Heading South into the heart of Patagonia
05.02.2007 - 06.02.2007 12 °C
So.... where do I start ????
We checked out of our hostel early in the morning, having decided not to bother with the boat trip around the islands in Bariloche the previous day (it was $160 pesos for a three hour trip seeing most of the things we'd already seen), and headed down to the "Chalten Travel" office, which was where the bus was to pick us up.
It arrived on time at 6:30 am (which was surprising!)
We'd read up about the "Ruta Nacional 40" as it is one of the last remaining "off the beaten track" roads still in Argentina and runs down virtually the entire West Side of Argentina from the very North to the Very South and lots of it is still unsealed.... dust tracks!
We went to the Tourist Information people and did some research for a couple of days and basically came to the conclusions that unless we were doing a 4 days+ safari down or had loads of cash to spend there was basically only one way to get to El Chalten from Bariloche. Chalten Travel.
We arrived in the office and the girl was nice and spoke good English. She showed us the route, told us they have a bus leaving to go south every other day and that it would also stop in the "Cuaves De Los Manjos"... The Cave of the Hands (which is a 12,000 year old cave with a multitude of cave paintings on it's walls and specifically one of the only places we both wanted to go on the way down) It sounded great so we asked the price....
No since there was only one company that did this route, I thought it might be expensive, and consequently, I was prepared for a big number......
$495 pesos........ "how much" I asked......
$495 pesos........ "how much" I asked......
$495 pesos........ But you get a room for two nights and this includes the Cuaves de los manyos side trip......
"how much" I asked......
Luckily Steph was there to ask some more searching questions whilst I dwelled on the price for a little bit longer..........
The Cave side trip was $65 pesos.... not that bad.
We'd heard that the hostel they stopped at in El Chalten was a bit crap, so we'd booked our own hostel which meant that they'd drop $30 pesos from the price... which meant that we'd pay
$465 pesos........ "how much" I asked......
$465 pesos........ Including a Dorm bed in Perito Moreno.......
Now, relatively, $465 pesos doesn´t sound a lot, however, when you compare this to normal bus tickets in Argentina..... which is on a Cama Class bus.... with food and drink etc.....It was expensive.
It works out about 80 pounds... which isn´t that much I know... so after some discussions with Steph we decided to book the trip (since they were the only guys that did it after all!)
The bus was a normal bus... (No Cama class here.... but of course!) so we headed off to El Bolson and Esquel, where some other people got on (so you can get the bus from here if you want) and then we headed good a proper through the mountains aloung RN40.
We knew things were starting to get bad... when the bus driver drove straight past the Ruta 40 Sign post (which is the photo stop everyone on the bus wanted)
After about another 4 hours, we stopped in a tiny little town in the middle of the patagonian steppes. We were offered a Pasta meal at the hotel (affiliated with Chalten travel) for $16 pesos each (which we declined and which were were told was crap anyway) and walked the five minutes to the petrol station for 2 jamon Y queso sandwiches (cheese and ham) for $10 and a bottle of water... we're not giving Chalten Travel any more money I ranted!
Some of the other travellers had sandwiches also and after the dusty stop in the hotel in the middle of nowhere we continued down the route.
We all fell asleep and after a while we pulled into a small Estancia... to rip off the gringo's (once again)... a bottle of water was $6 pesos (normally $3) and again it was just the Chalten travel buses at the place.... there's a common link here I thought!
We were then almost killed by (not the bus driver surprisingly... or even the prices in the stop off point) but, one of the guys doing "The Dump from Hell" in the toilet at the back of the bus.... so bad in fact that half of the people in the back of the bus suddenly decided to come a visit us all in the front of the bus for a while... if it'd been a boat... we'd have capsized
We pulled into Perito Moreno at about 8:30 pm.... 14 hours on a non-cama bus.... ouch!
Now to say Perito Moreno (the town... not the Glacier) was quiet is pretty much...... one of the biggest understatements going!
The place was positively "Morte".... DEAD!
We were dropped into our hostel (not the one we thought we were going to be in... the Hotel Belgrano) but another one... where the mortar in the brickwork was still wet and the guy who owned it had to light the gas heater (for the first time ever me thinks!) .. and it was about 12 blocks from the Hotel Belgrano.
We didn't complain as the dorm was nice(ish)... no locks on the doors or anything... but nice (ish)
We were pointed in the direction of a local cafe (which was closed) and local supermarket (which was closed) and the local bread shop (which was closed) and then finally, the local internet place (which was open.....Whayhaeee) but where it took ten minutes to open a single web page..... yep.... kicking and screaming into the 21st century I tell ya!
We all eventually turned up in the same little restaurant some five blocks fom the hostel. It was good as we all chatted over a Quilmes and began to bond as a group.... most of all ..... it was cheap (obviously not affiliated with Chalten feckin travel !
We waddled back to our hostel and hit the sack, the end of an already eventful Day 1 of the Ruta Nacional 40.... hope tomorrow was better!