Day 286: San Martin de los Andes – Argentina – Mar 30th

Waking up in our comfortable (we can’t repeat this enough times, Heroko!) Feathered Friends sleeping bags. Munching on some pita bread and ham, cooking a pot of tea we packed up quickly and were back on the road to the next town. We were on the road at 10am, and the road was absolutely ridiculous!

The road was absolutely packed with small compact sedans with families on vacation, but despite the wide dirt road their lack of off-road ability made it a very slow road trip for their family. The DIRT road was drafting up some crazy dust, with visibility barely 5m in front of the car, it was hard to spot the numerous cyclists that weaved along the side of the road for some off-road tournament. Respect. The best was when going up-hill, a rather large man riding a bike was supported by two athletically built men, each with a hand on the large man’s torso pushing up the hill. Sportsmanship!

Arriving onto the scenic town of San Martin de los Andes, it is a town located at the edge of a lake surrounded on both sides by mountains. Kayaking and sailing yachts are rather popular in this posh little town filled with restaurants and souvenir shops. We stopped by for lunch at a lake side cafe with a patio overlooking the lake. The key though, was that this restaurant had Wi-Fi, and after last night’s fiasco we really wanted to make sure we booked tonight’s place to stay! The restaurant Wi-fi was not very good, but we managed to book our hostel in Pucon, Chile, thinking we would cross the border in the afternoon and arrive to the city in the evening.

The restaurant was packed event at 2pm, and the service was slow but the steaks (by default, that’s the only thing we’d order anywhere!) were once again hitting the spot. Cravings for steaks come up every two days when we travel in Argentina! We got the bill, and left this beautiful town and onto our destination of Pucon, Chile. An adventure destination of sorts, we were interested in hiking up to the top of the volcano and possibly toboggan down (the highlight of any vertical climb, being able to slide down!).

Driving from San Martin to the border, we were stopped in our tracks on our way there, not really knowing what was going in front of us, and signs say we’re at least 2km away from the border crossing. With our experience with Chilean/Argentine customs officials, the time to cross the border in places where NOBODY crosses took about 30-45mins. And when we saw the lineup ahead, winding roads made it impossible to judge the length of the queue but after 10mins we quickly changed our minds and headed back to San Martin to avoid a 4hr wait in line to cross customs……ditching our idea of climbing the active volcano in Pucon and instead switched it for a more relaxing time around the beautiful lake district of Argentina. Freedom of choice, a luxury when time and itineraries are never set!

Back in San Martin, we checked the tourist office to see if any space was available ANYWHERE. Tourist info offices in Argentina/Chile are the best we can imagine, with long hours, multilingual workers, and the best is that they have a list of available places to stay and would help you find one that suits your needs! This tourist office was swamped, and the only place available for the day was a hostel on the outskirts of town with two beds in a female-only dorm. We headed out there to ask, but the worker wasn’t able to book us in unless she had permission to from the other girls in the dorm room to see if it was okay for Alan to stay, but they weren’t here in the hostel! We debated outside for 5mins, and figured we should book the rooms first and ask the girls when they came back, but when we returned the worker was just putting up a “Full Occupancy” sign outside, saying the tourist office is sending two girls over here as we speak!!! CRAZY!!

Late in the afternoon, we were a bit lost as what we could do, so we drove 1hr north to another town, aptly labeled as the trout capital of Argentina for its popular fishing excursions. There, at the tourist office we heard the best phrase we’ve heard so far when we asked about available occupancy: “No es possible”, or “Not possible.”!!!! CRAZY!!! Driving around, we checked a few ‘motel’ like places along the highway but to no avail we drove back to San Martin without having done anything, and without a place to live.

The rain stopped, and we ended up checking into a campsite on the outskirts of town (again), with decent facilities but an awesome view of the lake. The wide variety of places to live, from camp sites to hilltop cabanas with 3 rooms and a living room overlooking the lake make us wonder why there isn’t much like this back home! We pitched our tent, headed out for some groceries (most importantly wine), and ate a ½ kilo of ice cream! Ice cream in Argentina is super delicious and super cheap!

Not a productive day as a tourist, but the drive around the areas was quite fun nonetheless! 

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