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Mendoza, Argentina to Bariloche (12-5-08 thru 12-25-08)

December 30, 2008

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16,074 total miles on trip to date – 1678 miles in Argentina

´60s vintage Ford Falcon - there are bizillions of these in Argentina

´60s vintage Ford Falcon - there are bizillions of these in Argentina

From Mendoza we biked south for 60 miles through something different– TREES! Tons of tall poplars planted along the roadside in front of fields of garlic. We were passed by truck after truck heaped with harvested garlic. Then it was back to more of what we’d reluctantly grown accustomed to in Argentina– DESERT!   (We thought biking in the desert would be sooo easy after dropping in altitude from Peru and Bolivia 10,000 feet, and it was easy,  except for the sweltering heat, tarantula’s, scorpians under the tent, lighting and hailstorms to outrun, no shelter, strong headwinds, not much water and marginal food and supplies.)

Now that´s a lotta garlic!

Now that´s a lotta garlic!

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One of our curious readers asked if Ralph could do his trick on his left foot – so here it is – TADAA!!!  And Pat, always the competitive one, will now try it with no feet!!!

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At Aguas del Toro, a pretty reservoir behind a hydroelectric dam ,we were invited by a very hospitable Ricardo, his family and friends to stay for the night in a cabin and join them all for a delicious barbecue of steak, homemade sausage, homemade brats, etc.

The next day after more miles of desert,we came face-to-face with a thunderhead that rapidly grew as we tried to out-bike it. We were caught on the very edge of it, but still got pelted with stinging pea-sized hail accompanied by buckets of rain. In the Argentina desert of course, it doesn’t rain very often. But when it does, it really downpours, causing the ditches to run full like rivers of chocolate milk and flows of mud and debris across the highway.

YIKES!!!   here comes the storm!

YIKES!!! here comes the storm!

Note the kilometer post shows only 3022 K to Ushuaia!

creepy crawlers of the desert!

creepy crawlers of the desert!

The next few days we rolled through more scrub desert – yes it is no more exciting than it sounds – camping most every night. One night we even found a spot with a small stream with a patch of grass to camp at. We haven’t had green grass to camp on since north of Salta. It was a great treat to be able to walk barefoot around camp. Most nights though, we would camp near or under bridges at river crossings. They are nicer than they sound. It is usually cooler by the river, the breezes follow the river valley, the bridge offers shade from the sun, and we can usually be out of sight of passing traffic. One afternoon we had a herd of curious goats watch our every move from a safe 25 yards away. We should mention, besides miles and miles of sand and scrub brush, the desert is home to many herds of domestic goats (and occasional sheep), that graze free-range style. Occasionally we would see gouchos herding them, but usually they would be wandering unattended. Another animal we have seen frequently since the mountains of northern Peru is the parrot. You may think like us, that parrots live in the jungle, but we have seen big flocks of parrots (up to 100 in a flock) all throughout the mountains of Peru, the river valleys of southern Bolivia,and now throughout the desert of Argentina. Parrots in Peru were the typical bright green and of typical size, while the parrots of Argentina are up to 18 “ long and are colored dark green/gray with lighter color accents on their heads and tail tips. All of them are extremely noisy with an unnerving screech. Creepy crawly little things also make the desert home – scorpions and 4” hairy tarantulas – making walking to the john behind a bush an exciting adventure.

parrots on a wire watching and screaching at us!

parrots on a wire watching and screaching at us!

Just past Las Lajas we started to climb, and by the end of the day we were in the high country heading toward the ridge of the Andes near the Chilean border. The creeks and rivers turned crystal clear, the air turned cooler and Pat began to smile again! The first night in the mountains we camped in a grove of huge “monkey-puzzle” trees – trees we saw throughout this mountainous area. They have branches that are covered with green needles that look like leaves from an artichoke. Each branch is up to 4 feet long, brilliant green, and swoops downward, then curls up toward the tip looking like a monkey tail hanging from the tree. Many of them only have branches near the top of a very tall trunk making them look like a giant sprung umbrella.

monkey-puzzle trees

monkey-puzzle trees

A roadside shrine provided us with warm bottles of water and we took another shrine bottle shower (Randy needs to sign them up for “Warmshowers”)! Throughout Argentina, people leave bottles of water at makeshift shrines along the road. This was started as a memorial to a lady supposedly sought her soldier husband, and while traveling through the desert died of thirst. Her body was found 3 days later in the desert with her baby still alive and nursing. So now people have created thousands of these shrines alongside the roads throughout Argentina and you will sometimes see up to one hundred or more bottles of water laying in and around the shrine. We’ve heard some truck drivers never miss a trip without stopping to leave a bottle of water! In a pinch we use this water for showers and for drinking (after filtering it). We feel since it was left symbolically to save a life, it is okay to save ours with it.

We continued south, following the Andean ridgeline that separates Argentina from Chile, through mountain valleys that are strikingly similar to the Colorado Rockies. Many of the flowers are the same as we see at home. We followed several river valleys and eventually got to San Martin de Los Andes, a quaint town with Swiss chalet-style buildings. We spent Ralph’s 52nd birthday at beautiful cozy cabana near a large lake at the edge of town.

beautiful flowers of Argentina

beautiful flowers of Argentina

After that nice, relaxing break we headed south on the beautifully forested Seven Lakes Road past crystal clear blue fjord-type lakes and equally clear creeks. We got caught in a rainstorm but found shelter in a picnic pavilion at a campground on the shore of a large lake. The rain continued to pour hard into the night, so we and 6 other folks spent the night sleeping around a toasty warm pot belly stove. We woke to an amazing thing we hadn’t seen for almost a year now, SNOW – all the way down to our little shelter. (We were praying for a white Christmas – but it was only December 20th, so a little earlier than we expected!) It was absolutely gorgeous, but made for some brisk riding.

From there we wound through the woods and along more lakes, spending a night at the wonderful Italian Hostel in Villa La Angostura, and eventually got to Bariloche. There we met our friend David from South Africa and his friend Mo, both touring on motorcycles. We also met our friends Randy and Nancy who are biking the same route we are, and 2 Swiss biking couples. One Swiss couple has done the same route we have, but had a baby along the way (they took 3 years off in Vancouver), and their son is now 5 and rides in a cart behind his dad’s bike or rides his bike that is attached behind his mom’s bike! Needless to say both Mom and Dad are in great shape. We had a fantastic International Christmas dinner with everyone.   (Actually it was a BBQ in the backyard on the green grass with roses blooming on the bushes! )  It was wonderful to be surrounded by great friends on Christmas when we were far away from family.

Yeah - lakes and mountains again!

Yeah - lakes and mountains again!

From here we only have about 1600 miles left on this incredible journey. We will head south through a bit more of Argentina, then probably spend New Years biking on the Camino Austral in Chile (a road that meanders along the Pacific ocean side of the Andes).

Ho – Ho – Ho – pe you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!!!

Bikin’ On, Pat & Ralph

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10 comments

  1. Argentina sounds great except the desert. Our lives seem mundane compared to yours. I did ski at Christmas with Thane. We have less people visiting this year , but are busy and I’m extremely busy with the new computer program (not good). But enough of that, wishing you a very Happy New Year!! Betsy and Thane


  2. Hi! Great pic’s. I will like to thank you again for letting my family and me be part of your fabulous experience. I will like to wish you happy holidays and great rides for 2009.


  3. Thanks for continuing to include us. It feels like we are a part of your adventure. Wishing you a wonderful New Year- what ever will you do when you have finished your trip?
    We are presently visiting our daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids in Dallas then we head back to Los Ayala Mexico until the 16th of April.
    Hope we are able to meet you again in person.

    Doug and Ev


  4. It was wonderful to spend Christmas with you…closest I got to family! Hope to meet again in Ushuaia.
    Now I am dreaming of the 2010 Great Rocky Mountain Ride, its going to be awesome.
    Cheers
    David


  5. I have heard so many great things about Argentina. How’s you Spanish there?, heard all those j sounds are hard to remember.
    The pics are amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing the penguins through you.
    We will be leaving for a week in Roatan when you get back. Looking forward to getting away!
    Happy Birthday Ralph,Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you both!


  6. Hello.
    Have been following your adventure for the past year and a half ever since we met you and your wife in Hyder, Alaska on July 25,2007 and had dinner at the wonderful school bus restaurant. You must be both glad and kind of sad that the trip is about to come to a glorious end. What a trip.

    Arnie B.


  7. Thank you so much for all of the updates. It is always to enjoyable to read. You will need to publish this when you get back, pictures and all just like it is. I can live the adventure to without coming in contact with those storms and tarantulas!!! Yikes. We just watched a movie called Into the Wild based on the book. Very good. I thought of you often when watching this. I bet the rest seems like it will be such a breeze. You are almost there. Hard to believe. Cannot wait to see you when you get back. Love you!


  8. Pat & Ralph, I also can’t thank you enough for taking us along on you amazing journey and to think that you are very close to reaching the end. The pictures and the dialog have both been so enjoyable.

    What a ride!


  9. We are relly enjoying following you on your trip. It makes us want to get out our bikes and adventure. Lloyd and Ann Posey.]


  10. Left you a comment but posted on the home page column. will write again after your next blog.
    Mark.



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