Wednesday 13th July
The Harper Tour Company is open for business. Last night we took Claudia and Alex to the bus terminal so they could begin their cross-country adventure of Chile. They will be experiencing the pleasure of an overnight bus north. It’s a great way to travel as it combines the need to find accommodation and the need to move from point A to point B.
Holly, a friend from Australia, took their place on the futon for the night. She too is starting a South American adventure. She caught the Santiago bus with us and we parted company at the terminal. The people from holidayrent.cl picked us up from the bus terminal and we were introduced to our home for the next seven days.
I haven’t driven a car for five months and jumped into Santiago traffic sitting on the wrong side of the car. The world would be a better place if every one was right hand drive. We managed to fall off our map and did a quick tour of Santiago before Talluah navigated us to the highway.
We were surprised at the number of tolls you have to pay before you even get to the Andes. The police were stopping every car to make sure they had cadenas (snow chains). We had hired a set just in case but made it through the pass without any troubles. The night before, there was a big soccer game in Argentina between Chile and Argentina. There was a queue of cars, all driven by soccer fans, stretching several kilometres trying to get back into Chile. We were one of the five cars exiting the country. We made it through in thirty minutes. I imagine that the soccer fans would have had plenty of time to build snowmen while they waited their turn.
We stayed in Uspallata for the night and snuggled in while the cold 3 degree wind blew in from the Andes. We didn’t dress properly for the cold and the middle of the night the kids needed warming up. Truce snuggled in with Talluah and I bunked with Indiana. I think tomorrow night we’ll be wearing our puffer jackets to bed.
Thursday 14th July
Uspallata is cold in winter. Lesson learned. We decided to take the scenic way to San Juan. Scenic is code for: the really long way with lots of twisty roads that mean you can only average 60km/h. We did see lots of amazing scenery but we only have seven days to do a lot of driving.
The speed limit in Argentina is 80km/h. Something we didn’t take into consideration when we were planning this trip. Something to also consider is that many of the roads involve going up through ranges and this means you can only average about 60-70km/h. This makes a 370 kilometre trip very long.
Half way to San Juan, via the scenic way, a warning light lit up and buzzed.
Which warning light?
The one that looks like a flat tyre.
Half way into day two of our great road trip we had a flat tyre, no phone reception, no idea how far till the next town, a good idea how far we were from the previous town and sunset was approaching. The campervan has two jacks, neither was strong enough to lift the vehicle. Luckily a vehicle stopped to help us and with his jack and our two we managed to get the van high enough so we could dig out under the tyre and change it. This added to our journey and we didn’t arrive into San Juan until well after dark. After witnessing our first robbery we decided to drive on to the next town to camp.
Perhaps now is the time to mention that we are doing this trip with the road map from our Lonely Planet book. Which is one page with major highways.
We drove through San Juan and camped in Caucete, ten degrees warmer than last night but unfortunately we had parked under a tree and apparently 270 birds that get enough fibre.
Friday 15th July
We picked up a few tourist maps in Barreal and Talluah (our navigator) had a minor heart attack before I told her the map wasn’t to scale. The tourist map makes it look like we drove the long way round. One of the towns which looks large on three of our maps turned out to be a phone tower and ten houses. I don’t know how far people have to drive to do their weekly shopping.
We arrived at Ischigualasto National Park at four o’clock. Wikipedia link. This is our destination. 915 kilometres from Santiago. The last town before Ischigualasto is San Agustin and it is in the aptly named Valle Fértil. After miles of brown trees we suddenly found ourselves staring at green hills.
After a few days of windy dusty towns we were all in great need of a good hot shower.
We do have one in the camper but it’s quite small, so we were very pleased with the camping facilities at Ischigualasto, hot and cold showers, powered sights and Wi-Fi. Not bad considering we are in the middle of enormous valley where dinosaurs once roamed 150 million years ago. We were all treated to the simple beauty of the sun setting over the hills and the stunning full moon rising over the Pampean Hills.