March 20 to April 30, 2010
The return to the Andes of Argentina was quite a distance from Uruguay. It would be about around 500 miles to get there. But the biggest problem of getting to the Andes was going to be getting Paco fixed up for more ripio(gravel/dirt) roads. After inspecting all the hoses and rubber boots I discovered that replacement was going to be necessary again before I subjected Paco to more dirt. I had purchased the replacement parts in Uruguay, now I just needed some place to do this work. I needed to replace a boot on the rack and pinyon steering geer, and another boot on the rear left trans axle, I also had another CV joint, just in case the one had been ruined buy too much dirt already.
The second part of this section was traveling the spine or (near the spine) of the Andes from near San Rafael to San Carlos de Bariloche. This would take us along Ruta 40 south through the cities of Malargue, Chos Malal, Zapala, Junin de Los Andes, San Martin de los Andes, ending at Bariloche. The side trips into the Andes would include many miles of unpaved roads, to the lakes and rivers that we wanted to see and fish. I had a license for fishing all the Patagonia area. We would enter the huge National park of Lanin, and Nahuel Huapi National Park. This would entail about 1500+ miles of all kinds of roads and beautiful campgrounds. We actually spent a full month of winding our way through this magnificent country. The one thing that we didn't expect, because we just didn't think of it was the weather. April(so this would be like our late Sept./October) in the austral hemisphere is fall. OHHHH, we were also traveling south. So we had frost and some rain and got a eye full of the change of colors of the various leaves of the trees. We fortunately didn't get snowed on but were close enough a few places to see up the slopes where snow had fallen.
We decided to drive back to the coast where it was warmer and followed the Limay the the Nequen river and finally the Rio Negro river but Paco had another alternator problem, which delayed us another day in Bariloche.
The first part of this section was litterly taken up by the gracious backyard mechanics of Mariano and Jorge. We spent 5 days in Mariano's back yard, in Rosario. Replacing boots, and CV joints, and thankfully a full break job.. We met Mariano and his girlfriend in a campground just outside of Victoria, Argentina. They were among 25 or more Jeep club members that were on an outing. Mariano came over to our camp and introduced himself, with broken English. Before too long the whole group was over looking at Paco and all the stuff inside. I told Mariano that I needed a garage that could help me fix the boots, he said that he had a friend in Rosario that would help and gave us his phone number to get in contact with him when we got to Rosario. When we got to Rosario we contacted him and after a wonderful 5 days, had new boots, CV joint, new brakes all around and repacked the wheel bearings. We also had good food and Mate. Jorge was the mechanic and Mariano donated his time and huge backyard for the camp and a place to work on Paco.. What a wonderful young man. We had some great times and meals. And Mariano and I had some fun going from shop to shop getting parts and having all the rotors/brake drums resurfaced, while Jorge worked on the transaxel and wheels.. The biggest surprise for me was that the brakes were thread bear only after almost 7,000 miles.. I am so thankful that Jorge found this out when we removed the front wheels to repair the steering boot.
Mariano and his girlfriend Josephina are planning to travel to Mexico for a long trip in his 1946 Jeep.. They didn't expect to get to the US because it is too hard to get permission to enter. I was surprised that we made it so difficult for foreign travelers. So we left with hopes of them being able to make it to the US or we could come down to meet them in Mexico if possible. What a nice bunch of people. All of this was done from the heart. No mention of compensation for all the hours spent on Paco was made. After Karla had her tooth cap glued back on we were off to the Andes finally.
The drive across the Pampa was flat and long, we saw field after field of Soy, and corn all in the beginnings of being harvested. It took us three days to cross visiting the pampa city of Bernardo Larruoude, and the River camp at Atuel , then finally the Municiple camp at Malargue. We drove to the Ski area of La Lena. And then drove to a small little valley Hermosa just on the other side of the mountain on a very steep ripio road. What a great night on a small little lake just under the peaks of La Lena. We watched the full moon rise to actually say we are finally in the mountains... I fished in the lake with little luck the next morning.
The time and days went by quickly as we then traveled, fished and camped on Rivers and Lakes. Rio Grande, Rio Alumine, Lago Alumine, Lago Rucachoroi. We met some Argentines and Swiss along the way. Always willing to help and suggest other places to go and see. One Argentine, gave us a beautiful 2 lb brook trout. After about 6 days we finally got to Junin de los Andes. This is a terrific little town, that is the Capital of trout fly fishing in this province of Patagonia. We found a nice campground in the city and used it for a couple of days. We then went up to the Chilian/Argentine boarder and fish lake Tromen, rio Malleo, and then lago Huchulafquen, and the rio Chimihue. I was not having any luck fishing so took a lesson from a well known Local. He gave me some tips and helped me with my very bad cast. I caught two fish during the lesson.. YESSSS. They were only small 5=6 inchers... We then scheduled a day of fishing on the Rio Collon Cure. I caught one really nice rainbow and had a couple of nice size hits on this all day river float.
We continued south to Lago Curruhue Grande, it began to rain and the wind came up. Juan, my casting instructor told us of a nice place to fish on the lake... What a beautiful camp. And the high mountains had just a touch of red from the Lenga trees beginning to change color. While eating dinner that night an Argentine camped near us came over and gave us 5 nice size Brooke trout... the following morning he gave us five more.. Oh dear, he had to many and was way over his limit. Now we were in possession of over our limit also... I was upset at being dumped on but happy to eat these beauties... What a delema..
We made it to San Martin de los Andes and found a campground in town.. I set up the parrilla and karla cut the potatoes and onions/garlic and boy did we have a fish barbeque... MMMM. It was raining and cold... We had had frost the last couple of nights and had used cardboard boxes to insulate the poptop canvas.. It seemed to be working quite well. But we needed more heat, so we bought a space heater, and cord. This saved the day, for the next week. While fishing the Seven Lakes trail and Bariloche. While at Campgound Petunia in Bariloch, we took a trip to the small little park of Arranya trees(myrtle wood) on an all afternoon boat ride on Lago Nuhue Haipe.
We discovered a parrilla restaurante that was mentioned in an article in the Outside magazine, along the Limay river. We were going to follow the Limay river out of the Andes and go to the Atlantic coast. After a wonderful Sunday afternoon Befe lomo and befe Chorizo we headed up the hill. The light on the Alternator showed up and that ment only one thing..... we had to get it fixed. So back to Campground Petunia. We found an Electrical mechanic the next morning and by early that evening the alternator was rebuilt with a new insides and bearings... good conversation and lots of Mate made for a fun repair.
So we were on our way down the Limay river, which is supposed to have the largest brown trout in the world on it. A fellow a couple of weeks before had caught a 15lb on just a couple of miles from the mouth. So, with my new skills refined and knowledge of what and how to get my line out there, I was pumped. I fished and caught a small rainbow that following morning. Frost on the ground car... A couple of more days of this and I did have a nice one on my line but it broke the line... I had a 12lb line so what does that mean... We continued on down the Limay, with a short trip up to Traful again, a small little Swiss like town on the Traful lake with scenic mountains all around. We then came onto the Collon Cure River that I had fished on the week before. We found a nice place off the road and I caught three really nice 2-3 lb rainbows. Finally,,, Spent one more night in Junin, at Laura Vicuna campground.
Here it was the end of April and we were on our way out of the Andes to visit the Laguana Blanca National Park, just outside the city of Zapala. Our last view of the Andes and some great birding on the lake. We free camped and got told the next morning that we had to leave, it was an illegal camp, opps.
The Andes of Argentina were so beautiful, this will be a part of our adventures here in South America that will have a special place in our hearts for years to come.