The ONLY reason we are staying in Baja Caracoles is because going from south → north, it is the closest town to the UNESCO heritage site, Las Cuevas de las Manos, or Cave of Hands. Getting out of our awesome hostel, the playful dogs came out to say goodbye and we were on the road before 8:30am.
The gravel roads here are wide and quite well maintained, and the scenery is pretty awesome. Throw in some guanacos and choique (ostrich-like birds) walking around, it was quite fun! The best part was when a fox crossed the road about 300m of the car. After crossing the road, it stopped at the side of the road, sitting perfectly still and observing us as we drove by. We stopped, looked it in the eye and was totally mesmerized by this beautiful creature.
Getting to the actual entrance at 9:55am, we were greeted with a warm welcome from a young man and his father, along with a wonky looking admissions guy and his cuddly cat. Tours start at the hour, so we came just in time for the 10am guided tour! The father wanted a picture, and very friendly, wanting to take one with us as well. He then pointed across the valley to a car atop the edge, and our understanding is that it was HIS car, and they walked down the valley and up again to the park entrance. W T F? We thought he was joking….
The hand paintings reminds us of paintings you might see on the walls of kindergarten classrooms, but when the guide mentioned that they date back up to 9500 YEARS AGO. It took a minute, but lets count again….that’s 7500BC! Wow, respect. Thinking about it, this is probably the first time we’ve seen any form of prehistoric human activity that you’d associate with grade school education. The caves were only housing 30-40 people of a single tribe of hunters, with other locations scattered around the valley containing similar paintings. The strangest part though, is that these paintings lay on PRIVATE land… lets hope they are well preserved. There were some pretty fascinating rock paintings, a foot of a choique, circles denoting pregnant woman, guy with 6 fingers, and the chief’s hand with a massive aura of paint around it. Really, really fascinating.
On our way out, the guide in some broken English asked if we can drive the old man out to the main road. We finally realized they weren’t joking when they said they walked into the park entrance, and the son was going to run back to the car again! The route is pretty damn steep, we’re surprised how the old man managed to get here on foot… so of course we said yes.
The roads out were pretty steep, but driving rally is pretty fun if only the car had better specs. We dropped the old man off at the main road so his son can pick him up, and we were off on our way! The closest town was Perito Moreno, named after an Argentine hero (Like many of the streets and cities). We wanted to stop by for lunch, and managed to find a small restaurant serving some really awesome steaks. Chicken in Argentina has never been a good experience, but on the flip side steak is ALWAYS a good choice no matter where you are! Every two days of so, Alan would have this steak craving which would be easily cured with a visit to any restaurant, or if you’re lucky at the supermarket for the price of a cupcake back home. Strangely enough, the supermarkets never seem to have good meats, you have to be lucky and buy right away!
Delicious lunch and a beautifully scenic drive along Lago Buenos Aires, looking more like an ocean with strong currents than a lake, we arrived into the border town of Los Antiguos. The town was small but its location on the coast of the lake, but it was too early for us to settle and we crossed the border into Chile. Crossing from Argentina into Chile is strange, as the Argentine officers are almost always rude, always in a hurry but fairly hassle free. The Chilean border crossings are less intimidating, but are 100x more tedious. Not sure why, but they are super anal about fruits, vegetables and the sorts from entering the border and do a THOROUGH check of everything. If you drive in, they check your whole car + luggage. If you go through by bus, they check the bus, your carry-ons and every piece of luggage you carry. No jokes here.
Clearing customs and driving into the Chilean border town of 4000 people named Chile Chico, it was not small by our standards. We’ve come to enjoy smaller towns which don’t have the hustle and bustle of the larger cities, but still have the normal comforts of everyday life, and this town made that fine line just spot on. The town was neatly decorated with wooden pillars as you enter the city proper, with patches of grass as the median along the main road and wooden fencing surrounding EVERY PATCH of grass in the whole town. Being built along the lake as well, they weren’t too keen on building nice homes along the lake with good views and didn’t seem to make good use of its geographic location.
We found a nice little cabin with a small kitchen, private bathroom, Wi-Fi in the room, and even satellite TV! We were watching Simpsons in Spanish! Ha ha. Making full use of the kitchen, we wanted to cook our own meal to save some money, and it’s also a way to refrain from eating out all the time. At the market, the fruits and veggies were definitely a bit of a sad selection but considering we’re in the heart of Patagonia it is somewhat expected. The strangest thing though, is that we found SOY SAUCE AND CHINESE NOODLES for sale at the market! W T F? This town, 4000 people, in southern rural of Chile and no Asian faces whatsoever. The best part was when checking out, the cashier looked at the noodles+soy sauce combo and looked at Alan, asking what would be a good way to cook the noodles as if she had no clue!! WHY WOULD THEY HAVE THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE!
We cooked up a storm back at the hostel, having noodles + wine outside in the main yard.
Crazy strange road trip….