Travelling up Route 40 deserves mention in itself.
This part of my trip is the most unplanned and, to an extent, each day comes as it comes. Not to worry though, furnished with an introduction of Argentinian roads from 11.2, I have studied the propaganda and found a few places worth visiting along this route..
On the other side of my window seat has mostly been a barren landscape, stretching for miles until reaching the mountain range. Many times it has been more like a desert with nothing but vast, utter openness, save some shrubs, and hills on the horizon. I could probably count on one hand the other vehicles we see every six hours.
Taking this long road by bus necessitates pit stops along the way, and this leads me to the peculiar establishments that reside by the roadside..
There have been several ‘cafe-cum-hotel-cum-service station’s which have an eerie feel similar to that League of Gentlemen scene about the “Local shop for Local people”
(see link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meF7NmfnXZ0)
The places are desolate, and would seem fit as locations in a horror movie. In one, there was a skinned wolf on the wall, and framed homages to past Wild West bandits: Butch Cassidy, the Sun dance Kid etc.
Locals in these communities must spend their lives serving tourists in 15 minute episodes, but still appear suspicious whenever they begin to wander through the front door.
These stationary points are every 3-4 hours on the bus journeys, and we are mobile in between on a combination of tarmac and unpaved surface. Mounds of gravel often serve as roadblocks where the work is incomplete, and the heavy machinery is often visible by the side of route.
It was therefore pleasing to reach the town of Perito Moreno (namesake of 11.2.1) in one piece.
Not possible to reserve ahead, it was a case of finding somewhere to stay once I arrived. The only place with rooms was warm in temperature (due to housing a family of smokers), but frosty in reception: “No breakfast. No internet. No cooking facilities. There’s your bed.”
With no other option I sucked it up and got on the top bunk and waited til morning.
During the night, it was as if the guy in the bunk below me had smuggled a piglet into the room and was methodically undertaking the process of strangling it; such was the extraordinary melody of squeals, hoots and wheezes he was producing as he obliviously snored through the early hours. The rest of the dorm were all tearing their hair out at the prevention of sleep.
The morning was spent doing the rounds of the Perito Moreno tour agencies, and I eventually confirmed a trip to 11.4.1 in the morning. With that I then had the day to kill in the town, and soon discovered the dearth of activities there.
Tourist Information suggested I visit the Laguna, and perhaps it’s because I have seen many beautiful lakes recently, that this one didn’t quite match up (see photo). So I circumferenced the town, nipped to the bakery and settled down in the park to pass the hours.
On return from the Cave, I was dropped at the bus terminal with two other guys (one German, one Argentinean who lived in Italy) and we had a good chat waiting for the bus that was due in a couple of hours. However 18.30 came and went, and we eventually embarked at just gone midnight.
Despite this extended 6 hours, conversation never ebbed and after finding our seats a half-decent night’s sleep was achieved. After another unexplained break on its outskirts, we finally arrived in Bariloche at 13.30.