We were excited to get back to Argentina because of the free to cheap camping, extremely friendly people and the always available and always delicious milanesa...
The ride over to Mendoza was relatively uneventful, but we did meet a couple of Canadian guys, Greg and David, who were also heading that way. They had been on the road for about the same amount of time we have, had met on the road and have been traveling together off and on since California. David was selling a house in Buenas Aires, so they had been there several months. They were just finishing up a very rainy trip through southern Chile. We had a good time hanging out with them for a couple days in Mendoza.
(Mike, Greg and David at the border after customs. Jill was reprimanded by an official for taking the picture. Apparently it is illegal to take photos inside the customs building. Customs was pretty painless here, with us having to wait in line for about 20 minutes. It was extremely organized, with both Argentina and Chile processes being done in the same building.)
Mendoza is known for its wine, and there were lots of bodegas (vineyards) surrounding the city. We ended up overindulging on the cheap Mendozan wine, forcing us to stay an extra day or two. Once we got out of town, we headed to San Rafael, a smaller town that also has a lot of grape production. We had been in contact with an English couple, John and Annette, who had done their own South American motorcycle trip about 10 years ago. They bought a farm outside of San Rafael 7 years ago and now make their living growing and selling grapes, walnuts and plums. We got there for Christmas Eve and enjoyed hanging out on the farm for a couple of days. They are a very entertaining couple with lots of stories and knowledge of the area. They were nice enough to share their food with us, and we plan on returning to work for a few weeks on their farm once we have made it to Ushuaia and back.
(John and Annette on the farm)
From there, we headed south, needing to be in Bariloche within a week to meet up with a friend of ours who was coming in from the States.
(There was not much to look at for quite a while heading south on Ruta 40.)
(Then we finally got some decent views of the mountains. About the time we could see the mountains, however, we also started feeling the infamous cold winds that Patagonia is known for.)
(We were frozen but happy to arrive at the municipal campgrounds in Chos Malal. It even had hot water. Chos Malal was a nice little town, from what we saw. In the morning we were looking for some empanadas on the plaza and a municipal worker stopped us, asked us what we were looking for, and then had us follow him on the bike over to a delicious pizza/empanada place.)
The next day we made it to Zapala. The drive was nothing too exciting, but we were again able to find cheap municipal camping just outside of town.
(Probably the highlight of Zapala for us was eating at the truck stop - los Camioneros - just down the road from El Bosque camping. This Milanesa Napolitana (breaded meat with tomatos, cheese and ham on top) was delicious!)
The next day we headed down to San Martin de los Andes, a very touristy small town.
(And the ACA (Argentine Automobile Club) campsite had wifi in the tent!)
(This truck parked a little too close for comfort while we were eating lunch in town before heading out. At least he didn't hit the bike.)
From San Martin, we headed to the 7 Lakes district just north of Bariloche. It was beautiful, but had lots of traffic, as it is vacation time in Argentina and there were lots of people in the area.
(The view from our free campsite on Rio Villarino)