Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America

Day 57: Today's destination was Bariloche, on the Argentine side of the border. The view across Lake Puyehue was much clearer in the morning; a whole mountain appeared where there had been only haze late yesterday afternoon.

A few miles along the road, there were some cowboys on horses rounding up some cattle.

The cows and cowboys worked under this pointy volcano

and this snowy peak

The road became windy as I rode up and out of the lake basin - probably carved by glaciers aeons ago - and arrived at this lookout.

Of course I shot a quick panorama

There was little traffic on this road, except for the occasional tourist bus. This river looked wild and free

Next I came to this pink church.

I entered a heavily forested area, and parked Atwakey under a giant stand of bamboo

Here there was a lookout over some beautiful cascades called Salto los Novios - "Lovers Falls"

Soon I was at the Chilean border control. A policeman motioned me to park in the middle of the road.

The paperwork was pretty strightforward. I was worried about all the tourists mulling around my bike while I was inside the aduana office; but the good policeman had kept an eye on things for me. One woman asked me if she could take a photo of the bike; I said yes of course. Soon I was back on the road, and there was lost of evidence of a recent eruption of volcanic ash.

I stopped in this area, between the control posts of Chile and Argentina, to bury another geocache:  a 50 cent coin.

Here are the co-ordinates:

This mountain was covered in tan-coloured volcanic ash.

The sign says Puente el Gringo, that is, "Bridge of the Gringo"

They might not like gringos around here, as the sign had about ten bullet holes in it!

I think this is a lake full of volcanic ash. You can see it was an ecological disaster, many of the trees are dead.

Perhaps 'ash' is the wrong word. The fallout is mainly gravel and sand; maybe the lighter ash has blown or washed away; the eruption happened almost a year ago.

A sign welcoming travellers to Argentina

Here is a panoramic of the actual frontier; click on the image below to see it in greater detail.

The next sign warned of low traction due to ice and ash

Mount Pantoja, a volcanic plug some one million years old. It was the core of an ancient volcano - we call them volcanic "plugs", in Spanish they call them chimeneas or "chimneys"

This half-buried sign shows just how heavy the ashfall was in some places. The volcano that spewed the ash was in Chile, but the prevailing winds meant Argentina copped most of the fallout.

The next sign warned of free-roaming animals...

...and guess what walked straight in front of me not long after. My equine friend actually wandered into the middle of the raid as I approached, totally unafraid of a collision, which of course never happened but I did expect him to move away faster than he did.

Argentine border control 

Inside the paperwork was a breeze... until the clerk tried to enter the model. He asked me twice what was it, a Ronco or a Demolition. I showed him the Peruvian title papers: the make is Ronco, the model is Demolition 250. Neither were in his computer list. At my suggestion he entered it as a Shineray, which it is as well, and Shineray was on the list. 

Not far from here was a lake completely smothered in ash

Then an absolutely pristine lake appeared, which seems to have not suffered from the ashfall.

A beautiful lake if ever there was one

The blue waters looked clean and inviting, reminiscent of the Mediterranean's Costa Azul. 

My 300mm zoom was able to capture some local birds

I wonder if these are edible...

Check out the jagged peaks

I came to a small village called Villa de Angostura, where I bought gasoline. Most of the other shops were closed for a mid-day siesta. I noticed many of the bikers in this town did not wear helmets. 

Riding on, with Lake Nahuel Huapi on my right, finally Bariloche was in sight 

but I had to skirt around the lake first

Bariloche had lots of traffic. I had the addresses of a few hostels, but the first two I tried looked all locked up, and nobody answered the door. As I was riding along the waterfront, another biker pulled up and recommended me a place a few blocks away at km 5. Thats how I found this place, the Bungalows Reina Mariana, self-contained apartments owned by Senor Edgardo Eusebi. 

As it was the low season, and I was the only guest, the charge was a very reasonable $20 a night. Edgardo went out of his way to help me, he even lent me his bus pass. I headed back into town because I wanted to call my father who was back in hospital.  The main plaza looked positively Teutonic:

Panoramic views of plaza. Note the names painted on the ground. Click on the images below to view them in greater detail.

Teenagers here were kicking a rugby ball

while music blared out of the speakers from loud-speakers mounted on the roof of this vehicle

The sign says "We accept deeds, not promises"

I am guessing that the names painted on the ground are victims of Argentina's repressive 1970s military regime

There were some wooden carvings being exhibited

One of the stranger sculptures: his hand holds a mate cup which reads 'photos 2 pesos'.

There were lots of name-brand luxury goods, lots of expensive chocolate shops, and expensive-looking restaurants. It is obvious that Bariloche - a ski resort in winter - could be called the Zermatt of South America.

Yet there is still a market for these ubiquitous Che Guevara T-shirts - this one uses a play on words: BariloChe.

Edgardo told me where to change my Chilean pesos for Argentine pesos, at a place on the main plaza. Experience has taught me its better to get get a bit of the required currency beforehand and wait till I am in a large town before chaning in a bricks-and-mortar casa de cambio. The touts that hang out near borders often give you a bad rate, or worse still, fake notes.

I found a place where I could make international calls but gave up after 5 attempts to reach my father's ward. I could get through the hospital switchboard, but when the ward nurse picked up the phone she could not hear my voice and just hung up. I still had to pay some $20 for these non-calls. Frustrated, I tried another centro de llamados a block or two away, and got through this time. My father sounded ok, though impatient he has been re-admitted to hospital. The doctors said they wanted to try various painkillers to see which one would work best in his case before letting him home. He expected to be home in one or two days, and is fully mobile, walking around despite his stitches, which is good news. As he has had major surgery, its a wonder of modern medicine that he is up and about so soon. 

When I came out of the call centre it was quite dark. A street march was happening; I think they were protesting against a gold mining project.

The banner below reads: "The Malvinas (Falklands) are Argentine - the cordillera (Andes) are as well.

A second hand books and records shop. The sign in front reads "from the Andes to the Beatles". 

Interesting reference to the Beatles, as at one time all music in English was banned in Argentina by the military dictators during the Falklands War.  This is from Wikipedia:

Prior to the Falklands war, the Argentine military had considered its "rockeros" (rock and roll music enthusiasts and artists), as internal enemies of the state. For a time during the war, popular music in English was prohibited on radio stations. Subsequent to the war and the defeat of the military junta, popular music in Argentina reacted strongly to its prior oppression as well as the impact of the war.

(Full wiki article here)  

However, many more Spanish language songs were banned, not due to their political leanings, but their references to love. This is not really unusual, every country has their own broadcasting standards. (The BBC banned Split Enz's Six Months in a Leaky Boat during the Falklands, fearing it may ridicule and/or dishearten sailors on duty!)  What is interesting is which songs they deemed subversive, immoral, or unsuitable for broadcast. Among dozens of Spanish-language songs, Donna Summer's Could it be Magic, Queen's Tie Your Mother Down, Pik (sic) Floyd's (Another Brick in the Wall), Rik (sic) Springfield's (Kiss Me), even Rod Stewart's Do You Think I'm Sexy ... all made the banned list. 

(Source: an official list of songs banned in Argentina that surfaced in 2009 (PDF copy of a typed file - runs from 1969 to 1981.)

I remember in 1980, the year I finished high school, our Year 12 drama group performed a satirical version of Another Brick in the Wall, in front of the whole school. It had been vetted, the teachers thought it amusing, while many students didn't really understand it. Of course, in light of its political overtures, one can easily see why Otro Ladrillo en la Pared, as it was called in Spanish, would not have been approved by Argentine authorities in 1980.

Back in my apart-hotel I discovered more of my equipment is now next to useless. Apart from my 'drop-proof' Pentax WG-1, my expensive Drift Innovation camera does not work any more, and today as I was parking the bike, my Holux GPS fell between the handlebars and steering column, and the screen cracked; its now totally kaput.

Add to that my Garmin Etrex now switches itself on and off all the time. This latter problem, apparently, is a design fault common to this unit. Mine is a refurbished exchange unit, for which I had to pay more than $100 for it, damn! Luckily my large-screen GPSMap76, a model designed for boats, still works. It is a solid and accurate unit, but lacks the simplicity of the little Holux.

Day 57 route:

                                                         click on "Next Entry"


                                             Text and photos copyright  © Glen David Short 2012