Lost on Route 40....Where are we?

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2006

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Friday, December 8, 2006

Up early on Thursday morning the 30th of November to catch my bus for 3 days of travelling south on Route 40.  What is Route 40 you might ask?  Ruta 40 is desolate, lonely...sort of like my sex life.  It is described as one the highlites of any trip to Patagonia...it will give you a taste of the vastness and isolation of Patagonia.  Long stretches of dusty roads, extreme winds and no change for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers.  It is supposed to give you a sense of appreciate for the country side and allow you to see a bit of Patagonia in the daytime as you travel by bus during the day and stay at hostels in the night time.  What it really is a a chance for you to sleep a bunch on a shit bus and read some good books.  Plus you are so seriously bored at some stretches you are really forced to make friends just to have someone to talk to...which I did successfully thank god.  Hooked up with two sisters from Amsterdamn (Mirana and Corrina), two American girls from US (Lanna and Julia who are studying in BA) and Kevin from Minnesota.  Also a Swiss couple (Glorianna and Greg).

Day one we were in two small buses as the big bus with toliets and a DVD player was broken...great start.  Driving south from Bariloche we really don't see much besides some birds, mountains, lakes, etc.  We left Bariloche around 6AM....and after a stop for lunch, a stop for some photos we arrive into Perito Moreno around 9 at night which is really in the middle of no where.  Fortunately most of the road this first day is paved and not too bad.  We learn when we arrive that the big bus is fixed and will be coming down to get us for the second day.   My room has three beds so I can count on two additional room mates when I return from dinner that evening.  I have dinner with a couple couples from England and went to bed by midnight.  In my room when I return were two other Americans who arrived while I was out at dinner and they were drinking boxed wine so I had to have a couple glasses with them to chat about our travels.  They were nearly out of money and heading back to Bariloche via route 40 and were planning on doing a lot of camping to save money.

Up early the next morning for breakfast with Lanna and Julia....we all drop our backpacks off in the reception area and then 15 of us board a mini bus for the Cueva de las Manos and Feo Canyon.  Cueva de las Manos translates into Cave of the Hands and it is a Uncesco World Heritage Site as it contains a collection of prehistoric rock paintings from some of the earliest human societies in South America.  The painting date between 9,500 and 13,000 years ago and feature stencilled outlines of human hands, animal depictions of guanacos (small llamas) and hunting scenes.  The bus ride was 3 hours long on very rough roads but gave us the opportunity to see tons of aminals including an armadillo that everyone geeked out over but me...I guess I am the only one who has seen one before.  The caves were indeed amazing and you can almost see the fingerprints and imagine these people placing their hands on the rocks, then taking a mouthfull of paint and blowing it around their hands.  Really special.  The Feo Canyon was nice as well and after a stop to take some photos, we were off again to meet the other bus with the people who didn't do the tour and continue heading south to El Chalten.  Lunch stop was a  roadside convience store that had a limitted selection...and our big bus wasn't there.  It shows up about 30 minutes later and turns out one of the girls on the bus (an Isralie) realized an hour after they departed from Perito Moreno she had left her passport in the hotel....so they had to turn back around and were delayed two hours....bonehead.
After our crap lunch we all board the big bus which is now packed and find out there are no TVs or bathrooms...turns out we have the real crap big bus.  It's all good as the girls, Kevin and I chat for nearly the entire way...and when we aren't chatting, we're sleeping.  Around 11PM (still daylight) we arrive into El Chaten and all get out to checkin to our hostel...which was a mob scene.  Hostal Rancho Grande is a nice place...but getting there with 40 others who are all trying to check in sucked.  We get settled and then the Dutch girls, Kevin and I go to a nearby restaraunt for dinner and coffee.  All 6 of us are planning on getting up early the next day to do some serious hiking/trekking around Fitz Roy in the National Park of Glaciers.
Up early the next morning to check out of my one night stay at Rancho Grande, store my bag in the luggage store and have a quick breakfast before begining our hike from hell.  Everyone actually makes it to breakfast on time and we start out around 9AM.  The Dutch girls, Kevin and I all have a 6PM bus to catch that night to El Calafate...so not getting lost and returning in time for the bus would be a good thing.  With map in hand, we set out on a well marked trail to checkout Fitz Roy...or Fitzie as the Dutch girls were calling it (and within an hour we all were).  A pretty steep one hour hike and we reached the Mirador or lookout where the entire bottom half of Fitz Roy was clearly visable...the top half was unfortunately cloudy...shit.  The rest of the sky was blue...but clouds hung to the top of Fitzy like stink on shit.  Oh well...we still had some amazing hiking to do so after waiting a bit...we set off again for the rest of our journey.  One important point...the wind in this park is crazy...and you are talking to someone who grew up in tornado alley.  Seriously...windy and blowing water and dust nearly the entire time we were walking.  We did get to see some amazing sites and good views before making the turn for the return back to El Chalten...and Corrina's waffles.  Corrina had been craving waffles since she woke up this morning so we got to hear all about her waffle desires for nearly 8 hours and 20K of hiking.
Back in El Chalten we have time for dinner and quick shower and not much else before our 6PM bus to El Calafate.  The American girls are staying one more night in El Chaten but I know I will see them again in BA.
Next post will be from El Calafate and will hopefully have some amazing pictures of glaciers and icebergs.  Later.
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