ARGENTINA

THE LAND OF PAMPAS, PERON AND TANGO

Welcome to Argentina...

The Argentinian numberplate

Argentinain money, the peso, which comes in the form of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 denominations. At 2005 exchange rates $6 = £1.

RELEASE THE BEAST

Greg and Sandra of Dakar Motos waiting at customs to get the car release papers

After two days of obtianing paperwork and paying duties, they finally found our container and we got the Beast back. We used a fork lift truck to lift the Beast and put the tyres back on. The Beast has been released!

ARGENTINEAN ASADO AND PARILLA

Argentinean meat is world renowned for being some of the best.

Even the camp sites have personal barbeques for every camper.

MATE

Mate (pronounced mart -ay) is produced from a tree shrub. The leaves are picked and dried before being put in a mate pot (as above). A sealed straw with several holes at the bottom is put in the pot and hot water is added. The first to drink is the pourer who is the "Mate Tonto" - the mate fool as the water is hot and he will inevitably burn himelf. Once drunk, the mate pot is then refilled with water and passed on.

Petrol stations have hot water machines to fill your thermos flasks for your mate.

BUENOS AIRES

The tomb of the unknown soldier. The tomb is guarded day and night in the centre of Buenos Aires lists all the 2000 soldiers killed during the Falklands war fought between the UK and Argentina in the early 1980s. The Falklands are known as Las Malvinas in Argentina.

Buenos Aires is the tango capital of south america

On Sundays there is a free-for-all of tango dancers dancing the light fantastic on the cobbled streets.

The Casa Rosada - the Pink House - where the president resides.

Roni Skarren - the swedish biker that we met at Dakar Motos. He was biking up to Venezuala through the Amazon and then back through Colombia to Peru.... in 3 months!

Sandra and Javier of Dakar Motos who gave us an amazing insight into Argentina, the politics and the history that has shaped the amazing country.

Roadside shrines line the places where people have been killed or people want to give thanks to their saints. The red shrines are dedicated to Gauchito Gil. Some shrines have white stones surrounding them, others have a collection of plastic bottles piled up next to them.

Belgrano located in the Argentinean holiday destination in the Sierra de Cordoba. This small german town boasts lots of german restaurants with dierndal wearing women, has a microbrewery and even hosts an Oktoberfest every year.

ALTA GRACIA

Alta Gracia is a UNESCO world heritage site for one of the Jesuit churches across northern Argentina. The Jesuits were ejected from the country when the Pope designated them as heretics.

Views from the Sierra de Cordoba

The parched land of the Sierras

Cheese and chorizo for sale at the side of the road

SAN RAFAEL

Annette and John, two ex british overlanders, have moved to San Rafael to set up a vineyard, plum orchard and walnut farm.

Every week they have 23 hours and 17 minutes to water their crops. An ingenious system of mud canals is used to water the crops. Every drop counts in this desert area where water is a valuable commodity.

Greg was let loose on the tractor to plough up the new olive farm that they are planting.

THE ANDES

Aconagaua - the highest peak in the western hemisphere at 6860m.

Puenta del Inca located in the military zone, 16km from Chile, was an important pass for the Incans and marks the crossing area for the Conquistadors. It is now a tourist attraction with heavy mineral deposits that have deposited on the remains of a church.

Leaving Argentina: A sign that we are sure all Falkland Islanders would love to remove - Islas Malvinas son Argentinas! (The Falkland Islands are Argentinean!)

Gary and Sarah Walker joined the Beast Crew for the drive through the Lanin and Nahuel Hapei National Parks and we stopped off for a spot of mate to enjoy the scenery.

San Carlos de Bariloche

Bariloche is one of Argentina's best ski resorts and is also famous for its chocolate shops, fondues, swiss architecture and strangely St Bernard dogs that are situated in the central square for you to have your photograph taken with!

Lake Nahuel Hapei

RUTA 40

Ruta 40 is the fabled road of overlander's nightmares. Most of it is tarmaced but there is a 600km that is surfaced in ripia (gravel) that runs from Perito Moreno to La Esperanza. It is dusty, bumpy, occasionally has corrugations that will rattle you to bits and there are only petrol stations every 150km (so a mere 75km to walk to help!).

Corrugations

There are hardly any towns and the terrain is unforgiving. If you break down or have an accident, it can be a few hours before any vehicle passes you.

The Ruta 40 improvement plan for 2006

But along Ruta 40 you can see some amazing wildlife like the three banded armadillo..

...Guanacos (a cameloid relative of the Llama)..

and Nandus (Darwin's or Lesser Rhea)

Cuevos de los Manos

Situated in this deserted valley, is the UNESCO cultural reserve of Cuevos de los Manos (Cave of Hands)

Between 1,000 and 9,000 years ago, the peoples of the nomadic Hueliche tribes used the caves as a stop over point to hunt guanacos and left their mark by using ground up rocks to blow onto of their hands and create the hand paintings. The inbreeding within the tribes is shown by some six and three fingered hands on the cave walls.

EL CALAFATE AND MORENO GLACIER

The Moreno Glacier is situated 75km to the west of El Calafate. There are 47 glaciers in the Los Glacieres National Park, 13 of them stretch down into Argentina, the rest are located in Chile.

It stretches for 15 km from the Andes, is about 4km wide and is one of only a few in the world that is growing in size every year.

The wall of the glacier is 55m high above the water level but stretches for a further 180m below the surface of the water..

TIERRA DEL FUEGO AND USHUAIA

Tierra Del Fuego (the Land of Fire) is named after the fires that Magellen and other explorers saw as they tried to find the southern route through to the Pacific. The island is now divided between Chile and Argentina.

Ushuaia - a population of 55,000. In the 1960s, the population was only 5,000. A massive incentive plan encouraged people to move to the area that was previously used as a penal colony for murderers and political prisoners

A long way back north!

Argentina lays claim to a large portion of Antactica.

Ushuaia is where most Antarctic cruises leave for the trip to the southern continent. A 10 day cruise starts at a mere US$4000 with bargain deals being offered at US$3000!

We made it to the End of the World!

Magellanic Penguins

Petrified Forest National Park

The petrified forest is located in the centre of the Patagonia. The petrified trees found there are about 150 million years old, which is older than the Andes.

The trees were ancestors of the present day Aracauria trees and were about 100m hugh and ovwe 1000 years old when they were buried under volcanic ash. Greg located at the right of the picture gives an idea of scale.

Years of filtration of mineral enriched waters down through the sediments lead to the hole where the tree was being filled with minerals.

GAIMAN

A welsh village in a welsh district in the centre of Patagonia - Greg is definitely the only gay in the village!

Gaiman is famous for its teahouses, Casa de Te.

The Casa de Te offer a good cup of British tea accompanied with six different types of cake, bread and butter and the all essential scones. The teapots even have tea cosies (a knitted woollen cover to keep the teapot warm).

PENINSULA VALDES

Peninsula Valdes is a wildlife haven located off Puerto Madryn. There are seal lions...

...Souhern Right Whales struggling to fight their way back from the verge of extinction...

...hairy armadillos...

...and mother killer whales teaching their babies how to beach themselves and catch and eat seals on the beach.

Balneario El Condor

Balneario El Condor has the world's largest population of parrots in the world.

On a windswept, moon strewn Patagonian beach Greg asked Alexis to marry him! She said yes!

HORIZONS UNLIMITED MEETING

Horizons Unlimited is an overland motorcycle group who help to provide information on the roads, border crossings, countries and motorcycle information. There are meetings at different places across the world to provide a stopping point for travellers and gird other travellers into going.

In total about 40 overlanders in south american met in Balneario El Condor to exchange stories and get drunk as well as do some offroading to an asado.

A big thanks to Oscar and family for organising the Horizons Unlimited meeting for us and allowing two lowly overlander Land Rover drivers to come with them!

MAR DEL PLATA FOR CHRISTMAS

Mar del Plata's population is usually about half a million, but during the Christmas and Carnaval period, the number of people swells to over 3 million.

There is a massive sealion colony who all just lounge around on the derelict and half sunk boats.

Christmas dinner... can't beat a good old steak!

and consisted of steak, fish fingers, roast potatoes and some good old baked beans brought all the way from the UK!

A new look for the New Year, sir??

A WHEEL CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

The tread on the tyres had diminished horrendously to a few millimetres after almost 40,000km across the world. Unfortunately, the Land Rover FC 101 has some unusual tyres that can only be obtained in the northern hemisphere.

We therefore had to get the tyres vulcanised or retreaded. The process involves shaving the exisiting tread down and melting a new tread onto the old tyre.

The Navas Service crew who gave the Beast a look over, sorted out the brakes and made sure we could safely leave Argentina.

On re-entering Argentina we headed to a mechanics to get our lights sorted which were working intermittently...

..the stalk for the lights was not working so the mechanic replaced it with a pull up switch.

Monster sized locusts on the road to Catamarca

San Miguel de Catamarca

The road down the mountain to Catamarca; a 17km windy stretch where we ran out of petrol and had to run for 5km freewheeling.

A strange rattling was identified by these mechanics in Catamarca... a knackerd universal joint.

San Miguel de Catamarca central square

Valle De La Luna

The submarine

Tafi Del Valle

The rolling cloud valley of Tafi del Valle was a cool 16oC in comparison to the unbearable 41oC of the flats of Tucuman and La Rioja to the south.

Our highest point so far, 3042m above sea level. Walking and breathing is difficult.

Quilmes Ruins

Quilmes Ruins is the best preserved pre-columbian (pre-hispanic invasion) ruins in Argentina. The Quilmes people resisted invasion from the Spanish for 130 yearsbefore being destroyed in the 16th Century.

Cafayate

We had arranged to meet up with 3 motorcycle and their pillion riders in Cafayate. Nuno and Tatiana (a Portuguese/Brasilian couple), Jason (a Brit) and Pete (a Kiwi) along with Pete's sister and brother-in-law, Jackie and Trent.

Cafayate is a wine region with lots of picturesque vinyards crowding the barren brown hillsides.

A wine tour with the alkies!

Salta

El Sapo (the Toad)...The road to Salta winds through a giant canyon with wind and water carved sandstone rocks.

The Devil's Throat

The stunning scenery of the canyon on the way to Salta

Salta

Salta's town hall

Coca

To combat altitiude sickness Coca leaves are used to reduce the effects

It is possible to buy them in a leaf form or a processed teabag form. The leaf form is put in the gum and soaked with saliva before adding a little sodium bicarbonate (catalyst).

It makes you feel a little spacey and represses hunger.

Humuhauca and Paso de Jama

The Humuhuaca mountain range has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site with its strange weathered formations.

The Paso de Jama is one of the highest border passes in the world at 4400m with a pass upto 4700m on the road crossing into Chile.

The Beast lost all power as we crawled from 2000m to 4700m at a pathetic 20km per hour up the windy pass. A bit annoying for the motorcyclists with us!

Tatiana and Nuno

Trent and Jackie

Pete and ....Greg!

Motorbikes and cars alike were having problems with the altitude. Nuno kept losing all compression on his bike. The fuel and oxygen mix is very important at altitude. We used low octane fuel at altitude as the air is thinner and less oxygen is required to combust the petrol in the engine but there is a loss of power.

Llamas have no problems with altitude

We watched the most amazing lightning storm at 3700m and actually watched the lightning hit the ground in front of us. Our breath was taken way by that as well as the altitude.