Wow! We have had an amazing few days. Our two long days of driving were adventurous and spectacular. The roads north through Argentina were a mix of paved and rough gravel road, but not bad at all.
Our first night we headed to Cueva de Las Manos, cave of the hands. It was past closing time when we arrived and the website stated no camping, but there was no where to get out of the wind, so we asked at the park office if we could camp there the night. Under the circumstances they agreed to allow us to camp in the parking lot. The guides were so nice and accommodating allowing us to use their kitchen and eat inside. The winds picked up, and so they invited us to sleep inside. We had a really awesome evening hanging out with them all.
The next morning Carolina took us for a tour of the caves. The caves are situated in a stunning canyon. The cave paintings have been dated to 8 million years. They consist mostly of hand prints, but also have pictures of Guanachos, Guanacho foot prints, and other animals. The paintings are like a geneology of families, as the clans would gather and all place their hand prints on the cave walls during ceremonies.
There are several crossings that you can take from Argentina into Chile to meet up with the Carrera Austral. We were going to take a lower crossing said to be a more rugged crossing, however Mike had some concerns about the vehicle. Also, we had heard the crossing at Chile Chico was incredible, so we decided to opt for the later, and we were so happy that we did.
Once again we were at a loss of words to describe the scenery we drove through. Those of you, who know Mike well, also know that every few months he comes across a word that he likes and then uses all the time. Well his word at the moment is “epic”, and I must say it is more than appropriate. I heard “epic” many times during that drive and a quite a few awesome, holy s’s, OMG’s and OMB’s escaped our lips. Then we were both silent and just made primitive “ahhh’s and “ohhh’s”. We also stopped taking photos realizing that this too could not capture the shear beauty.
The road itself was dirt and “rippo”, with potholes and many rivets. It followed the edge of Lago Tranquillo ( Lake Tranquil) with huge drop offs of 200 or more meters. We were lucky to meet very few vehicles coming the other way.
The border crossing itself was the most thorough one we have experienced to date. We had to remove our bags from the car to have them x-rayed. The customs officer went through all our boxes, fridge and even climbed on the roof to inspect our rooftop lock box. She was very nice and we got the all clear, as we had already handed in our remaining fresh fruit, and had no dairy products.
Chile is concerned about fruit insects and other diseases that may enter the country from Argentina. They have already lost quite a few of their grape vines this way, which has impacted their wine industry. As Australians we are use to strict customs restrictions, so it is more understanding what is acceptable and what isn’t.
It was exciting when the adjoining road finally met the Carrera Austral. We have heard so much about this area, and it had been one of the main attractions for us when we first started planning the trip. Even so, neither Mike nor I had looked at any images of what we might see. We were pleasantly surprised when the scenery continued to be “epic”.
We reunited with Carina and Kaj at Cochrane, sharing stories about our border crossings.
Keira was excited to once again have cats and dogs at our camping area. She was elated to have chickens running through the campsite and some baby chicks too. We have re-named Keira the “animal whisperer”, as she attracts animals of all varieties that instantly take a liking to her.
We stayed 2 nights in Cochrane, resting after 2 long days of driving, resourcing our supplies, doing some washing and general maintenance
I think there is one misconception that people have of “an overland adventure”; you aren’t really on “vacation” as such. You still have to do the daily chores of washing dishes, washing clothes, preparing meals, car maintenance, cleaning and tidying up. Quite often these tasks are done in less than adequate conditions including freezing rain, blowing winds and with freezing water. However, we are still doing this in another country and getting to experience cool stuff during the other times. And when the weather and location are perfect, these things are not really chores at all.
I say this as I sit in a camp chair overlooking a lake, with the mountain vista, clear skies, sun and no wind (the first time in months). Not a bad living room!
We have decided to add a new page to our website: a “kids page”, as Keira has become more interested in telling people her stories and sharing her photos. Look for it soon.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: hot water bottle again; good brakes and the car in general as it allows us so much freedom
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- having a “few” drinks with the female guides at Cueva de Las Manos; Keira- seeing and touching an armadillo/going to the caves/playing with the guards cat; Riss- the border crossing at Chile Chico/hanging out with the guides at Cueva de Las Manos
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike- getting pooped and pee’d on by an armadillo; Keira- the long drives- feeling car sick on the curvy roads; Riss- absorbing the beauty and trying to file away those mental images and feelings; washing clothes in freezing water
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- finding bacon in the store, Keira- finding marshmallows in Cochrane; Riss- cheap coconut milk in supermarket in Cochrane- in Argentina when you can find it, it is $10-20 a can!
BEST CAMPING SPOT: staying with the guides at Cueva de Las Manos
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.