We left Junin yesterday morning. We drove six hours or about 500 kilometers south to Esquel. We are in the real Patagonia, now. As we drove Route 40 south from Bariloche, the Andes were on our right and the plains dropped off to our left. Route 40 is the major route that spans Argentina from north to south. It is paved with asphalt. In some places, it has stripes down the center and guard rails as a defense aginst rolling over in steep curves. In many places, it has neither curves or guard rails; the asphalt is pitted and cracked with many potholes. The mountains on the west are interesting. The steppes to the east over time accumulate into one, never-ending sameness of dry, claylike hills blown by hot, gusty winds. Small trees give way to low-lying shrubs and hills to knolls. My understanding is the continent stretches south for 1,000 kilometers this way.
But we drove to the West into the Andes. Esquel is tucked among several mountain peaks, all snowcapped. It has about 35,000 inhabitants. We are staying at a nice, rustic cabaña on a hill west of town.
We intend to visit the Pargue Nacional Los Alerces
for sightseeing, trekking and fishing. There are many lakes there including the well-known Futalaufquen. Connecting the lakes are rivers–and hopefully trout. We are nestled in the continental divide of the Andes: the water flows east to the Atlantic via Rio Chubut and to the west via Rio Grande also known as Rio Futaleufù. The Chileans have seeded their waters with Pacific Salmon (stocked them for aqualculture) and the salmon have now made their way to the headwaters in Argentina.
The weather was warmer in Junin. It could be a cool day here. This morning we turned the heater on and wore down jackets. During late afternoon, it warmed up and I am now wearing short sleeves. When I first awoke this morning at 5:30 a.m., it was light; last night when we were eating supper at 9:30, it was getting dark. (By first awoke, I mean I went back to sleep. And, actually, I awoke for the third time after my siesta. ). There are a few small Christmas trees here and some decorations, but it is hard for me to be in a Christmas mood.