Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 2)

Villarica’s peak still puffed white smoke into the chilly early morning air as we prepared our bikes for the first real riding of the journey to the Fin del Mundo; the end of the earth.  Both Kim and I were quite excited to get under way and I was quite impatient to get started.  Gear sorted on our rented BMW F650GS twins we rolled out of the parking lot, puffs of steam from our mouths in the cold Chilean air replicating the puffs of smoke from Villarica.  Today we would have a short hop on pavement but would soon be on the gravel and headed towards our first border crossing into Argentina.  Our trip would take us across the Argentine and Chilean borders several times, but that was part of the fun for this trip.

By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.

As we made our way on smooth pavement, we were greeted by green scenery and farms of various sizes.  Flowers and plants were in full bloom even though it was November.  Getting used to all the rich colors of flowers took some getting used to.  Where we had come from, the bright color palette of many different flowers and plants had long since dwindled to browns and greys in anticipation of the upcoming cold New Hampshire winter.  But here, the flowers and plants were just reaching their stride, full blooms with bright colors reached towards the sun as if summer would never end.  Already, our surrounding environment had us wishing this journey would never end.

The day took on a bit more overcast look as we approached the Argentine border.  To match the darkening skies, the road conditions changed from smooth pavement to rough and loose gravel.  It became quite apparent that we were approaching some mountains and we’d be riding through the mountains on gravel roads.  The surface was fairly good but quite dusty.  Clouds of dust rose quickly and obscured vision if we rode too closely together.  We decided to give each other a fair amount of spacing since we wanted to be able to see the sights as we trundled along the gravel.

After about an hour of riding, we found our first new experience in the form of the Monkey Puzzle Tree.  A cross between what appeared to be a cactus and a Douglas Fir tree, the Monkey Puzzle tree was indeed a bit of a puzzle.  Thick spiny needles protruded from branches and trunk of the young trees.  Mature trees were over 75 feet tall with very large green spines.  They were indeed puzzling, were they cacti or trees?  Well they were trees and they were quite cool.  Apparently the locals thought so as well since the roads were sometimes split by them with each lane going on either side of the tree.

Riding sometimes steep climbs and descents, we winded our way over and around these gravel mountain roads.  Beautiful scenery passed us by on both sides of the road.  Mountains surrounded us as we wended our way through forests in uninhabited areas for many miles.

Having ridden three hours on gravel, suddenly, as if someone had just turned on a pavement machine, we were off the gravel and on pavement.  It was not long before we began to see small farms with livestock and signs of people.  It was not long before we arrived in the town of San Martin de Los Andes.  San Martin de Los Andes sat near the base of the Andes and the rim of a large beautiful lake.  It had a bit of a tourist feel to it and as a result, had all the amenities of a small city.  Stores, restaurants, banks, cars, busses etc. were all present.  It had a true hustle and bustle feel.  A tiny city connected only by gravel roads on both ends.  We made use of the ATM to pick up some Argentine currency and were quickly on our way.

Before we knew it, we were off the paved roads and back on the gravel and in the isolation of the Andes.  Once again climbing and descending, we rounded a corner and entered a flat area and there it was in front of us, Lanin, another active volcano.  Capped in snow it appeared as a stone giant dominating the skyline.  As Kim rode by, I could see just how big and powerful Lanin was.  Although Kim projects a strong and powerful presence, her form was overwhelmed and overcome by the sheer size of Lanin.  As she got closer to the monolith, Kim appeared to quickly vanish into the background of Lanin’s might; it was a quick lesson in humility of humankind versus nature.

Shortly after passing Lanin we arrived at the Argentine border where we met with a somewhat of a delay.  We spent over 3 hours at the border straightening out paperwork, but ultimately were able to clear the Aduana (Customs) and get underway.  This was to be our only delay at Customs for the entire trip, so we considered ourselves very lucky to cross as many borders as we did with only one significant delay.

With the border crossed and three hours lost, we had made it into Argentina with a wide open eyes and empty stomachs.  Happy faces searched the roadsides for signs of civilization and a place to eat, because by this time we were pretty hungry.  As we rode along, we noticed a string of roadside stands.  Hmm…  could this be a place to eat?

We pulled off the road and did a little investigating.  Yes indeed, some of the stalls had food and we were in for a treat.  One of the stands sold empanadas.  If you have not had an Argentine empanadas, you are really missing something.  They are pastries filled with meats such as pork, beef and chicken as well as cheese.  They are amazing!

In addition to this delicious food, we were treated to even more.  It turns out that our cooks consisted of three generations of women who had been cooking empanadas at the roadside in this very stall.  The matriarch of the family was Aurelia and although my Spanish is poor, we chatted a bit about her empanadas stand and how long she’d been there.  She even brought out a magazine article in which she and her family were showcased for their longevity and the deliciousness of  their empanadas.  Well we’re here to tell you that they deserved every bit of print they received and we’ve yet to find empanadas anywhere near as good as the ones we had at Aurelia’s little roadside stand in Argentina.

We still had a fair amount of riding to do for the day, but we’ll tell you about that in Part 3.

One response

  1. Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist

    What a fantastic trip. Love the trees in the roadway. Good to see they have their priorities straight.

    Like

    August 3, 2012 at 12:50 am

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