Monday, 7 May 2018

Threesome: a desert, a river and me


I had been 10 days in Argentina already and loving but the last few days been gagging to get to a remote spot where there was a river or stream and nobody else; just some mental therapy as I call it and getting myself and mindset back on track. Trying to get it though had proved to be a bit of a mission as I was slowly hitchhiking a huge loop through the San Luis Province to get onto the Ruta 40...that famous road that runs from north to south the length of Argentina. I hadn’t wanted to be on the road during the long Easter weekend (Semana Santa) but as is many times the case, my plans didn’t hold out well with the reality.


It was no the 2nd of April and I was I hitching from the city of San Rafael which would get me onto the Ruta 40. After about 3 hours, two guys with their offroad bikes on the back of the pickup, gave me a lift and invited me to to go Lake Nihuil where there’d be heaps of people and place to camp for free. Problem is getting out the next day when all the holidaymakers have gone home.

I consequently got off to the junction to Nihuil and then not long after got a lift to the town of Malargue. Even though I was at the exit of town, more or less, I was not very positive of getting a lift this late in the afternoon to anywhere great. But, things were looking up and a guy working on one of the fuel drills gave me a lift and as we were chatting and I mentioned the remote place with water I was looking for, he said that where he turns off to go to the drill in the mountains, there’s a perfect area where the Rio Grande (river) runs and he’s sure I’d like that.


Around 18:20 we stopped where the Ruta 40 went over the Rio Grande in a rugged and remote semi-desert area...well, bone-dry other than the river, and Roberto (the guy giving me a lift) said to me ‘Here we are.” I was speechless but with a massive smile though, this place was even better than what I’d been hoping for! It was better than perfect! Roberto was smiling although shaking his head a bit and asked if I’ll be fine and I said I’ll be absolutely perfect thanks. With a wave he headed off into the mountains and I went for a walk to find a place to pitch my tent...after hiding my bags behind some rocks first, this was after all a main road albeit deserted.


I find a hollow near the river in the dunes and making sure it’s above the high water/flood mark and debris - don’t want to get washed away during the night with a flash flood! It’s a nice hollow protecting me from the majority of the wind and well hidden from the distant road. This was just heaven for me, I couldn’t stop smiling. Going down to the river to wash my face and fill up drinking water I notice how strong flowing it is, reminding me how much kayak experience I still need if I want to attempt anything like this. Admittedly this section has some serious whirlpools so I wouldn’t play around in there.


Cooking some rice and veggies, I enjoy dinner under a total blanket of stars (moon hadn’t risen yet) and thinking how the tranquility and calm I felt sitting at the river was something I hadn’t had for a very long time, not at this level anyway. The words can’t really describe that incredible feeling everything just having rolled off your shoulders and dragging with it anything that was milling around in my head. The phone is switched off and only the gps was used to mark the spot. My first night with the desert and the rushing river will be an amazing night. How many nights will I stay - no idea and don’t care right now.



The next two days I was up early, having coffee at my tent during sunrise and for the spectacular sunsets, the latter usually seated down next to the river somewhere. Early mornings and late afternoons walking around and exploring the dunes and rocky hills and seeing what animal tracks there are and then watching the Torrent Ducks coming down the river, fly back up to a point and come riding the waves down again - in my opinion clearly enjoying themselves! I found some fox tracks and then a variety of lizard/geckos tracks, with sightings of two different kinds too.
A very confiding Dark-bellied Cinclodes (little bird) would wander past me on the riverbank where I’d got my clothes off and had a bath. also washing my the clothes out in a little eddie. The water was considerably fresh...read cold, so I wasn’t swimming much really, even in the mid-afternoon blazing sun. Bit of a siesta was in order then.


The third day I did have to turn the tent as the wind had started turning and was blowing straight into the little hollow where my tent was and piles of sand into the tent. The weather was starting to build up for a storm I thought so decided reluctantly that the morning of the fourth day I would pack up and head further south along the Ruta 40 (little knowing that my following night would be -6 degrees Celsius in the town of San Martín de los Andes, but more about that later.).

This had been seriously one of my most amazing remote camps i’ve ever done and if I had the chance, I’d go back and spend at least a week there! A desert and river with me made the perfect dream threesome! 

For more photos of the time I was out here camping along the Rio Grande, visit my album on Flickr HERE
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