scrub to much greener highland moor. We were also now in the Pehuen region named after the Pehuen tree more commonly known as the Monkey Puzzle tree which dotted the landscape.
We passed some lovely lakes and then the road turned down a valley following the Rio Alumine. This is a well known fishing river and we camped for the night in a parking spot used for fishing. The river around here was fast with a lot of white water and it is mainly a fly fishing river. However Alisha was desperate to go fishing again so we got the rod out and gave spinning a go. I was not expecting to catch anything but to my surprise and the girls delight we caught a small rainbow trout.
We continued South into the beginning of what is known as the Argentinian Lake District. We picked up Ruta 40 again which was now a nice tar road. The weather had also changed and was a bit like the English Lake District, wet and cold. Heading into San Martin de Los Andes we were back on the tourist route. It is a pretty town with wooden chalets and we found a place to park by the lake. I could not help but feel though that we did not quite fit in and I was missing the quiet desolate places we had been camping in over the last week.
Still it was New Years Eve so we mistakenly thought it would be a good place to celebrate. John and I headed out around 7 to have an early beer while the girls got ready to go out. But we could not find a bar. Everywhere was closed and in the end we ended up having a beer in the bus station cafe. Later we all headed out to try and find a restaurant to eat and celebrate New Year. Again a lot of places were closed and the only ones open had special New Years menus and did not open until 21.30. This was not what we were looking for so we decided to head back to the trucks and celebrate New Year in the truck. On the way back we popped in a delicatessen to buy some goodies and Gilly and Betti cooked up a lovely dinner. So it might not of been what we were looking for but it was a great end to a fantastic year.