March 29, 2013
It’s hard to leave the Tres Lagos paradise, but the road beckons and the heart of Patagonia lies ahead. The morning is cool and slightly damp, trapping the dust down low as we ride through the sleepy town of Puerto Guadal. We pass two horsemen on spirited steeds that climb the berm as we pass, but the riders are wise to their ways and keep them in check. Climbing out of the town, we once again trace the shoreline of Lago General Carrera. RIDE Adventures tour leader Eric Lange reminds us that in full sunshine the lake is a brilliant turquoise from the glacier till (ground up rock) that permeates its waters, but I’m not about to complain about a lack of spectacular scenery hereabouts.
Just past Chile Chico we cross the Andes into Argentina again. Customs and immigration are routine – or so we think. It’s only when we reach the Argentine border post that we realize the vehicle data that should be in the computers is not. After long conversation with the customs lady, Eric and Ulli jump in the truck for a jaunt back to Chile to sort things out. The rest of us cool our heels and nosh on box lunches from the Hacienda. The guides are back soon, but only part of the data is in the computer so we stand in line while a customs official painstakingly enters vehicle info for each of us.
Away at last, we find that Argentine Patagonia a much different world. The mountains recede to the edge of the scenery, sometimes disappearing from view. The new scene is a rocky, stepped plateau covered in short brown grass and bushes. As a desert lover, the vast expanses appeal to me; the mountains will return in due time. With the change in scenery comes a new road hazard – the guanaco (accent on the second ‘a’). Related to camels, as well as alpacas and llamas, guanaco easily hop the highway fences to graze. Their light brown color helps them blend into the scenery in spite of their long legs and necks. When startled, they can dash across the highway at 35 mph. Not long after Eric warns us of the guanaco threat, Eric gets his own white-knuckle guanaco experience a few miles down the road. Chris Olin’s helmet-cam footage of the event makes a point to us that mere words can’t.