The Journal  

5 March 2006


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


Escape from Chile : Osorno , Chile and Gobernador Costa , Argentina

February 19-20

As we pulled out of the gas station, 300 miles south of Santiago near Los Angeles , we were making progress on our trip south for the first time in three weeks. For the third time we passed through the last part of Chile 's desert, the arid landscape punctuated by the occasional vineyard or orchard on a superhighway filled with toll booths and mini-vans full of vacationing Chilean families.


A truck was pulling an antique car down the Pan-American Highway as we headed for Osorno.

Our delays dealing with the rim had caused us to change our itinerary. We had originally planned to travel 1,200 more miles south through Chile , going from the Pan-American to the legendary Carretera Austral before crossing into Argentina for the equally infamous Ruta 40. Our extended stay in Santiago had caused us to miss the good period of weather that takes place in December and January in the South American Patagonia. Both the Austral and 40 are dirt and gravel roads. According to other travelers who had just passed through the region heading north, the late summer rains that were now settling into the area could make the road impassable. We decided to change our plans and cross into Argentina from Osorno into Bariloche on more reliable paved roads before turning south for Tierra del Fuego and the end of the South American continent.

As soon as we left the Los Angeles gas station we were in Chile 's southern Lake District , the dry hills begrudgingly giving way to pine forests and hay fields. Herds of beef and dairy cattle filled the spaces between lumber mills and small towns composed of rustic looking wooden frame houses topped with sheet metal roofs. We ended a 500-plus mile day in Osorno, a small southern town that heads the road into Argentina .


Late Sunday afternoon we searched for an open restaurant in Osorno.


Families spend a sunny afternoon downtown.

The next morning we turned west, crossing the Pan-American, and saying goodbye to the great road south for the last time on our trip. As we drove away from Osorno, the Chilean Lake District, always hidden just over the hills that lined the Chilean highway, unfolded before us. Mixed with the mist of an early morning fog where dairy farmers, herding their cows into barns and small farming communities with tractors parked along the street.

Leaving Bolivia , we had passed out of the high and jagged Andean peaks for the last time. Crossing into Argentina , the road followed the gentle, pine-covered slopes that wound their way past perfect blue lakes. The border station with its ski lodge design fit well in the landscape. We finished our formalities and were on our way quickly, the road lined with rustic wooden tourist lodges and lakeside docks. Within an hour, we were in Bariloche a town that nestles against Lake Nahuel Huapi and is a popular tourist destination. Stopping only for gas, we pressed on, the road turning south towards Argentinean Patagonia.


The summer season is coming to an end in Argentina.


Pines and sky blue lakes greeted us as we headed east.

The wide-open spaces of southern Argentina were unknown to us, our travel guide giving little information on what towns had lodgings or places to eat. Looking at our map, we figured that any place big enough to warrant its inclusion would probably have a place to stay for the night. As we turned south we moved onto Ruta 40, the famous Argentinean road that hugs the border with Chile . We rode until it was nearly dark, putting over a hundred miles between us and Bariloche when we made it to the small town of Gobernador Costa .


Herds of cattle that looked like Herefords grazed on the Patagonian steppes.


The two lane road wound around the steppes towards the southeast.

We rode the length of the town, before turning around and picking a hostel just off the main street. A small cattle town, horses and riders nearly out-numbered cars, as we walked in search of a restaurant.


As we entered Gobernador Costa we were surrounded by Argentineans on horseback.


We stopped to fill up with gas in the cattle town where everyone was either on a horse or in a Ford truck.


In this small town many stores filled multiple roles like a bookstore, bicycle shop and hardware store.


A yard o' chickens was across the street from our hotel.



All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus