Day 280: Baja Caracoles – Argentina – Mar 24th

We slept in a bit, grabbed a quick breakfast at a small coffee shop while Alan ate leftover greasy pizza (at 10am!). And looks like our map was outdated as there was a gas station at the entrance to the town! It sort of looked like something from rural Nevada back from the 1950s, but as long as it has gas it’ll do. On our way out, we were lucky in that the clouds actually cleared out, and you can get this AMAZING view of the whole mountain range. Our puny imagination was good, but it wasn’t this good! Oh well, maybe one day we’ll come back =)

Where we are now in Patagonia, the roads are built but most of it is gravel. After a drive of about 120km to the next town, we were amazed at how small and uninteresting it was. A one-street town, everything was closed, the winds whipped the sand all around and nobody was walking around. The allure of this region is mainly for its landscapes and so we weren’t too interested in the towns, but we didn’t expect it to be THIS run-down. Ha ha. There’s quite a distance between towns, so we filled up our tank again just in case the next one runs out of gas or something. We also stocked up about 6L of water, just in case we get stuck on the road at least we won’t die of thirst… Actuaries traveling still know they should manage our own mortality risk.

The road was mainly gravel, with intermittent construction zones where it was paved. With our less than optimal SUV, the pavement was such a blessing, even if it only lasts for 5mins. The scenery was expansive, wild and charming all at the same time. Guanacos, the untamed cousin of the llama, can be easily spotted from the main road. The roads were difficult, but added to the experience for sure as we sped our way through gravel terrain without a (human) soul in sight for miles on end.

One strange thing we did notice though, was that the whole of Patagonia is FENCED along the roads, and inbetween parcels of land. Not only is this a monstrous use of human effort, but it was strange as there were barely any animals, or anything you’d really need to fence things out/in from….. Very strange.

Driving for most of the day, we arrived at a small ‘village’ called Baja Caracoles. It was getting late when we arrived, and this was the place we needed to stay for the night as it was the closest town to Las Cuevas de los Manos, a UNESCO Heritage historical site.

The village itself was uninspiring, if not creepy-looking. Driving around the village, you can totally visualize Javier Bardem holding his gas canister in a menacing look walking down the sandy roads, as in the movie No Country for Old Men. We stopped at the gas station to get some gas, and without any attendants or anything we simply drove up, filled our tanks and could’ve easily driven away. Being the honest folk we are, we headed into the gas station to ask if there was a hostel/hotel/camp site/someone’s backyard we could possibly sleep in. The gas station actually had some rooms, but the owner said he was full for the evening… W T F? Okay, whatever, but the best part came next as Alan tried to pay for the $175Peso of gas he put into his car.

With broken Spanish, this is what pans out:

Alan: “I want gas.”
Owner: “Okay” *comes out behind his counter to take Alan to the pump*
Alan: “No, I put gas. Already. Gas already.”
Owner: “Okay, how much?” *walking back to the cash register*
Alan: “100……75” (fading away as he tries to think how to say 175 instead of 100 and 75)
Owner: “100? Okay, give me 100.”
Alan: “No, 100 & 75. 100 & 75” *picks up calculator, types in 175*
Owner: “Oh, 175? Okay, give me 175.”
Alan pays the cash, and goes away thinking how easy it would’ve been to steal gas from this poor fellow. But the rule when it comes to honour system, is that you DO NOT BREAK THE RULES OF THE HONOUR SYSTEM. Shame on whoever breaks the honour system rules! SHAME!

We ask the gas station owner, and discover that there’s a ‘hostel’ in town, and it wasn’t hard to find as the village had fewer than 10 houses. The streets were dark now, but the lights were on but the door was locked, except for a sign in strange Spanish with an arrow pointing to the backyard. We entered, and two dogs happily greeted us, but the owner wasn’t there! This was around 7pm, getting late, and there wasn’t much we can do in a town like this. We waited in the car a bit until the neighbour told us to go to the gas station to look for Antonio. Okay, a 100m drive go to the gas station, but no Antonio there. The gas station owner told us to go to the police station, so another 100m drive we get to the police station but nothing but a small Yorkshire Terrier to greet us. We searched the back for some people, and the police chief told us to go to Antonio’s house, look for the house with the black SUV. Okay, we drive around the 10houses looking for a black SUV, none there!!!

We gave trying to find this elusive Antonio, and since the hostel door was open, we invited ourselves into the main room and set up our camping stove to make a nice single pot pasta meal (pasta + dried soup packages). We waited around, went to the gas station again to buy some snacks for the next day (in case we get stuck somewhere?). Strangely enough, they had some extremely ‘fresh’ tasting Pringles.. whowouldathunkit?

It was 11pm, we’re getting tired and the town is getting sort of creepy. It was creepy when the sun set, and the neighbour didn’t exactly give off the Love Thy Neighbour vibe, more like creepy old man that did 13 murders and had to hide out here, kind of vibe. We were in the hostel, so we just gave up waiting and checked ourselves into the room, which had a private bathroom and surprisingly hot water. It was all built like a temporary portable house but doesn’t matter, the place was clean and the bed was comfy. Alan waited out til midnight, nursing a beer and hopeful to meet this Antonio. No luck and off to bed we went.

At around 2am, someone knocks on the door. In a daze, Alan opens the door to find an extremely alert person who didn’t smell like he was out drinking all night. So…. why the fuck is he awake at 2am and checking his hostel when he could’ve checked it at anytime before 11pm? He was annoyed that we checked into his place without telling him, saying that I should’ve knocked onto a discrete, and totally unmarked door which connects to his own house. OKAY FELLA, fuck you. Anyways, I paid my money and he retreated back into the unmarked door to his own house, while we slept like babies until next morning in a strange start to our road trip.

Interesting day….

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