||On this page, we (will) describe our experiences in
Argentina. Apart from the travelogue for this country you will also
find a number of links to useful sites, ranging from general
information to embassy homepages.
1: Entre Rios and Missiones (14.10.04 - 02.11.04)
Part 2: Eastcoast (30.11.04 - 06.01.05)
Part 3: the Andes - I (22.01.05 -
Part 4: the Andes - II (14.02.05 -
5: the Northwest (14.04.05 - 26.05.05)
Part 6: Los Lagos - II (30.12.05 -
Part 7: Saying goodbye (14.02.06 -
Part 1: Entre Rios and Missiones
(14.10.04 - 02.11.04)
During her stay in Buenos Aires Dorrit had spent
much time with Noemi, a friend of Marcel. So after leaving the port,
my first stop in South America was Noemi and Sergio's house, where
we went with Marcel. We ate empanadas and chatted a lot. Noemi is
Brazilian and fortunately spoke English. The next day I had to say
goodbye to Marcel, whom I met as a stranger and parted from as a
Dorrit and I stayed another two days in Buenos Aires,
visited the city, enjoyed the outdoor cafes, strolled through the
shopping areas and spent the evenings with Noemi and Sergio. The
next morning we said goodbye and drove our first kilometres through
First we stayed two days on a beautiful camping site at
the Rio de la Plata to spend some quality time together. From Zarate
we drove to Gualeguaychu to buy a car insurance. The landscape was
nice, but not very impressive. Sloping green landscape with many
huge haciendas full of cows. Every now and then we saw an
Argentinean cowboy ('gaucho') on horseback who herded his cows.
Next station was National Park El Palmar, beautifully situated
along the river Uruguay where the original covering with palm trees
is preserved. In the park were ruins of a Jesuit monastery. The
Jesuits were the first "Freedom fighters" who wanted to convert the
original inhabitants to Christianity. Furthermore we saw small
crocodiles, a wild ostrich and foxes and we had some nice walks with
Via Concordia and Federacion, where we enjoyed a hot
thermal pool, we drove the 1300 kilometres to the waterfalls of
Iguazu. En route we found a fantastic spot on a wild shore of the
river Uruguay with fringes of reeds and a fantastic full moon
First thing after arriving in Puerto Iguazu was to buy
Argentinean steaks for the bbq. In Argentina a kilo of sirloin cost
3 Euro per kilo so we adopted an Argentinean habit and started to
eat a lot of meat.
In Puerto Iguazu there was a fantastic
camping site in the forest with a swimming pool, a shop and many
other facilities. Here we spent three lazy days after driving so
The third evening we visited the waterfalls at
full moon. Being able to see the most spectacular waterfalls in the
world at full moon is being really lucky…Wet to our bones but very
impressed we got back to the camping site late at night.
The next day we
picked up Ulrich at the Brazilian border. Ulrich lives in Curitiba
in Brazil for half a year and we had agreed to meet at the
waterfalls of Iguazu.
We chatted, bbq-ed, went to the border
point Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay and we visited the beautiful
waterfalls of Iguazu. The most beautiful was the "devil's throat"
(Garganta del Diablo) where a broad river abruptly ends in a sort of
bowl and the water crashes down from three sides. 40000 m3 of water
per second, amazing! Another trail went above the endless row of
waterfalls and offered some amazing views. At night we practiced our
Spanish with a group of Argentinean youngsters with whom I had
played guitar the night before.
Ulrich had to go back to Brazil
the next morning and Dorrit and I spent another day in the national
park. We walked the trail that went underneath the waterfalls and
stood on a platform just in front of the crashing waterfall. We were
barely able to stand upright because of the storm of the falling
water and the damp.
Click here to
read about our experiences in Brazil first before continuing with
the next part of our Argentina travelogue.
2: Eastcoast (30.11.04 - 06.01.05)
We cross into Argentina via a very high and 3
km long bridge (General San Martin) over the river Uruguay and spend
the night once more in the small town of Gualeguaychu, where the
people are friendly and buying groceries takes a long time because
everyone is in for a little chat. On we go to Buenos Aires to
celebrate Noemi's birthday. On the way there we intend to spend the
night on a small camping place in the delta of the rivers Uruguay
and Parana - a beautiful area of swamps, creeks and woods - but have
to flee from a mosquito swarm in the middle of the night. We hold
out for a couple of hours, but when the roof is black with hundreds
of mosquitoes and the dogs start howling we take the hint and leave.
We end up spending the night at a petrol station, after spraying the
car with mosquito repellent.
Noemi's birthday is celebrated with
a huge Argentine "asado": half a cow and half a pig are grilled on
an enormous grill for hours on end. Assisted by Coen's guitar and a
karaoke programme, we sing the night away until 4 am.
border of Buenos Aires, Argentina's completely paved coastal road
Ruta Tres (R3) runs all the way to Tierra del Fuego, 3,063 km in
total. On and around this road we will spend the next three weeks.
The first days we pass the famous Argentine "pampa"; miles of grassy
flatland and grazing cows. It looks like Holland multiplied by 100
or like the Hungarian puszta. Slowly the area gets dryer and dryer,
changing into a scrubby and arid heath plain. Villages are getting
scarcer and further apart and become smaller and more insignificant
the further south we go: this is where the endless plains of
Patagonia start. In this area live even less people per square mile
than in Australia.
stop in Patagonia is the twin city of Viedma / Carmen de Patagones.
At the seaside resort of El Condor the coastal cliffs drop abruptly
into the sea and its steep walls rise at least 100 m out over the
clean and quiet strip of beach below. Over a length of at least 30
km a colony of parrots have nested in the walls and burrowed
thousands of small holes in the cliff faces, making it look like a
giant Emmenthal cheese. The parrots, beautiful birds with blue
wings, green bodies and bright yellow breasts, fly to and fro in
huge flocks, all the while screaming at the top of their voices.
Further down the coast the observation balcony "La Loberia"
offers a good lookout to view a colony of 2000 sea lions, that lives
on the rocks and the beach underneath the cliffs. Here we see how
the sea lions fight, mate, play, swim and laze in the sun, we hear
how they bleat, roar, moo and burp and we smell their pungent fishy
smell. A male sea lion weighs about 300 kg, a female 100 kg. When
they mate, the male lies on top of the female, nearly crushing her
to death. It does not look as if the female is really enjoying it...
On our way back to Viedma a huge spider crosses the road. We
jump out of the car to get a closer look and see that it is a bird
spider (dunno if that is the right translation, but I included its
picture, so you can see for yourselves) . BRRR, it makes the hairs
in my neck stand upright! Later we see more of them, but we'd rather
stay in the car now..
At night we have filet mignon ("lomo") on
the BBQ again, as that is cheaper than minced meat in this country!
On we go
through the endless heath plains with its dark green and brown
scrubs, golden grasses and pink and purple thistles. We see our
first guanaco's (the wild ancestors of the domesticated llama) and
nandu's (small rheas/ostriches) that live here on the Patagonian
plains, as well as our first fox. A couple of days we stay in the
national park Peninsula Valdes, where we try for days on end to book
a whale tour. A persistent storm makes it impossible for the small
boats to sail out though. Together with the Dutch couple Nander and
Jolanda we tour the peninsula, seeing loads of guanaco's and nandu's
and every now and then a large bird of prey. At the sea lion colony
Punta Norte we even see a small grey fox flitting by. At the beach a
few sea lions lie in the sun and among them we see one or two sea
elephants. Sea elephants are a little bigger than sea lions and the
males grow a kind of small elephant trunk for a nose. The animals
laze about in the sun, scratch themselves every now and then with
their "hands" or lie in the water, admiring their toe flippers,
while cormorants and albatrosses are circling around them. In a few
weeks, orcas will come here to hunt; they let themselves be carried
onto the beach by the tide and there they feast on the young sea
lions. Although we hear the orcas (a park ranger draws our attention
to the high squeaking sound) we do not get to see them. What we do
see is penguins; a whole colony is nesting on the peninsula. They
waddle along the coast and bring food from the water to their fluffy
babies, that sit squeaking in the little nests under the scrub. It
stinks ferociously and there is bird shit everywhere. Every now and
then one of the penguins bends forward and shoots off a straight
stream of yellow fluid, caring not a bit if there is another penguin
standing behind him.
We nearly gave up on the whale tour, but
just before we intended to leave a boat did sail out. We hopped in
and drove out of the bay at full speed to "hunt" the whales. Every
time anyone saw a fountain coming out of the water, the boat raced
at it so we could see the whale before she and her baby submerged
again. To prevent "disturbance" of the whale the motor had to be
turned off 100 m away from the whale. However, I still got the
impression that the whale was pretty much disturbed anyway, she made
sure to get away from us as quickly as possible at any rate. During
the mating season the whales are not so shy and play around much
more, but now the baby had to be protected.
we visit the prehistoric museum (Museo Paleontologico Egidio
Feruglio), one of the best in the world according to our travel
guide. We at least are quite impressed. In Patagonia a lot of
fossils and dinosaur skeletons have been found and the best are on
show here in a way that prickles your imagination. Among them were
real creeps, like a spider whose body alone, without legs, measured
30 cm in diameter and a carnivore whose thigh bone alone measured
2,5 m, meaning he had to be as big as a house. We drink a high tea
in the Welsh village of Gaiman and then continue to Camarones, a
small coastal village with white wooden houses and a Scandinavian
feel about it. The small road through the Patagonian scrubs allowed
us to see a lot of birds (partridges, owls etc.) and a number of
"mara's", a sort of rabbit on very high legs. Ánd our first skunk,
which we indeed smell before we see it. In Trelew we had met Daniel,
Ines and Ines' sister Anne again and had agreed to celebrate Coen's
birthday on the next day together. In the morning we drive to Cabo
dos Bahias, where a colony of 30,000 penguins is already waiting for
us, as Coen wanted to celebrate his birthday with a lot of others.
The penguins share their reserve with a couple of guanaco families,
which graze their with their cute fowls. Pairs of penguins waddle to
and fro between the beach and the plain where they dug their holes.
Parents busy themselves around their fluffy babies, cleaning bits of
dirt from their shoulders and straightening little feathers. In the
mean time, Adi and Tanja, a young Swiss couple that spent the last
two years driving down from Alaska, also arrived and together we
drive to a nice place at a little bay to put on the BBQ. We spend a
nice evening eating, drinking, chatting, singing and playing guitar.
The next morning at breakfast two seals swim around in the little
bay in front of us. One of them catches a fish and tries to eat it
while he is still swimming, but the fish has no interest in being
eaten and flounders wildly. Two sea gulls see it and race to the
scene, each one in turn trying to pull the fish out of the seal's
mouth, while we watch with fascination. Definitely beats
We say goodbye and leave for the Monumento Natural
Bosques Petrificados, where we promptly run into Daniel and Ines
again. It has been storming for days now and the further south we
go, the stronger the winds. This seems to be typical for Patagonia,
where nothing grows that is higher than 20 cm and consequently
nothing stops the wind from roaring all the way from the Andes over
the plains. The landscape around the Bosques Petrificados (petrified
woods) is bizarre; the sandy soil keeps changing its colour, from
the common beige to bright white, yellow, orange, pink or bright
red. Puddles on the side of the road have taken the colour of the
sand and thus it happens that I see three ducks swimming in a bright
pink pool, or a goose standing at the side of bright yellow water.
The plain that has accompanied us from Buenos Aires makes way for a
landscape of table mountains that are either white or nearly black.
The further we get away from the Ruta 3, the more desolate the
landscape becomes. The Bosques Petrificados are petrified tree
trunks of some 40 metres long, the rests of a huge forest that
occupied this area some 200 million years ago, before the super
continent Gondwana split up in Australia, Africa, India, Antarctica
and Patagonia. A volcano breakout covered the forest in a thick
layer of lava ashes, that in combination with the following rain
petrified the woods. In the centuries that followed the trees were
covered by layer after layer, until they were pushed up to the
surface again during the creation of the Andes, some 16 million
years ago (to compare: the first humans are estimated to have
emerged some 1.8 million years ago). It is a very bizarre idea that
these trees are older than any mountain range on earth and that
parts of this petrified forest have also been found in Australia,
Africa and even Antarctica! Deeply impressed we leave this fairytale
area, after having admired a piece of clay with the imprints of 150
million year old rain drops and even the rain drops themselves (that
have gathered lava ash while they rolled down the hill and have thus
been petrified themselves) in the small museum.
is midsummer and the days are endlessly long (after all the seasons
in the southern hemisphere are inverted to those in the northern
hemisphere, so December = June) we experience maximum temperatures
of 7°C only and on our way to the National Park Monte Leon we even
had a couple of snow- and hailstorms. In Monte Leon we admire a
large cormorant and penguin colony, as well as some 100 sea lions
that played wildly in the water and made somersaults as if they were
dolphins. We spend the night in a field full of guanacos and near a
tree where two young birds of prey are sitting at the brim of their
enormous nest and seem to be trying to find the courage to make
their first flight.
With a small ferry we cross the Magellan
Strait to (Chilean) Tierra del Fuego (Fire land), where the
Patagonian steppe goes on relentlessly. In small ponds we see pink
flamingos and through the fields a gaucho (the Latin-American
version of the cowboy) rides his huge horse, wearing a big woollen
poncho and a beret. Tierra del Fuego is called Tierra del Fuego
because the indigenous inhabitants kindled fires wherever they were
(even in their canoes!) to keep warm, as they wore nothing but
loincloths despite the bitter cold.
Back in Argentina, we
continue south over a bumpy gravel road. All of a sudden, without
any transition, the steppe disappears and we drive through a thick,
green forest. At first the trees are leafless, gnarled and covered
in mint green strands of moss, but they soon make way for dark green
pine wood. That is to say, those parts that have not been ruined by
beavers and are left as barren plains full of dead tree trunks (the
North-American and European beavers that have been set out here have
no natural enemies and have become a real plague, just like the
rabbits that are now endangering the indigenous mara). The hills are
becoming higher and higher and slowly make way for the snow capped
mountains of the Fuegan Andes. We spend the night in Tolhuin at the
Fagano Lake, a beautiful blue lake surrounded by the mountains,
where cute wooden houses with wood-carved ornaments stand at the
shores. The last kilometres of the Ruta Tres pass along deep blue
lakes surrounded by hills covered in dark green pine forests. Not
quite the landscape you would expect after all these hundreds of
kilometres of dry and barren steppe!
fairly long in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world (1000 km
further south than New-Zealand, 2000 km further than South-Africa).
It is a friendly town with cute wooden houses and a nice little
harbour in the bay where we spend a nice evening with a Dutch couple
that sails around the world with their yacht. We work at the
website, walk in the National Park Tierra del Fuego (without the
dogs, since they are not allowed in the park, but Daniel and Ines
baby-sit them), go to the local cinema, located in an old airplane
hangar and spend the rest of our time eating, drinking and chatting
with Daniel, Ines, Anne, Adi and Tanja. At Christmas Eve several
campings offer a Christmas Dinner, where people who travel the
continent gather. A long night of eating, drinking, dancing and
feasting follows, which only ends at 5 am when it gets light again.
Christmas Day is consequently spent in bed recovering. Boxing day
(exactly a year after the devastating earthquake in Bam, Iran) we
heard the terrible news of the earthquake in Indonesia and the
following tsunami in South-Asia, every day the number of victims
seems to double.
Between Christmas and New Year we do a few
hard, but very rewarding day hikes to glaciers, mountain lakes and
glaciers descending into mountain lakes. To celebrate new years eve
we go to another camping, where we meet other travellers like Udo
and Birgit from Osnabrueck (Germany) whom we had met before in
Zarate. Here we have a luxury dinner and feast the night away with
karaoke and Latino music until dawn. New Years day is once more
spent in bed for recovery, but when we are fit again we start our
first multiple-day trek of South-America: in two days we walk to the
"Paso de la Oveja", a beautiful walk through the forest to a broad
mountain pass and from there on through an impressive canyon back to
Ushuaia. The canyon has marvellous high and steep walls, completely
covered with bright green mosses, along which several waterfalls
come crashing down. Together with Susan and Robin from San Francisco
we manage to find the path back, which is more than once overgrown
or simply missing. After a day of recovering and especially warming
and drying up we leave Ushuaia and drive back to San Sebastian with
its beautiful broad bay, where the difference between high and low
tide is no less than 11 km! From here we leave beautiful Argentina
... for now.
Click here to read about our experiences in Chile first
before continuing with the next part of our Argentina
Part 3: the Andes - I (22.01.05 -
From the border near Torres del Paine we want to travel
up north again along the Andes. In the south of Chile there is no
other means of transport than an expensive ferry, since there are no
roads. In Argentina however, there is the Ruta Cuarenta (R40)
running all the way east of the Andes from here to the northern
border with Bolivia. This road we plan to take for several hundreds
of kilometres, up to the latitude where the southernmost road of
Chile, the beautiful Carretera Austral, commences. Although we have
been warned by other travellers, it still comes as a small shock
when we see the state this gravel road is in. With an average of 30
km/h we bounce over the bumpy gravel trail to the village of El
Calafate, which seems to exist solely of its proximity to the famous
Perito Moreno Glacier. Several days we spend admiring this great
glacier of light blue ice towers, one of the very few growing
glaciers in the world and (also) a finger of the gigantic ice cap
Hielo Sur. On the peninsula in the glacial lake, directly opposite
of the snout of the glacier, several lookout-balconies have been
built. The snout of the glacier looks as a light blue ice wall that
juts out of the lake surface to a height of up to 60 m. Frequently,
towers of ice break off the face of the glacier and crash down into
the water, creating high fountains before they resurface and slowly
drift off as blue icebergs. Continuously, we hear the ice breaking
and cracking, sounding as if someone is shooting a gun. The blue
colour of the glacier is explained by or travel guide as follows:
"Areas of the glacier that are not compacted have air bubbles
into which the long wavelengths of white light are absorbed, thus we
see simply white. In the areas where the ice becomes more compact,
due to the weight on the top pushing ice particles together, blue
light (short wavelengths) is still transmitted. The more compact the
ice, the longer the path the light has to travel and the bluer the
Indeed we see a clear difference between the
bottom layer of the glacier, which is nearly dark blue, and the
light blue tops. We look on for hours, every time something new is
happening. With this view we celebrate the birth of our nephew
Jesper, the second son of Roos and Roel, with real (Argentine)
"Champagne". Congratulations Roos and Roel!
before leaving for the northern part of National Park Los Glaciares
we wanted to get money, but the ATMs are all out of order as the
connection to this village at the end of the world broke down. This
means we have to wait for a day for the exchange office to open,
together with many others that are now stuck here. Then we can
bounce on over the Ruta 40 to El Chalten, a hamlet of three farms
and a park ranger station at the foot of the bizarre Fitz Roy range,
named after the captain of the ship Charles Darwin used for his
travels to South-America. The history and appearance of the range
are not so much different from those of Torres del Paine, but Fitz
Roy is a lot more accessible - unfortunately "no dogs allowed". You
can see the range from a 100 km distance, like a couple of flat
blocks in a city of low houses. Just like Torres del Paine's, Fitz
Roy's lonely height has exposed the range to a lot of erosion, which
left no more of the range than some curiously shaped, smooth pins,
whose light beige colour contrasts beautifully with the dark grey
mountains surrounding them. Over each saddle a glacier comes down,
as if the Hielo Sur ice cap is overflowing and the high mountains
can only just hold the heavy ice load. On a field with a first class
view over the range we celebrate Adi's birthday with a real Swiss
cheese fondue. The following days we do some beautiful day hikes to
the best two viewpoints of this range: one to the mint-coloured
glacier lake under the slim needles of Cerro Torre and one to the
dark blue mountain lake at the foot of mighty Monte Fitz Roy. For
the latter view we had to climb - just like for the Torres del Paine
viewpoint - a 400m high wall of rocks and stones. This so-called
moraine wall is created by the glacier as it moves along in its
valley and pushes rocks and stones out in front of it. Both hikes
were awesome and the views were indescribable.
goodbye to Adi and Tanja and move on to the north, over the Ruta 40
that is in some parts relatively good, but usually does not allow
speeds of over 40 km/h. Just like around the Ruta 3 this road is
surrounded by nothing else than Patagonian steppe. In southern
South-America there is an almost constant west wind, that brings a
lot of rain from the Pacific, but hardly any rain gets any further
than the Andes. Thus Chilean Patagonia, west of the Andes, is
extremely wet with precipitation levels of 4000 - 5000 mm a year,
whereas Argentine Patagonia east of the Andes has no more than 200 -
400 mm a year. West of the Andes lush rain forests grow, whereas the
eastern plain is a brown and dry steppe. Hardly anyone lives here;
in 500 km we pass maybe 5 farmsteads and one petrol pump, of which
we are very happy that it is working and contains diesel, for we did
not meet more than 10 cars on a whole day driving. What does live
here are guanaco's and nandu's, that can thrive here without being
disturbed by man. We cross the border to Chile at the international
lake Lago Buenos Aires (Argentina) / Lago General Carrerra (Chile),
to drive further north via the Carretera Austral from Chile Chico.
Click here to read about our experiences in Chile first
before continuing with the next part of our Argentina
Part 4: the Andes - II (14.02.05 -
Welcome back, dear reader. It has been a while since
we published our last report. Hope you are all doing fine.
part of our travel report starts in Trevelin, a town that is partly
inhabited by Welsh colonialists. Valentine's day with a high tea is
after so many gravel roads, we finally drive on an asphalt road to
NP Los Alerces. This NP is famous for it's Alerce-trees that can get
more than 4000 years old. There were a couple of daytreks so we
walked a few days through bamboo forest and along many araucaria
trees. In the prehistoric museum in Trelew, last month, we already
saw 40 million year old araucaria fossils and now we saw live ones.
The infrastructure in this NP is amazing: free campsites,
supermarkets and even a small petrol station.
continues on the gradually greener and more hilly Ruta 40 via
Esquel, a dusty but cosy town, to El Bolson.
El Bolson is
beautifully situated between wooded hills and is surrounded by rocky
peaks. One of these peaks is one of the six energy field on earth
and therefore for Indians a holy place. The town's atmosphere is
quite relaxing; an artisan market with Indian handicrafts, a huge
park and many Argentine hippies. Because the area around El Bolson
is a perfect trekking area, we want to walk a five day trekking
We park our car at a campsite and the first day we
walk up 1000 meters. Along a small stream there is a nice idyllic
spot to pitch our tent. We make a warm campfire and stare in the
flames for hours. The next morning it is a steep climb up to the
glacier Hielo Azul ("blue ice"), then a heavy trek through the
forest before we arrive at a beautiful canyon with a crystal clear,
deep blue river. We pitch our tent on the property of an estancia
(large cattle farm) with cows and horses around our tent. A true
shock therapy for the dogs. The owner sells homebrew beer, homemade
bread and veggie's from his garden. Hurray! Argentines walk a lot
themselves with their backpacks so there is always a good Argentine
In the morning the Mestizo's (mix between Indians
and Europeans) on horses herd the cows together, wearing woollen
poncho's and berets. It made me think about the book "house of the
spirits" from Isabel Allende which claims that until recently, the
staff at estancias were serfs.
The next days we walked through
age-old forest along a river in a broad and shallow riverbed with
white pebbles. This river of mineral water meandered through the
completely uninhabited forested landscape.
The last day we have
to work hard to get down over a steep and dusty path. Every step we
take leaves a cloud of dust so when we finally reach the foot of the
hill we are completely yellow of dust. Dorrit and the dogs get a
lift in the camping owner's pickup and the same night we drive back
to El Bolson because we want to celebrate our 12 ½ year anniversary.
Wow, another 10 days gone, time flies. It started with
an email from Marcel with whom I came to Argentina on the ship. He
would be around and we finally met again. We celebrated this with a
few days bbq, some excursions and of course a good drink or two.
Together with Marcel we drove to Bariloche, centre of the lake
district. A beautiful tour along deep blue lakes and impressive
mountain peaks. In Bariloche we also met Adi and Tanja again, with
whom we had been travelling in the south of Argentina. Bbq
After saying goodbye to our friends we were alone again
and drove to Colonia Suiza, an old Swiss village at a huge blue
lake. We camp at the lakeside and the dogs play with the stray dogs
on the beach.
A dusty road zigzags up to Pampa Linda in
national park Nahuel Huapi and passes along the most beautiful
viewpoints of the lake district. Blue and green lakes with little
islands and surrounded by forested hills.
At the end of the road
we arrived at a magnificent glacier, black from dust that comes from
a higher crumbling glacier. We walk around and have a nice view over
7 waterfalls that come from under the ice crust of the glacier.
In the evening we camp at an estancia that lies in a bowl of
rocks, surrounded by poplars, with fences of grey weathered tropical
wood. Later on when the sun shines her last orange glow on the
mountain peaks, a Gaucho herds his cows together.
Next day we
drive down and continue our tour back to Bariloche. On the campsite
we can practice our Spanish with Argentine guests and we eat
empanadas, an Argentine national specialty of oven-baked pastries
stuffed with ham/cheese or meat/chicken.
Via the Ruta de siete
Lagos (7 lakes), with beautiful views over the seven lakes,
pick-nick areas with bbq grills and walking treks everywhere, we
drive to the Chilean border. The border formalities are
unproblematic again and we are back in Chile before we know it.
Click here to read about our experiences in Chile first
before continuing with the next part of our Argentina
Part 5: the Northwest (14.04.05 -
Together with the trucks we crawl up an incredible
steep switchback road over the Paso de los Libertadores, the border
between Chile and Argentina. It snows a little bit and it is cold.
But with the heating on, a good cd and a full petrol tank, we have
we come out of the tunnel on 3150 meters, the Aconcagua - with
nearly 7000 m the highest mountain on the American continent - shows
up in front of us. A beautiful walking trail along Laguna los
Horcones went through a glacier valley with fantastic views of
several Andes peaks and a stunning view of the snow-capped giant
Aconcagua, with a clear sky and at sunset. Are we lucky!
We drive on to the Puente del Inca. This is a natural
bridge, created by a moving glacier and part of the old Inca route.
Under the bridge are the ruins of a former thermal bath. Because
of an earthquake the mineral-rich thermal water flows on and over
the old bath house and leaves a thick yellow limestone layer. In the
old bathrooms the hot water runs along the walls, comes bubbling out
everywhere and covers the old tiles, the frames and the ceilings
with the yellow crust. A bizarre sight.
The next day we
drive to Mendoza. A magnificent route through a rough mountain area
with grey, pink and beige rocks. Further down, the poplars are
dressed in brightly yellow. For the film-fans among you: this is
where "Seven years in Tibet" was filmed.
In Mendoza we stay for
a week on a campsite. We celebrate our third travel anniversary,
laze around in the hammock, bbq every night with Jimmy and Tascha
from the UK, walk with the dogs in the park and there even is a
drive-in cinema nearby.
One cannot leave Mendoza without a tour
through the Mendoza wine area so we fulfil our duty and while we are
at it visit an olive oil factory.
In San Juan we say goodbye to
Jimmy and Tascha with a big jar of farmer wine and a final guitar
stop is the Shrine of the Difunta Correa. She is an Argentine
semi-saint (not canonized by the church) who, following her
conscript husband through the desert during the 1840 civil war, kept
on stilling her newborn child after dying of thirst. Nowadays
hundreds of pilgrims visit her shrine daily. There are several
rooms, full of innumerable objects to thank the Difunta Correa for
new cars, houses, family happiness and for everything you can
imagine. Somebody even donated an old T-Ford.
During one of
our coffee breaks we meet Armin and Birte with their son Finn, whom
we had already met in Mendoza and together we drive on to national
We drive a tour along bizarre sandstone
formations in different colours, worn out through wind and water. In
the local museum we learn a lot about excavating and preparing
dinosaur fossils and at the end of the day we drive to NP Talampaya.
For four hours we drive around in a pope mobile through
the park Talampaya and pass meters high steep rock walls,
cathedral-like formations and marvellous views. Finally we arrive in
the "hidden city", a labyrinth of rose-red canyons, covering several
The road to the town of Catamarca passes
the Cuesta de Miranda, a beautiful road through a bright red rock
landscape with green cactuses and a sheer blue sky. The dusty red
road zigzags up and down to Chilecito. From here we drive via
Catamarca to Tucuman.
A few kilometres before we enter
Tucuman we see a huge white cloud of smoke rising up from the city.
When we enter we see that the cloud is the result of half a million
bbq-ing Argentines who, celebrating the first of May, went to the
city park to spent their free day in a typical Argentine way.
does not bother us and we spend the night in the park. The next
morning we visit the centre, have breakfast in one of the cosy smoky
Spanish coffee bars full of men reading newspapers and visit the
museum where the independence of Argentina was signed.
Tucuman we drive into the mountains again and the scenery changes
drastically form dry into rainforest. At 2100 meters we enter the
village of Tafi del Valle, surrounded by 4 mountains higher than
5000 meters and completely covered in clouds. When we find a place
at a large lake, the clouds disappear and, sitting in the sun, we
enjoy the views.
Next morning we drive through hills with huge
cactuses and we visit the ruins of Quilmes. Here the Quilmes-tribe
of some 5000 Indians used to live. They were able to resist all
attacks to their village but against the Spanish this was
impossible. The inhabitants were deported to Buenos Aires on foot
and not more than a few of them survived this trip, only to die of
the European diseases there.
Via Cafayate, where we meet up
with Jimmy and Tascha and Armin and Birte and where we stay for a
few days because it is just too nice, we drive to Salta. But first
we extensively explore the Quebrada de Cafayate. We walk around and
drive into a dry riverbed to camp between the lovely red, yellow and
black coloured rock formations.
Salta there is a road going up to a pass worth driving; the Cuesta
del Obispo. It starts in a green jungle area but as soon as we cross
some small bridges, we climb up through a rocky mountain area. On
top, we are presented a magnificent view over a décor of
surrounding, moss covered mountain peaks.
With Armin and Birte
we spent the night between thousands of meters high cactuses in the
NP Los Cardones. A camp fire keeps us warm during the evening.
The road from Salta to Jujuy goes through a dense jungle
area. Arriving in Jujuy everything is closed because of the siesta
(usually from noon until 4 or 5 o'clock). Fortunately about 15 km
from town lie the Termas de Reyes, a nice outside thermal bad,
surrounded by green hills. We can park the car in front of the bath
to be able to jump in and out.
The following days we spent in
Jujuy. The export papers for the dogs need to be renewed and we have
a repair on the car. Besides we organize and buy some things because
this is the last big town before Bolivia. During these days in
Jujuy, the thermal bad is our fixed campsite for the night.
stretch in northern Argentina to the Bolivian border goes through
the Quebrada de Humahuaca, another splendid valley with mountains in
all colours. It passes through Purmamarca, a small Amerindian
village with small adobe houses and a pink cotton candy mountain in
the middle of the village. In this part of Argentina, many people
are of Amerindian descent and a lot of Bolivians live here.
stop at the Posta de Hornillos, a caravan stop from 1771 and an
important post on the old route Buenos Aires - Potosi (Bolivia). It
also played a significant role during the war of independence of
Argentina. The Argentines could keep back a Spanish attack here
because general Belgrano dressed a few thousand cactuses as
soldiers, thus making the Spanish forces believe his army was about
ten times as big as in reality.
From here we drive via the adobe
village of Humahuaca - where we stay to see the festivities of
revolution day - to the Bolivian border.
Part 6: Los Lagos - II (30.12.05 -
The border crossing takes a long time, they even
brought a drug dog in this time. But in the end we are allowed into
Argentina and are immediately back in gaucho country: extensive
plains, herds of cattle, goat and sheep in the middle of the road,
men wearing huge cowboy hats herding gigantic herds in the pampa or
driving 30 kmh in age-old Chevrolets or Cadillacs.
Martin de los Andes we celebrate new year's eve with Fabian, a 22
year old "artisana", i.e. a traveling handworker that sells his
craft at markets. The first of January was spent in bed: a
traditional start of the new year :o)
During the next couple of
days it rains a lot, which gives us the opportunity to arrange a
number of things, like the shipping of our vehicle back to Europe.
Two friends of ours are willing to take our car along when they ship
back to Hamburg themselves. That means Coen does not have to spend
another month on the ship and we can fly back home together. The car
will be shipped in April and we decided to book the flight home
around the beginning of May. This way we would still be around in
Buenos Aires should the ship leave two weeks late like it did last
Also there is still a lot of work to do on the car, we ran
out of cooking gas, we have to get a third party insurance for
Argentina, travelogues need to be written and with the
Latin-American siesta (which makes you stand in front of closed
doors so many times) the days just fly by.
as it rains we stay in San Martin and finally make some progress in
our books, but as soon as the weather clears we drive out to
national park Lanin. There we visit Lago Huechulafquen, a huge
glacial lake surrounded by green forested hills. We drive through
fields of flowers, where herds of wild birds graze, to the western
end of the lake. Via a river this end of the lake is connected with
a smaller lake: Lago Paimun. There we pass a couple of days on a
lovely lakeside camping. We take long walks through the coigue
forest (a type of tree that only exists in Patagonia; a rough,
wrought tree with very small, bright green leaves that turn blood
red during autumn), over grass green fields full of rabbits and
along dark grey beaches of volcanic sand at the crystal clear water
of Lago Paimun. Also we clamber over huge boulders, up to a
waterfall in the forest. Via a narrow path underneath the
overhanging rock you can get behind the falling water. It's been a
while since we've last had that :o)
The weather has improved
that much by now (it will be hot and dry without interruption for
the next two months, very unusual in this area) that we can finally
unpack our inflatable canoe. We give it the poetic name "Red dragon"
after its country of origin (you have one guess) and then it is time
for its maiden trip on Lago Paimun. The entire morning we paddle
around on the lake and enjoy the great view from the deep blue water
over the white, perfectly symmetric cone of volcano Lanin.
We return to San Martin, where we meet Klaas and Willy (whom
we had previously met in Ushuaia and La Paz) and visit the next of
the innumerable lakes in this area: Lago Lolog. To get there we have
to drive over narrow forest trails and weak, old, wooden bridges,
but we get there without major problems and are able to make some
extended walks along the border of the bright blue lake. Of course
with a view over snow capped Andes peaks...
one last pit-stop in San Martin we enter the Ruta de Siete Lagos (7
lakes road), a splendid tour that passes a lot more than 7 lakes and
that enables you to stop for lakeside camping or pick-nicking every
few kilometres. At one of these lakes, Lago Hermoso, we drink
Chandon Champagne (the Argentine copy) in our canoe in the middle of
the lake to celebrate the birth of my nephew Kasper.
canoeing, but without champagne, was done on Lago Falkner and Lago
Correntoso. Roughly shaped mountains surround these lakes, that have
in times long past been formed by glaciers and are still filled with
crystal clear glacial water. We take our time for the Ruta de 7
Lagos, stop at nearly all the lakes, learn Spanish, read our books
and Coen practices his guitar. Apart from that the Argentines are
always in for a chat about their country and politics, the things
you have to see or the specialties that you have to try in any case
while you are here. Never a dull moment.
the northern border of the huge Lago Nahuel Huapi we drive to
Bariloche, the epicentre of the lakes district's tourism. There you
can get anything you need and after some searching we found a great
spot at the border of the lake, directly opposite a little harbour
where small yachts are moored (camping Cirse, from Bariloche at km
14,5 on the road to Llao Llao). Here we finally find someone who can
fill our gas bottles (although it takes a full day), replace our
shock absorbers and a broken brake and do our laundry. We share the
place on the camping with Dominik, a guy from Munich with whom we
BBQ nearly every day and who takes us to all kinds of beautiful
viewpoints and forest roads with his 4 wheel drive.
Here we also
start preparing for our lives at home: we write our CVs and have a
look at the job markets. I happen to come across the EU jobsite and
are shocked to see that the EU receives on most of their vacancy
postings some ten- to twenty five-THOUSAND !! applications. Hmm, if
that is an indication for the European employment situation at the
moment, we will have a hard time finding a job!
We are being
visited by Dina and Juergen, a Belgian-German couple we met in India
before and that is now traveling in South-America.
between we leave a midweek for Chile to do a trekking in NP Puyehue.
During our trekking last year we had some real bad weather in this
park, but as the weather is so great right now we give it another
try and want to do a different route in the park. Of course you
cannot just get into Chile like that with your dogs, so we first
have to pay Bariloche another visit to find the national veterinary
service (SENASA) and a vet (we can recommend dr. Fusswinkel, 1 block
west from SENASA). On our way to Chile we spend a day on a lovely
camp site at the border of Lago Nahuel Huapi. There we park at a
bounty pebble beach, where poplar trees grow half on the beach, half
in the lake and offer respite from the sun and heat.
Click here to read about our experiences in Chile first
before continuing with the next part of our Argentina
Part 7: Saying goodbye (14.02.06 -
We pass a couple of relaxing days in Bariloche with
Guido and Brenda, before they are moving on to Buenos Aires. After
they have left we do some beautiful walks in the forests surrounding
Bariloche. Here there is a special kind of tree ("arrayanes") that
has a red-and-white stem. The next couple of days are spent with Udo
and Birgit, the couple that will take our car with them as "hand
luggage" on the Grimaldi-boat home. This means our car will not have
to be shipped on the freighter deck, where nearly all cars are
broken into. We find a great spot at a sandy beach at one of the
blue lakes and BBQ for days on end.
Back in Bariloche we have to
bring Shimal to the vet, as he got something in his eye while he was
running through the forest that can only be taken out under
anesthetics. Out comes a rather large splinter that must have hurt
pretty badly. On our own little camping the season is running to its
end and the owner is busy chasing the dogs off his premises that
have been left there by their owners during this summer season..
On our way to El Bolson we camp near the Rio Manso, at a sandy
beach surrounded by poplar trees. In the whitewater river trout are
jumping out of the water all the time, behind it a background of
dark forests and white mountain tops.
In El Bolson we meet
Matthias and Melanie and spend a long weekend doing little else than
eating, drinking and chatting. We are so busy with that, that we
nearly forget to visit the famous local artisan market. When the
weather turns for the worse we intend to drive northeast to the
coast, where it is a lot warmer than in the lake district. We spend
one last night in Bariloche, this time in the harbour with a great
view over the lake, which now is lead grey, just like the air. At
night the youth of Bariloche uses this part of the harbour to hold
races with their 40 year old Chevrolets and of course we are being
hit again. One of them reverses and rams his car into ours. We jump
out of our bed and the last we see of them is their tail lights
disappearing fast. We follow them and see how they halt at the first
street light to assess their own damage. Such fools! We threaten
them with damage claims and then - after seeing that our damage
looked worse than it was and seeing that they would probably not be
able to pay anything anyway - agreed to drive to the police station
together. Of course they raced away as quickly as possible.
our way to the east coast we end up in a huge sand storm in the
Patagonian steppe. We could hardly make out left from right or top
from bottom: all was brown around us.
province of Buenos Aires (surrounding the country's capital) looks
like the provinces in the north of France: endless wheat- or
sunflower fields between rows of poplar trees and every now and then
a large farm. In this area live a lot of Dutch and Danish people,
who must feel very much at home here. In the cute beach village of
Claromeco we stop for a week to enjoy the lovely weather and the
superb, broad and empty beach. We make extensive tours with the dogs
and look for jobs on the internet. The village is quiet and relaxed
after the high season and the people are very friendly. One day a
sea lion is lying on the beach, it seems old, sick and tired. One of
the soldiers at the naval base nearby tells us that every now and
then an old sea lion leaves the colony to come here and die in peace
and quiet. This one, however, does not get any peace and quiet at
all: all day long he is surrounded by people taking pictures from as
close as possible. He roars and shows his teeth, but it does not
seem to impress the people very much.
We drive on to the town of
Necochea, where we do a Spanish course to give some structure to the
Spanish we picked up on the road. For two weeks on end we go to
Julieta at 8 am, have classes until noon and after walking with the
dogs on the beach or in the forest we spend the rest of the
afternoon doing our homework. The beach here is a lot narrower and
more crowded than in Claromeco and since cars are allowed on the
beach the beach looks rather like a motorway on busy days. But the
forest is lovely and quiet. Every now and then we spend an evening
in the cinema or have dinner with Julieta and on both Sundays she
shows us the highlights of Necochea, e.g. the dunes, the harbour and
Necochea does not seem very rich, the infrastructure
and many houses are in a rather bad state and the bridge that broke
down during an inundation 25 years ago has neither been repaired nor
removed. Even the wreck of the ship that ran into it at that time is
still lying there, slowly rotting away. About 1 km upstream they
have started building a new bridge now..
weeks we say goodbye to Julieta, who has received us so hospitably
and showed us so many things, and move on to the main beach resort
of Argentina: Mar del Plata. In this city we visit the city centre
and the picturesque harbour that is full of bright orange wooden
fishing ships. While the fishermen are cleaning their nets, sea
lions swim around their boats waiting for the leftovers to fall
overboard. A bit further down the pier there is a colony of some 200
male sea lions on a bit of land behind a fence. The place seems to
be far too small for the number of sea lions, and many have biting
wounds from the fights for a place to lie down. In the corner there
is a dead one rotting away and the stench is horrific. There is a
crowd of people on the other side of the fence, shouting, rattling
the fence or even throwing things at the animals to provoke a
reaction that looks well on photo or video.
The ship graveyard a
bit further down the road is full of rusty, half sunken ships. Some
sea lions have installed themselves here on the deck of a partly
sunken fishing ship, far from the crowds of people and other sea
The next station on our coastal road is Villa Gesell.
Both the village and the forest surrounding it have been built by a
German immigrant named Gesell some 150 years ago and now it is a
beach resort for the rich, who build their villas here.
not get to enjoy Villa Gesell very much though, as we receive an
email from Udo and Birgit that Grimaldi refuses to take our car!!
As said before we had agreed with Udo and Birgit - who are going
back on the Grimaldi ship to Hamburg as passengers - that they would
take not only their own car but ours as well. The advantage of that
is that the car would go on board as "hand luggage" and be placed on
a special, non-accessible deck (as a service to the car owners that
join the ship as passengers) since Grimaldi has a rather bad
reputation for theft and pilferages.
In December we had asked
Grimaldi if passengers could also take cars that they did not own
and Grimaldi had said this was possible. In January the passage was
booked and paid for and all was fully arranged. Now, 8 days before
the boat leaves, Grimaldi sends us an email saying that passengers
can only take their own cars. And that the passage for our car is
cancelled. We jump into the car and drive to Buenos Aires as quickly
as possible. Luckily, we can stay with Noemi and Sergio who live in
Buenos Aires and from their place we can go to the Grimaldi agent.
The agent informs us that the week that follows is Semana Santa
(holy week, the week before Easter) meaning there are only 3 working
days left before the boat leaves. We place many calls to Grimaldi in
Europe, but they won't yield and the agent in Germany starts talking
about lawyers and law suits in Napoli (where Grimaldi is based) as
soon as he hears our name. Our only chance to get our car out of
Argentina before we leave ourselves is shipping it as freight on the
same boat as Udo and Birgit are taking. That is not only a lot more
expensive, but it also means the car will end up on the freight
deck, which is freely accessible. But we have little choice. The
days before embarking are therefore dedicated to barricading the
windows and doors of the camper van and arranging all the paperwork.
reserved an entire day to check in the car and soon find out that
that is only just enough. At 9 am we arrive at the gates of terminal
1 and are being sent to terminal 4. There we are being sent back to
terminal 1 and when we finally arrive there the first hour has
already passed. Traffic is a nightmare that day, since the
underground staff are on strike. After having waited a long time we
are finally admitted into the customs office and are able to present
the documents our Grimaldi agent had advised us to bring. It turns
out the copies of Coen's passport pages had had to be certified,
something the agent hadn't told us. We are being sent away to the
Dutch embassy, in the middle of the city centre. We take a taxi,
crawl our way through the traffic jams and get out at the address
the customs gave us. Yes it is an embassy, but the Israeli embassy,
not the Dutch. Another maddening taxi drive, to a location near the
harbour... aahrg. The morning has passed by now, but the embassy is
still open and we are helped immediately. For EUR 30 (!) we receive
a letter stating that the copies of Coen's passport are real and we
can return to customs. Fully stressed out we arrive at the customs
office and face a closed door and a note saying the officers are
having siesta until 2:30 pm. Nobody arrives until 3 pm however, and
then Noemi has to have some hard discussions with the people waiting
before us to convince them our case is very urgent and we need to be
treated first. At last we have the customs documents and can finally
begin embarking. It is 4:30 pm by now. Checking in is done via
innumerable counters and in many cases these counters need just
those documents the counter before it did not give us. Finally - at
4:55 - we arrive at the terminal where we can hand in the car. But..
two forms are still missing and the harbour staff are going home at
5 pm. We beg and plead, because this is the last day the car can be
checked in and if we do not check in now, the car will not be able
to board. The officer in charge has pity on us and promises to wait.
At 5:15 pm he and his staff are indeed still there and after a last
inspection the car is finally checked in. Hurray!! But what a day...
The weeks that follow are spent buying the last
souvenirs, visiting the highlights of Buenos Aires, looking for jobs
on the internet, writing this travelogue and arranging the travel
documents for the dogs. At night Noemi and Sergio cook Brazilian and
Argentine specialties (Noemi is Brazilian) and Coen cooks Dutch
Among others we visit the cemetery of Recoleta. Recoleta
is one of the poshest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and the cemetery
is one of the places to show your wealth. One grave monument is more
imposing and luxury than the other. Some are no less than miniature
temples or churches.
Very posh as well is Puerto Madero, where
the renovated store houses now hold expensive restaurants and
hotels. The Dutch embassy is here as well, next to the orange "Plaza
de la Reina de Holanda" (Dutch queen square). Isn't that a bit
premature? (note from the author: The Dutch crown prince married an
Argentine, but the current queen is still going strong)
Noemi we took the luxurious coastal train to the river delta Tigre.
The stations are well kept and restored and there are artisan
markets and expensive restaurants, but between the stations you can
see there is a lot of poverty as well. This poverty is also visible
in the normal train to the city centre. Entire shows are being held
by the lame, the blind and the deaf to collect a bit of money to
weekends we visit the various artisan markets that are held in this
city. Especially the one in the old tango area San Telmo is
worthwhile. Plaza Dorrego is filled to the brim with little street
stalls selling old stuff (a lot seems to come from various European
flea markets) and tango-kitsch. The inhabitants of Buenos Aires call
this kind of things "porquerias" ("what-for's" :o) But it is very
colorful and the tango shows that are being held in the streets
around it are an event in themselves. Very colorful as well is the
port area La Boca. At least the two tourist streets are, the rest of
the area is poor more than anything else. I had visited this area
1,5 years ago, but Coen and the photo camera hadn't, so we spent a
day walking around and enjoying the atmosphere.
joins Sergio and his nephew Mariano for a football match between
their favorite club Argentina Juniors and one of the two best clubs
of Argentina: River Plate. A huge stadium filled with over exited
fans that are at least as interesting to watch as the match they are
And then it is time to say goodbye, not just to
Noemi and Sergio, but also to Argentina, South-America and... our
journey! Tomorrow we take the plane home and from that moment our
great, long trip has come to an end! It makes us feel rather sad,
although we do look forward a lot to see our family and friends
The last 4 years have been a fantastic time, in which we
have gained a lot of impressions, learnt a great deal and met many
sympathetic and hospitable people, who made our trip a great
We hope you enjoyed reading our travelogues and
wish everyone who reads this all the best and a lot of fun
Hasta la vista!
Dorrit en Coen
||Our top 6:
3. Fitz Roy
5. Peninsula Valdes
most travel guides claim otherwise, there is no camping in NP
nights around full moon there are tours in NP Iguazu to the devil's
throat. They are not free however (as claimed by LP), but cost 15 A$
If you have
your ticket for Iguazu stamped at the end of the day, you can enter
the park for half the price on the following day.
R3 between San Miguel de Monte and Las Flores (approx. 1 day south
of Buenos Aires) there is a ACA petrol station with a lovely and
Sierra Grande on the R3 Patagonia begins. From here, petrol costs a
lot less, but diesel prices stay the same.
||Chilean Tierra del Fuego
road from San Sebastian to Cerro Sombrero is very bad.
you can take the good road from San Sebastian to Porvenir and turn
into the equally good road to Bahia Azul.
||No dogs allowed:
3. NP Los
||Glaciar Perito Moreno:
park directly behind the upper viewpoint if you arrive before 10 am.
To spend the night you can ask at the restaurant 2km down the road
from the glacier.
behind the park ranger station you can camp for free, with a perfect
view over the FitzRoy-range.
in La Laja near San Juan is no more, so don´t go looking for it like
food can be had at Riky´s in Yala, just north of Jujuy on the Ruta 9
you can get your gas bottles filled at Gas Fac-Or, Las Heras/Cuyo,
Jujuy, tel: 4257855