Argentina, Patagonia – Ruta 40, Part One
Patagonia is an exceptional place. You won't experience anything like it anywhere else in the world. Only in South America. The Andes create a tall tall wall in the west, in the east there is the blue waters of the Atlantic ocean, it is the land of pines and lakes, and there is huge plain in its central part. And in the south there is the Tierra del Fuego and the town of Ushuaia. It is true end of the world.
Patagonia is one of the least populated areas in the world. Before Spaniards got to this region, the area was populated by indigenous people such as Pehuenche, Mapuche, and Tehuelche. The Yama, Ona people, or Selknam people.
It is not clere who discovered Patagonia. Some say Amerigo Vespucci in the year 1502. However, we know that it was Ferdinand Magellan who first used the name „Patagones“ and it was in the year 1520.
The name Patagonia was first given to the region by the first Spaniard here. They called the indigenous people living there the „Patagones“. Small Spaniards and Portuguese considered locals to be especially tall. According to one story, Patagonia was named for huge footprints left by Tehuelche when their feet were wrapped in leather.
It is clear to us that spring mornings will be cold and endless plain will be lashed by strong strong wind. We haven't even been to Patagonia yet we could vividly imagine how such wind can make one weary.
Ushuaia – the southernmost city in the world is our next point of interest. We plan to get there down Ruta 40 road. On our way we would see the greatest tourist attractions around these parts – Perito Moreno glacier or Los Glaciares v El Chalténu National Park. Before we get there, we have a long road ahead of us and some towns where we will sleep over.
Ruta 40 begins in Patagoina's southernmost corner. It follows western outskirts of Patagonie along the Andes. The road crosses stepes, mountains and ends in Neuquen on the Barrancas River. The road is 2896 kilometers long, 321 of the lenght are unpaved roads.
Our plan is to hitch our rides. The price for food and tickets are rising the southern you go. When hitchiking we are quite often annoyed by the locals. They make waiting for the bus shorter by hitchhiking. However, they simply stand before you and hitchike. Hitchhiking around these parts of Argentina is not easy nor fast. In the end they mostly catch their bus. We managed to stop a truck which fully loaded travels real slow for the driver minds possible road ice as it is hard to predict where it might be. So we reach El Bolson on this day. We traveled only 116 kilometers yet it took us 4 hours. Equiped with a tent we hoped to spare some money by camping. However, the season hasn't started yet in El Bolson. Hence, camps are closed so we must stay overnight at a guest house.
El Bolsón is quite a hippie town. Founded in 1926, it is now home to many migrants from Europe. In 1984, El Bolson was declared non-atomic zone and it was awared with the title "Environmental Town" for local chart presupose the region is free of radioactive pollution. People's way of life here is... alternative. So if some of you would like to change their lifestyle, move to El Bolson.
On the following day, hitchhiling gets us to Tecka town. Again, we didn't travel far away yet we moved. We have a tent so we only ask locals for water and sleep over in our tent. Once the sun rises, we hurry to hitch a ride.
GPS: (El Bolsón) 41°57'57.8"S 71°32'08.0"W
Text and photos: Tomáš Novák
There are many interesting places around Buenos Aires. To conclude our journey in Argentina, we visited Lujan and Tigre. Then we took a ferry to Uruguay.
We walk around the city center on our following days in Buenos Aires. Apart from historic houses or churches we see Teatro Colon, considered one of the best opera houses in the world for its amazing acoustics. Opened in 1908, the theater hosted some of the most famous dirigents, singers, and dancers of the 20th century. Consider Igor Stravinski or Luciano Pavarotti. In 2010, the city finished theater's renovation and opened it to the public.
Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan city, home to 13 million porteños, as the inhabitants of Buenos Aires are often dubbed. Also, it is one of the most fabulous capitals in Latin Americe. Historic and modern architectur meet here and add to wonderful atmosphere of the city with vibrant night life.
Port Puerto Madryn is situated on a cliff making an edge of a plateau. From there you may enjoy the vista over the endless Atlantic ocean. Whale observation is the main attraction over there. However, keep in mind you can do this activity only from June till December. Local cliffs make observing whales so much easier.
Trelew is situated in the lower part of the Chubut river valley. The town was founded during a colonization wave in the 1884. Then the Welsh settlers were searching for a way to a port so they could bring their agricultural production. Construction of a railroad connecting the valley and Puerto Madryn was allowed. Trelew was founded as a railway terminal.
We leave Tierra del Fuego for north. In a bus we cross the Rio Gallegos and then we hitchhike again. Now we would ride along Ruta 3 along the coastline up to Buenos Aires.
The name Tierra del Fuego possibly came to be when some explorers spotted the coast of unknown land with fires scattered around and smoke clouds from the fires of the indigenous people. The fire must have lookd like the island floats in haze above the sea.
The town was named after Calafate fruit, sweet berries used to make marmelades. Legend has it that he who tastes the fruit will never fullfill his taste. What makes El Calafate a popular destnation today, is Perito Moreno, a melting glacier. Los Glaciares national park covers an area of 500 thousand hectares and features 47 glaciers.
As we arrive in El Chaltén, steppes seem to be replaced by forests. Mountain rise high up into the sky. But the wind stays the same. Tourists love El Chaltén for beautiful nature. Glaciers, mountains, lagoons, waterfalls, and forests. Great temptation to take a walk to. Moreover, you can drink right from a river or a lake.
The further south we get, the worse the weather is. Constant wind, clouds crossing the sky, and cold. There are almost no cars to hitch. But we try our luck still.
Salta, a town hidden in Lerma valley, one of the most fertile and pleasant places in the area. Situated at 1187 meters, its weather is perfect throughout entire year. Hence, tourist industry has been on the rise here. The city is usually overcrowded with tourists all the time.
a is the second largest city in the country. Founded by Jeronimo Luis de Cabrere in 1573, the city was named by Cordoba, Spain. Cordoba in Argentina is the capital of the Cordoba province and also was Argentinian capital two times in its history.
We leave Mendoza for the townso f La Rioja and San Miguel de Tucumán. We are about to hitchhike again. Eventually, a truck driver recommends us to visit the town of Vallecito known mostly for the place called Difunta Correa.
The town is situated on the foothill of the Andes. It is a beautiful oasis made by man thanks to huge irrigation system supported by the rivers of Mendoza and Tunuyan. The town is the gateway into the Pacific Ocean. Climate is very pleasant, wind and rain are seldom here.
Upon several days in the large city of Cordoba we move on. Mendoza is our next stop. Once we find out that a cheap suburb train rides to the small town of Cosquin we take it. Moreover, the train rides in beautiful terrain. Sometimes even Argentinians who travel there with children are quite amazed by the beautiful vistas. They often get off the train at train stations just to buy breakfast. Before our stop, we get off the train by Lago San Roque lake. Opened in 1890,one of the largest submarine sinkholes in the world is the greatest attraction around. Only looking at it one gets scared. We hitchhike our ride from here to Villa Carlos Paz town.
Leaving La Rioja we set out to San Miguel de Tucumán. We wouldn't have even thought that we would visit local folk dance competition.
Posadas is the capital of Misiones province. Before the Jesuites settletd here, the native inhabitants were the Guarani indians. Today, you can see them selling hteir handmade products. The province also features amazing Iguazu waterfalls as well as historic sights such as Ruinas de San Ignacio.
Bariloche is am Argentinian town situated in Rio Negro amidst thousands year old forests, snow capped mountains, and crystal clear lakes. The town is situated within Nahuel Huapi national park (which neighbors the Andes). Local nature gives plenty of oportunity to do many adventurous activities throughout the year. In 2012, Bariloche was declared the capital of adventure tourism and the national town of chocolate in 2015.
Patagonia is a unique place that you will not experience anywhere else, only in the south of Sout...