Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ruta 40 - Calafate to Bariloche

I thought I had “done” long journeys. Mastered them. Become the Michael Palin or Jules Verne of Argentinian travel. Then I did Ruta 40 (Route 40).

From El Calafate, the transport options north are quite limited. What I did decide on was the 2 day trip up the Ruta 40 advertised as “adventurous”. And adventurous it was, with hundreds of miles of the road not even paved. Just a gravel track. I soon realised why the trip was to take 2 days. And why the bus wasn't the usual good standard of Argentinian buses. Not even a toilet! Easy on the water Cormack.

And off we went. When I signed up for adventurous, I didn't count on the lady across the aisle from me changing her sons VERY shitty nappy. Not sure what the little fella had been eating, but it wasn't good. Thoughts of lunch quickly disappeared. The little boy however, got his lunch, and the next task was a spot of breastfeeding. Head in book for a while I think.

13 hours later we arrived at our overnight stop, Hotel Belgrano, and my first night in a dorm (4 beds) on this trip. And the last time I forget to get my ear plugs out. Things were OK until the early hours of the morning when a couple returned, obviously after a few shandies, and seemed to struggle with the concept of using a key to open a door. Then we they finally got in the room, fell straight asleep and the guy promptly proceeded to snore his bloody head off. Nights in dorms are going to be limited for me despite the heavy overhead of getting private rooms.

Day 2 and we were on the road for 8am, another 13 hours in store as we motor towards Bariloche. Today was much more civilised. No shitty nappies and a better bus. We even had a guide that spoke English so at least I knew what was going on each time we stopped. And it was today that I got my fill of empanadas. A small Argentinian snack that looks like a mini Cornish pasty. At only $3 pesos a pop (50p) I had several.

Passing through a small town called El Bolson we were well on schedule to arrive in Bariloche around 9pm. I could almost taste that first cold beer. However, just out of town we got caught up in a traffic accident. It turned out that a young girl, 10 years old, had been knocked down and killed. Not for the first time on this trip am I reminded how precious life is.

The first night in Bariloche was again in a dorm and this just reinforced my thoughts that my dorm days, in the main, are behind me. I'm running well over budget, but for me, it's about the experience and making sure that I get out of it what I want.

As we've seen, life is short. It's to be enjoyed. When the pesos dry up, they dry up. And with that in mind, I'm off for another steak.


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