Across the Andes into Destination 19 - Argentina!!

Trip Start Dec 29, 2007
Trip End Dec 22, 2008

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Destination 19 - ARGENTINA!!
Day 1 - Goodbye Chile, across the Andes to Argentina via the Tromen Pass!
Saying a sad goodbye to our homely wooden hostel and owner, we waited for yet another bus for our journey to our next destination. The plan was to do a loop of the Argentinean side of the lakes for a few days, then head back into Chile further down for our boat to Puerto Natales....
The bus ride to the border was yet another stunning drive. Paved for part then off road on a muddy rough track for the rest, the rocky mountain scenery got even more staggering the higher we climbed and closer we got. Passing a gem of an emerald lake set deep within the mountains called Lago Quellelhue, we winded higher through thick forest which on reaching the clearing at the end, came upon the most stunning of sights, rising ahead of us was the graceful cone of Volcano Lanin which sits exactly on the border of the two countries, it was incredible.
An hour and a half later, after some fairly relaxed border duties, we were saying goodbye to Chile and setting off across the vast landscape of Argentina on the other side of the Andes, so lucky we were to have done the Tromen Pass as at this time it can sometimes be impassable due to the weather! The contrast of the Argentinean landscape at this point was a lot different than we expected. Still beautiful in its own right with snow capped peaks around us, but gone were the deep green valleys of Chile, the landscape becoming browner less fertile, not what we expected so soon. The depth also started to disappear and soon we were driving through hillside and vast fields with the odd autumn colour thrown in even though it was spring! The landscape was vast too, a lot more remote and less populated than we had found in Chile which we liked.
2 hours on the other side we reached our first Argentinean town Junin de Los Andes, the less touristy of the area renowned for its trout, but surprisingly still as wealthy on appearance as Chile. The houses again could easily have been mistaken for a new typical British estate of the  3 or 4 bedroom detached variety plus garage and garden, and combined with a European chalet feel had all the qualities of Chile.
Not long after we arrived in the sprawling touristy town of San Martin de los Andes, picturesque and very upmarket with chocolate-box style architecture, you really could have been in any European ski resort! Pounced on at the bus terminal by a guy called Mario, pushing to sell us a room for the night in his home, we finally with no map or info on us had to except his offer and despite being able to barter the price down a lot it was still more expensive than Chile, not what we had expected and not what we needed!
His house was beautiful though, near the lake, wooden swiss style place with our bedroom on a balcony overlooking the living area and open fire with John Williams instrumentals to soothe in the background, Ads kinda place. Amongst poor translation between the three of us, we had a good old fashioned cuppa then Mario was off, the welcoming openness seemed to be over and despite being a lovely guy he tended to go off into funny moments, we couldn't quite work him out! With only one night here we wandered down to the lake, yet another beautiful setting, then walked around the posh streets dying at the price of everything! To tired to face cooking, it was the cheapest hamburger and local milanesa beef topped with cheese and ham we could find which for Adam was a tad disappointing when all he had been dreaming of was the 10kg steak  with chimi chimi sauce for a few dollars that Argentina is famous for that he was going to eat EVERY night....gone was that dream sorry Ads!
Despite being a quaint place to stay the tourist feel and price was not really for us and the next day we planned to head south to Bariloche for a day, then back to Puerto Montt in Chile for our boat south on Monday. Excited by the prospect of this cruise liner come cargo ship that makes the IOW ferry look like the QE2, we briefly checked e-mail that eve to find it had been cancelled! Gutted and with no refund, things started to feel a tad pants as we were running out of time and this boat trip was a dream of ours..... needless to say we didn't get the best nights sleep that night stewing over any other options we had/ what we could afford!
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