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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Riding the Snow to Argentina

Today we got up again at the crack of dawn to pack, having been awoken by a torrential rain storm characteristic of Patagonia, swallowed down some coffee and tea and a couple of buns and headed out dragging our luggage out of two a few blocks to the bus station and to our delight found it was indeed the place where our Andesma bus for Bariloche and Buenos Aires pulled in 20 minutes later, at 8.55.

Are these remnants of the primeval forests of Chile still standing in the fields?

The bus drove south through flat country with farms with paddocks bearing what looked like scattered remains of the original trees from the low land forests.

It headed onto Osorno which had some quaint somewhat run down houses and slightly tacky neighbourhoods like the ones we saw in Puerto Montt.

Orsono buildings

It then headed east winding by Lago Puyehue and up into the forest of the National Park, climbing higher and higher until we reached the outgoing Chilean border post.

Lago Puyehue

Rather than entering striaght into Argentina, the road continued to wind up steeply through the forest until it began to snow and just when we thought we had passed to the other side, it continued to climb away into the snow line with a constant blizzard sweeping the road, leaving almost all of the heavy vehicles apart from the bus stationary waiting for the snow plough to make the road passable. The bus ground on very slowly in low gear managing to make its way to the summit and then very gingerly down the other side.

The Samore pass is the most icy dicy I have been over (click to enlarge)

As we came down the snow gave way to mist and then sunshine and we wound between steep show-clad peaks rivers and lake-filled valleys. After crossing the Argentine border post, we reached Villa la Angostura around 2.45 counting an hour shift forwards entering Argentina.

A rainbow over Lago Naguel Huapi

We dragged our luggage trolley up muddy side streets full of potholes finally reaching the Hostal Angostura after almost losing our way. This is a bit of a wild west mountain town reminiscent of Taos New Mexico. Only the main streets in town are paved, although it has a swathe of luxury hotels and the Hostel is the only remotely reasonably priced place we were able to book on the internet. Actually its great service becauwe they have given us a four bed dorm to ourselves with a private bathroom, so in a way its the best deal so far, and very warm with under-floor heating so luxurious.

Christine at the Hostal

Tonight is the first night we have been able to just swoon out without having to set the alarm for an ungodly hour. We have so far found the ATMs incomprehensible. They only speak Spanish and seem to offer a bizarre range of possibilities including deposits, funds transfers but so far all have refused to issue any cash, so I'm glad we brought enough cash to cover all contingencies.

Montains above Villa la Angostura

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