We were only a week out of Seattle, somewhere on the Oregon Coast, when Shannon had her first panic attack concerning the legendary winds we would encounter in Patagonia. With over 20,000 more miles to go before crossing that bridge she was perhaps getting ahead of herself just a wee bit. For the next year, in almost every Latin American country we passed through, we would discuss whatever breeze was blowing that day and mentally compare it to Patagonia. Nightmares of ferocious winds on the pampas rented a lot of space in our heads.
Jama Pass between Chile and Argentina was cold and lonely, the perfect place to break out the heated vests powered by the bike’s electrical system.
Funny thing, all those miles getting to Patagonia have cured us like smoked hams. Yes, it is windy here but damn if we can be bothered anymore. We shoulder into the gale, burn twice as much fuel, and suck it up. With the fear and worry gone it’s almost kinda fun, “kinda” being the key word.
Much of Peru, Bolivia, and northern Chile were brown and dry. On Ruta 40 in Argentina the spell finally broke and the color green returned to the countryside.
Yum! peanut butter and jelly sammies for lunch.
Once we left Bolivia and entered Chile everything changed: guardrails, convenience stores, indoor heating, drivers that stop for pedestrians, gas stations with gas, hipsters, and even yuppies. The cost of life for us also jumped two-fold, we were definitely back in the developed world.
But also, the population dwindled and empty miles of changing scenery seemed more Tolkien Middle Earth then it did Latin America. My trout radar began picking up signals as we rode, evergreen forests along mountain roads with clear lakes and glacier-fed rivers turned every thought toward catching a Patagonian trout. In Chile I would hit pay dirt.
Argentina runs on meat. Grilling your camp dinner is the norm and campgrounds are hopping on the weekends with Argentinian families out grilling for the day.
Argentinians love to camp and travel. Our camp neighbor was so happy to meet us he called his son in Buenos Aires and handed the phone to Mike so he could chat with him as well.
Outside of Mendoza, Argentina we toured the Laur olive oil estancia and finished the visit with an olive oil tasting. The hearty tasting spread made a satisfying lunch but we drew some strange looks in our weathered riding gear and dusty boot tracks on the pristine floor.
Our guts told us that once we arrived in Chile and Argentina we were almost to Ushuaia. In reality we were a little over half way down the continent of South America with over four thousand miles to go. We increased our daily distances and were easily riding 300 miles a day just to make a tiny headway on the map. By the time we got to the Lake District of Argentina we were smitten with Patagonia. It is green, lush, and wild; it feels like home.
The wind on the Patagonian pampas can be severe in the afternoon. We found an abandoned building on Ruta 40 for a wind free lunch stop.
Entering the Argentine Lakes District of Patagonia was like going home. The climate, the fauna, and the mountains are reminders of what we grew up with. Even the air smells like a day in the Cascade Mountains of our home state, Washington.
Some of the best camping doesn’t cost a dime. We found this secluded spot at the end of an unmarked dirt track. We set the tent on a sandy beach at a bend in a cold and clear creek. The only sign of other visitors was the cow skull hanging off of a stump. Lago Traful, Patagonia, Argentina.
A Sunday ride north of Bariloche, Argentina was deliciously slow paced, warm, and an utterly satisfying way to spend a lazy afternoon.
Since entering Patagonia, we slow down or stop at every bridge to look for trout. None spotted here in Lago Nahuel Huapi but a worthy stop nonetheless. Bariloche, Argentina.
Even the trees need sweaters in Patagonia.