Argentina One, Part One: Crossing the Andes

After climbing all the way from the Pan-American and Osorno in Chile, and after exiting Chile, we were still climbing with the Argentinian Immigration offices nowhere in sight. For maybe 15 or 20 miles we enjoyed the thought that we don’t exist, at least not legally, anywhere on the planet. As we were climbing into the snowy peaks it also hit me that we were finally entering Patagonia, and with a name like that I was fully prepared to completely fall in love with the region.

From Leaving Chile and Entering Argentina
From Leaving Chile and Entering Argentina

At some point we crossed the pass, and started going down. After thousands of miles of riding on the Western slopes of the Andes we were finally riding on its East. A few miles later we reached the immigration offices.

Crossing into Argentina from Chile is way more pleasant than the other way around. They are not interested in whether or not you are smuggling an apple into their country. I guess this is just another aspect of what a chill people the Argentinians are. 50 km or so lower we rolled into Villa La Angostura.

Patagonia light

From Leaving Chile and Entering Argentina

In our errands of food shopping and looking for a place to stay I discovered that I didn’t understand the people, and they didn’t understand me. If a year ago I would ask how do I get to the “vila” (phonetically), and by now I knew enough to ask how do I get to the “Viya,” I now had to drop everything I learned and say “Visha” if I wanted to be understood. It would take a while.

We later learned that the villa is a summer vacation spot for rich Argentinians. Naturally, then, we could not find a hotel in our budget. We rode through town till we got to a residential area and asked people who were standing next to a house if we could camp on their lawn. They said no. I smiled, said thanks anyway, and started to get back on the bike when they came walking to me and said that of course we could camp on their lawn. I guess that in this situation we have no choice but to approach people as strangers, though if we handle ourselves humanly, by the time we finish asking we are no longer strangers, and the people we ask feel like they know us, even after a short exchange, which allows them to change their minds. We were hoping they would invite us to shower but they didn’t get our gentle hints, and we had to remind ourselves not to be greedy. They offered their lawn to us, which was wonderful. Nobody owes us anything. Whatever we get is an act of generosity, which we always need to remind ourselves not to expect.

dinner

From Leaving Chile and Entering Argentina

home sweet home

From Leaving Chile and Entering Argentina

The next morning we rode into the center of town, to the chocolate shop. We discovered it in the previous evening, but the line was so long that we just sampled the free samples. The same was true in the morning, so we just helped ourselves for some more amazing samples. Erika was in heaven.

Hello beautiful

From Leaving Chile and Entering Argentina

bliss

From Leaving Chile and Entering Argentina

We got on the bikes and started descending towards Bariloche. The road was stunning. We kept riding on the shores of bluish and sometimes turquoise lakes (which were really one big lake masquerading as many) with snowy peaks in the background.
We desperately needed an oil change. We didn’t do it in Santiago because a liter was $16 there. Here, to our delight, though after two or three hours of searching, we found the same oil to be $8 a liter. Five liters meant $40 saved. It’s true that it cost us an entire afternoon, but we are now in a place where we have plenty of time and a limited supply of money, and our trip would not be possible if it wasn’t for these decisions.

From Bariloche, Argentina

After buying the oil we had to change it. This is a process that we’ve done many times, and is really not worth mentioning. In fact the only reason I mention it here is for the sake of Erika’s satisfaction and my humility, for something happened in the process that serves well both. In order to get the old oil out from the bike, one needs, among other things, to remove the sump plug on the bottom of the bike. This plug, at least on the BMW, is a poorly designed 24mm bolt that needs to be tight and yet has a very low profile, so that, if you are on the road and don’t carry a socket wrench you are bound to struggle with a 24 open wrench that will slip off the too-flat bolt. In other words, I couldn’t get the damn thing loose. My wrench, though relatively long, proved to be too short. What I needed was something to bang it with. Seeing no rocks around, I grabbed the only thing in sight that seemed hard enough—a wine bottle we still had from a winery in Chile. You know how an egg is fragile from the sides but strong if you press it from top to bottom? Well, I figured the same was true with bottles of wine—the only way I saw them break in 31 years of seeing them break was from their side. Never from the bottom. So naturally I struck the wrench with the bottom of a nice bottle of wine.

The next thing I knew wine was mixing with grease, everything smelt good, and Erika was laughing so hard that she was barely able to get in the words “you are such an idiot” and “I will always remind you of this whenever you criticize me doing something silly.”
The oil was changed, the sun was setting, and we put everything back on our bikes, including a nice red Chilean Malbec stored in a box of orange juice, and went in search for a camping site we read about.

the scene of the crime

From Bariloche, Argentina

damn you Yaniv

From Bariloche, Argentina


From Bariloche, Argentina

When we finally found it we discovered it hadn’t been a camping site for years, and when we found another one we discovered they wanted $25 per person. We were discouraged, cold, hungry, and desperately in need of a shower (our last one was in Santiago, five or six night ago). We started to ask people outside their homes.

From Bariloche, Argentina
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