Paso Vargara to Chile

The Municipal Campground in Malargüe is quieter than anticipated. What I didn’t anticipate is the 31st annual Festival de Chivo happening while we were in town. The campground residents are quiet, but the music blasts next door.

We share our space with two Chilenos out on a trip. Nancho teaches grade school and has a 90 year old mother. His cousin Miguel hauls produce by truck around the country. They ask about Donald Trump. We say we didn’t vote for him. They say he will be bad for Latin America. We don’t disagree, and stumble on, trying to have a complex conversation in Spanish. It mostly works and we move on to other topics. They give us Chilean wine in a bottle with a label in Chinese. It’s the best in the world they say.

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Morning comes too soon. We decide today will be a half day, passing the afternoon in the shade, only leaving late in the day to find a place to sleep. I ask at a small finca if we can set up our tent. The Abuela says yes, and so we do, only hindered by two small puppies intent on climbing in with us.

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We compromise, and I fall asleep with a puppy pile by my head. They stay there all night.

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The road in the morning is covered in goat tracks. We follow them up into the mountains.

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The road surface is good, the grade reasonable but the wind not. Today it’s blowing in the wrong direction. I get off my bike, hunker down beside it and walk. There’s no other way.

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Flowers and green things abound. Water pours out of the ground and rushes down. It’s clear and cold. We soak our feet and have an afternoon wine.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

It almost looks like home, except there are no alders.

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Then press on, finding a calm home for the night.

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We descend to the mighty Rio Grande. At first the valley is wide, offering little protection. Dust devils engulf me, then move on. I get an exfoliation free of charge.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

Then it narrows and we go up.

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I watch the clouds build all night. Later, rain drops wake us up. We scramble to put on the tent fly. The wind still blows. In the morning the rain has turned to snow and hail. We dig out long forgotten layers, pack up and press on.

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The Argentinian immigration official greets us, as do 20 geologists from the University of Wisconsin and one cyclist from Belgium. The official tells us we can’t proceed because of the weather, but even when pressed, he doesn’t offer us a warm place to stay inside. We press back and they relent, stamping our passports and allowing us to go. It’s too cold to stand around outside.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

The Chilean immigration post is 16 kilometers away. We go there, and are offered a place to stay, wifi and water. Tyndall tells them they have a much nicer building than the Argentinians. They say it is called Progress.

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The sun is out and the road goes down. We head on.

Where we rode: Malargüe – Los Queñes – Romeral via Paso Vargara

Route notes from Andes by Bike, except we went straight west from Malargüe on a dirt road instead of going to Bardas Blancas on pavement, then turning west.

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