I remember in yesterday’s blog that I predicted that today would be a slightly more interesting drive than the last, and I think that in retrospect, this has definitely been the case! The day didn’t start out particularly well as we found out that our camera had been robbed from our hotel room, most likely when we were out for dinner the night before. As such, we were late leaving in the morning as we searched high and low for it, and quizzed the hotel’s staff as to whether anyone had heard anything.
Fortunately, we didn’t have many photos that were lost, and Chris and Cynthia had very kindly offered the use of their camera for the remainder of the trip. However, it is a waste of money and a serious annoyance, and much as we wanted to stay for longer to file a police report we couldn’t. So long as everyone is still healthy and the car is still working, we can’t let anything stop us keeping to schedule and getting to Ushuaia on time, and as such, we had to push on.
However, just a few moments into the drive we had forgotten about the morning’s disappointment as we were engulfed in the most incredible scenery! Despite the cold, wet and grey weather, what we could see was still pretty incredible. It felt like we were driving through the set of Jurassic Park or something; the lushest vegetation we had seen yet spread out from the road, and amid the myriad lakes, huge mountains stood tall while waterfall after waterfall gushed from their snowcaps. It was a shame about the weather, but nonetheless it was a drive containing some of the most incredible views!
This amazing drive continued as we wound our way up into the Andes mountains, with each turn of the twin motor configuration bring us that bit closer to the Argentine border. As a point to note, while Argentina is our final country, it’s not the last border. In order to get to Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego, one has to cross back into Chile and then back into Argentina. Nonetheless, when we reached the border hut on the Chilean side located at 1,400m above sea level, we were very excited to be finally getting into Argentina after nearly 2 years of dreaming, thinking and planning! We just needed to negotiate the border…
We have never had any problems getting out of a country (with the exception of Mexico) and fortunately this was the case today whereby our passports were quickly stamped and we were free to drive off towards the Argentinian side. However, before we left a coach driver approached us and told us of an obstruction further down the road which the SRZero would definitely not be able to pass. Apparently there was a big ditch crossing the road which was filled with water, and that his coach could barely get across. How were we going to manage this one?
The border posts between the 2 countries are separated by a 44km road, and we were told that at the 22km post we would encounter this obstacle. We were not particularly worried as we knew we would make a plan if the situation was bad enough, and so until then, we enjoyed the drive. For the first time on the entire trip, we were driving amid some snow! Lining the road were patches of snow, and some of them pretty deep! This raised the much bigger question of if there’s snow up here, is it going to be even worse down south?? It certainly was very cold…
Anyway, the 22km mark was approaching, and our focus shifted to the obstacle which revealed itself just around a corner. We could see how a coach would have had problems as the ditch was perhaps 1 metre deep and 10 metres long, but as the SRZero has such a comparatively short wheelbase, it could just drive down and up without any problems. It brought to mind the hundreds of times that people said a certain feature of this project was impossible; be it building the SRZero in the first place, or driving across Alaska, making through Mexico alive, or surviving the Central American onslaught of rain. While such advice should certainly be considered and respected, very often the best way to do things is to just check it out for yourself!
Next up, 22km later, was the Argentine border post, and by now the rain was really coming down thick and fast! As such, Nik and Sebastian who were driving the SRZero were very happy to get out of the car and into the warm which the rest of us sorted out the documents. In summary, this was the most painless border we have ever had. We had our passports stamped, we showed the car documents to a big Argentinian, he punched some info into a commuter, gave us a piece of paper to sign, and that was it! We were driving out of the border post less than 45 minutes after arriving, and this was a veritable record! A big thanks to Argentinian customs for making our lives so easy!
The rest of the drive down into Argentina was equally spectacular, yet different in so many ways. The lush vegetation was gone, but huge lakes and mountains stood in their place in a way which was not the case in Chile. It was colder, wetter and windier than anything we had experienced yet on the trip, yet the car continued to speed along towards San Carlos de Bariloche. After a little bit of confusion as to where our hotel was, we found it with the help of the owner who came out to meet us, and soon after we were in the beautiful hotel complex.
It was actually a collection of ski-style chalets located right on the shores of a lake and in full view of the mountains, and very unlike the traditional hotels we had become accustomed to. Upon arriving, Nik and Sebastian ran inside in the search of a hot shower, and Toby, Clemens and I set the car up for charging and inspected the car after this rather brutal day. Everything was in order, and we soon retreated to our cabin to shelter from the horrible weather, and to mentally prepare ourselves for what was to come.
Vegetarians are advised to stop reading now!
We had been dreaming about having an Argentinian steak for a long time now. In fact, I had pretty much abstained from any serious quantity of red meat for the last month or so in view of the fact that I wanted to fully savour the taste of a true Argentinian steak! And, being as we were now in Argentina for the first time, we were hellbent on getting that steak. On the recommendation of the hotel owner, we went to a place in town which was well known for their half kilo steaks, and this is what we were preparing for!
I can’t go into too much food detail as it may very well result in local flooding due to excess salivation, but I can tell you that it was delicious! Accompanied with the huge steak was a salad of equal size, and while it wasn’t as filling as we might have expected, the quality was certainly excellent. With dinner over and another day of driving ahead, we hastened back to the hotel for some sleep.
A quick point about how many days driving left. Yesterday I said we had 7 days of driving until we hit Ushuaia, but this has been revised to add one more day to cover a leg which was particularly long. As such, NOW we have 7 days left!