With our goal of reaching Ushuaia in mind, we had to make some decisions as we crossed through Argentina. Should we zig-zag our way down, with Tierra del Fuego as our final stop of the trip, or should we head straight there, keeping in mind that days are only getting shorter. With flooding in Chile and heavy snowfall on the Andean passes, the decision was made for us, and we decided to follow Ruta 40 most of the way south.
Before getting to Mendoza, we crossed through some fascinating terrain, with valleys surrounded by the snow-covered Andes to our right and other mountain ranges to the left. We finally dusted off our mountain bikes and started to discover some trails, which has been difficult ever since leaving the US. There’s usually not much information available, and finding good tracks is a matter of getting to know locals and spending some time. It’s hard to pop into a place and just do the best trails. So we started asking around for bike trails. The other part is that Leika wasn’t quite used to running behind bikes any more, so we started her slowly again (Editors Note: nice excuse…). Around Barreal, we went for a quick ride along some dirt roads with Leika, after 30 minutes she started struggling, so we slowly took her back to the car. Even though it was just a short ride, we realized afterwards how much we’ve been missing the bikes.
In Uspallata (the filming location for 7 Years in Tibet), we went for another dirt road bike ride to Cerro 7 Colores, through dry, desert-like terrain. Leika did much better than the day before, and we rewarded ourselves with ice cream, which is really good in Argentina. We headed on to Mendoza to visit a mechanic for some overdue suspension work.
In Mendoza we did some wine-tasting, but discovered that our unrefined palates prefer the cheap stuff from the supermarket. We did, however, also try some olive oil, and that was a really fun experience. We headed to Laur, where we had the place to ourselves and got to try olives straight from the branch, green and black ones, olive paste, chimichurri, as well as Laur’s 6 different types of olive oil. We left feeling very full. The night before, we stayed at a local campground. There was only one other car there; as we pulled in the two girls offered up all the extra meat they had just grilled and couldn’t finish. It was easily the best parilla we have ever had. It was so good, we forgot to take a photo of it.
From Mendoza, we continued south on Ruta 40, the countryside quickly emptied out and we were on the road all by ourselves. In Malargue, we stopped for a quick bike ride on some dirt bike tracks. It was a really fun ride over some wavy terrain, and you could get lost in the area for hours riding around. For us it was just a quick afternoon ride and then it was back to driving.
Not much later we crossed a bridge, and we were officially in Patagonia. Our first night we spent in Tromen Reserve, and of course the famous Patagonia wind was blowing that night. We parked close to a mountain refuge and had to repark the car for the night to get some shelter from the building. Time to get excited for Patagonia!