We left pristine and tidy San Martin to head to Mendoza a couple of days ago. The total drive is 1400km on so once again we arm ourselves with fresh music and podcasts and we set off. On a whim we decided not to take Routa 40, the national highway that runs parallel to the Argentine – Chilean border, but rather take Routa 23 and explore the Mapuche villages on the foots of the Andes…
As we left San Martin that afternoon, the landscape changed again. Small, wavy green hills and a plethora of rivers. Wooden huts like the ones we saw in Chiloe, gravel roads running through small shanty villages. As the sun sets We decide to overnight next to Rio Alumine, tucked away in a fishing spot only to realise the next day that we have probably parked next to the local fishermens’ loo. “FFS”.
We venture further north on Routa 23 to Villa Pehuenia located meters from the border. The guide claims that there are breathtaking views of volcanos from the top of the large volcano the Mapuche charge 60Arg to access. It’s hazy that day and very windy. Huge scrub fires over the border full the skies with a heavy pall. I stay in the car absorbed in my book, Andy runs crater lake to summit and back in 30′ and reports that the view was so poor he did not take the camera out. “FFS”. The rest of the day is spent driving in gravel road, listening to Dan Carling’s account of World War 1 and looking for the perfect sacred tree of the Mapuche to photograph.
Day 3 finds us in Los Lajas, the cleanest municipal camping site we have come across to date. A group of locals clean the bathrooms twice daily and water the small patch of grass. By now we are back on paved Routa 40 still heading north. We pass only a couple of other cars and delve deeper into the details of World War 1. The landscape is now barren, we are in the desert with the Andes looming high on our left.
Today is Day 4. Routa 40 is now gravel road and the landscape changes once again as we drive through the Parque Provincial Payunia; a 4,500sq km reserve with over 800 volcanos. “This is bonkers”says Andy “look at the colours”. The two hour long drive takes us twice as much as Andy stops to take pictures every 500m or so. “Did you not just shoot that?”, obviously me. “Yes but look at the light, it just changed”.