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Published: December 5th 2005
We left San Rafael on Friday, November 4th and proceeded down Highway 40 toward Marlargue. This was our first day of our Patagonia Road Trip and we were all in great spirits and ready for the long road ahead. After heading southwest for an hour and a half, we took a two hour diversion to check out Las Leñas, Argentina's world class ski resort. The slopes had been closed for about a month but we were impressed by the size and grandeur of the place.
After puchasing "la comida" for the evening's asado in Malargue, we headed of toward Bardas Blancas, where we planned to camp. The road was primarily dirt with broken remnents of pavement that must have been paved in the 1950s. We reached Bardas Blancas with about 2 hours of daylight remaining. Before firing up the chorizos and the carne, we took a short photo hike.
The camp ground where we stayed was fairly primitive but the folks who ran it were sweet. The following day as we hit the road, we were again surprised at the vast extent of dirt road. The weather was beautiful and our two cars stopped often so
we could take pictures and take a dust break. The desert was spectacular and ever-changing, with new mountains and volcanoes appearing as we wound our way south into Neuquen Province.
We finally arrived in Juinin de Los Andes two hours after sundown.
Junin de Los Andes is located on the edge of the desert. We all agreed that it had a nice "tranquilo" feel to it. We stayed in a comfortable hostel that night and in the morning, moved a few miles out of town to a camping spot on the river. This campground was run by a friendly older gentleman who was constantly offering us mate as well as pleasant conversation which was often difficult to decipher since he spoke so rapidly.
On our first day at the river, our host encouraged us to meet a friend of his from town who had stopped by the campground. Noah, Louis, and Rich went over and introduced themselves. His name was Ernesto and he was a local enviornmental writer, taxidermist, and nature lover. He offered to take our group out into the desert the following day to hunt for fossils and agates. We headed out the next
morning on a 150 kilometer drive which took us to 3 different geological spots. At the first one, we gathered sea fossils on the side of a large mesa. The 2nd spot had small star-shaped coral fossils which we collected. Here, we encountered a flock of white goats and soon after, 2 gauchos who rode up to make sure that weren't in the process of making off with some "chivo" (goats). The 3rd spot was the most spectacular. It was a huge pre-historic looking hole in the desert floor. It wasn't hard to imagine dinosaurs roaming around this place in their search for carne. There were pieces of agate and petrified wood everywhere.
After the long drive back, Ernesto took us to his house in Junin de Los Andes where we had mate and snacks. We exchanged e-mail adresses and invited him back out to the campground where Julio prepared another delicious Argentine asado. The following day, we packed up and headed southwest. We had lunch in the beautiful town of San Martin de Los Andes. Then we headed south on another stretch of dirt road through some of the most spectacular scenery we've seen so far.
Many pictures later, we arrived in Villa La Angostura, which is a lovely tourist town across and up the lake from Bariloche. Villa La Angostura is home to the world's only Arrayanes Bosques trees. On our 2nd day, we embarked on a scenic 15 mile round trip hike through a virgin forest full of unfamiliar gigantic trees, to the end of the pennisula where the bosques are located.
The following day with our legs and backs sore from the hike, we packed up and drove around the lake to Bariloche.
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