Argentina & Chile,

7th March - 28th March 2010

[16 - End of Gaucho Trail at El León]

  Amigos confined to the dog-box prior to leaving El Leon (Argentina).

On day six, taking in water as we leave the overnight camp on the Rio Manso; View down on the raging waters of the Rio Manso, known for its rafting activities.


Friday 26th March

Relative to the paths we had entered in the Cochamó valley, the path leading up to border at El León was much easier. Under no rush to get there, we set off at 10h00. The weather had been overcast to begin with but it soon cleared. We crossed a number of bridges over the Rio Manso and climbed steadily, by virtue of the fact that we were moving upstream. The Manso river has its glacial origin at the Ventisqueros (where the glacial ice melts) of Mount Tronador then it flows through four lakes crossing the border to Chile, joining the Puelo river, finally draining into the Pacific ocean. From several vantage points, we could clearly see the enticing waters below. The path was extremely well maintained and often ramps of wooden logs has been constructed at steeper inclines. Elena seemed to struggle during the walk, which I had not seen before on the entire trip.

We appeared to leave the Rio Manso momentarily as we clambered up a hillside, passing down through a field where sheep grazed lazily and horses strolled languidly, approaching a farm where Elena conversed with a woman and obtained directions to the Chilean Carabineros post at El León. As we had yet to decide whether we would be camping here for one last night, she was also enquiring as to where we might stay, as a contingency. After crossing a bridge, we reached the building at the top end of a field, a neat construction painted white, the Chilean flag fluttering in the breeze. A child pedalled up and down the field on a bicycle, whilst another played with a small black puppy, drawing Andre's attention. This was followed by perhaps the ultimate irony of the Chilean joke. After chatting to Elena, the border guard entered the building and re-emerged, handing over a freshly baked loaf of bread without accepting a peso for it!  What marvellous generosity, what a simple gesture of humanity and kindness, to a bunch of knackered Gringo Seffricans!


Enjoying the splendour of the Rio Manso from a vantage point above.




Crossing a bridge on a well-maintained path, El Leon drawing ever closer.


Kelson near El Leon and the Chilean frontier to Argentina.

The local schoolmaster arrived and conjured up a plan, offering to take us to the highway between El Bolsón and Bariloche. The girls in the group had had enough and wanted out and an opportunity to freshen up, so a decision was reached. We walked to the school, a relatively new wooden construction and given a quick tour of the place. Despite its apparent remoteness as a location, the large classroom looked like any other and our attention was drawn to the computer in the corner. The professor proudly showed us precisely where the school was located, via a map on the wall. Aware of where we hailed from, as the country about to host the 2010 Futbol Mundial, he pointed to the southern tip of Africa and smiled knowingly. He dismissed a few kids who had remained behind after school and locked up. Walking on past a farms, crossing several bridges, including one large one, crossing over the Rio Manso once more. We reached our intended transport, an extended Ford pick-up, and loaded the rucksacks onto the back.




The final approaching to the Chilean border post at El Leon via farmland.


Crossing via a pasarela near the Chilean Carabineros.


Harald, Ralph and Pedro on the pasarela at El Leon.


The Chilean Carabineros at El Leon.



Andre engages with a little Chilean boy and his puppy dog.

We still had one last piece of ground to cover, one last destination to reach. Walking across a stretch of no-mans land, we eventually reached the Argentinean border post, which also appeared to be a drop-off point for white-water rafting operations, from whom Kelson had originally intended securing our lift, had all else failed. Our trusty professor was determined to get us there, however. We had reached the end of the second leg of our journey, having covered a total of 62.5 km in 6 days since leaving Cochamó. With three of the rucksacks tied onto the roof creating enough space for Ralph, Kelson and I to sit on the rear of the pick-up with the others seated inside, we set off on the dusty road. Following the course of the glistening Rio Manso as the sun penetrated through the dense tall trees of the forest, we held on for dear life on lest we should fall off the back, bouncing around the back. Without any decent padding in the potty department besides Ralph, who claimed he had back problems, the ride was beginning to prove a source of discomfort. Andre had promised us all a beer for our unquestionable sacrifice.

The trip was quite amazing, however. We passed through miles of forest, passing farms and ranches, their signboards indicative of a multitude of rafting and outdoor ventures operating in that region. Majestic views of surrounding mountains provided a stunning backdrop, as we headed away from the Chilean frontier towards the highway, which we reached the RN40 after a drive of possibly and hour or more. Getting out of his vehicle, the professor came round to the back and burst out laughing when he saw us, as we sat there motionless, completely covered in dust, like three Gringos from a scene out of some great Western movie.


Kelson converses with a Chilean official at the El Leon Carabineros , who demonstrated the ultimate irony of the Chilean joke by generously giving us a loaf of freshly baked bread.


The school at El Leon, courtesy of the professor we met outside the Chilean Carabineros.


The final leg to the Argentinean Carabineros.


View at the Argentinean Carabineros.


Crossing the Rio Mansa on foot for the last time at the Argentinean Carabineros.

Within minutes, a Via Bariloche bus came by and we boarded. By 18h00 we reached the bus station in Bariloche via the sprawling poorer part of Bariloche town. The impact of urbanisation could clearly be seen, at times resembling a squatter camp, conceivably stretching the town's resources to the limit. By the time we had secured our luggage from the locker room, our trusty Via Bariloche courier had arrived to pick us up in the mini-bus. Elena had secured a booking at the Hostel Arco in town for the following day only and a loose agreement should we arrive early. As it turned out, it was fully occupied and so we were obliged to move into a cramped room at the Gaucho Hostel just down the road. Beyond caring about that now, however, we were more interested in taking our first shower in a several days. Refreshed but without Kelson and Elena in attendance, we headed into town for dinner. It revitalised us being able to down a beer at last and quench our thirst in the process; we had undoubtedly earned it.
Additional photos courtesy Ralph Pina, Harald Weber & Andre Greyling. Additional photos courtesy Ralph Pina, Harald Weber & Andre Greyling.

A classic "before and after" perhaps? A ride with the professor from the Argentinean Carabineros  at El Leon to the RN40 highway.


Additional photos courtesy Ralph Pina, Harald Weber & Andre Greyling. Additional photos courtesy Ralph Pina, Harald Weber & Andre Greyling. Additional photos courtesy Ralph Pina, Harald Weber & Andre Greyling.

Arrival at the RN40 in Argentina, after a lengthy yet dusty ride for three amigos. Did my arse hurt?  You bet!


Additional photos courtesy Ralph Pina, Harald Weber & Andre Greyling.

Thanking the professor upon arrival at the RN40 in Argentina, after a lengthy yet dusty ride.


Boarding the Via Bariloche bus at the RN40 highway.


Patagonia, Argentina & Chile

[Intro-Pre Trip] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [GPS Tracks]

Other Tour Group photos (Picasa):  [1 - Kelson & Elena]  [2 - Ralph]  [3 - Harald]

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