Route 40, Argentina

It takes 25 hours to get from El Chaltén to Bariloche by bus. Almost 1500 km. I opted to split it into a two-day bus journey.

Two French girls (Anne and Louise) who were staying at my dorm in El Chaltén gave me the details, as they went the other way – the road is beautiful, but the scenery gets samey. Also, most of the road is unpaved.

They were certainly right. Route 40 is legendary for its barren nothingness. That is no understatement – there is barely anything around, not even little towns or gas stations. We couldn’t make rest stops for food just because there weren’t any places around. Given that I didn’t bring anything other than half a sandwich and an apple with me, that didn’t bode too well for me…

The first day was 13 hours of nothing but flat flat flat flat landscape. I spent some time talking to two of the only few travelers from Hong Kong (or of Chinese descent) I’ve ever seen around South America – Sharon and Michelle. (Oh, also – they originally thought I was Japanese. Whaa?) We all came up with reasons why exactly that was the case – they hadn’t seen any travelers from Hong Kong period for the many months they had been here, until they met me (and I sort of don’t count). Work culture? They had both left their jobs to travel.

We parted ways when I got off at my rest stop for the night – the town of Perito Moreno, not to be confused with the glacier. There is absolutely nothing there, it’s almost comical. I always hate to give flack to any place, but maybe it was the hour I arrived… Barely any restaurants around, even fewer open, and a single grocer that didn’t even sell bread.

Another 800 km to go on the bus the next day… but at least it was a little easier, as more of the road was paved, and we were approaching civilisation (read: more towns, more rest stops). The scenery started out the same as before, but after passing the turnoff to the town of Esquel, the changes were sudden. The flatness and brush gave way to mountains, trees, and lakes – scenery that reminded me of home. It’s something that’s nagging me now – I really haven’t explored the area where I’m from! I’ll really have to do it someday, but it’s so simple just to say, “Oh, I’m from there, I can do it anytime” and put it off indefinitely…

After another 13 hours on the bus, I finally arrived in Bariloche, and checked into a hostel in a penthouse of an apartment building – recommended to me by Andrew, Cindy (way back in Ushuaia), and some girl who randomly raved about it to me in Buenos Aires. Beautiful view of the city and the lake, with the sunset coming in. The story continues immediately from here, but I’ll leave that for the next entry…

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