From El Calten (Mount Fitz Roy) it was back the same way to the RN40. The road leads North up and down over plateaus of different height. Sometimes 700 m and sometimes 350 m. They are covered with dry grass. Up till 30 km after Tres Lagos town, the road was good but then the gravel started. Some sections were very rough but all in all it was manageable. At the end we took another gravel shortcut, RN 29, and cut off again some 70 km from the route. From here on the surfaced RN40 had some bad patches. Fortunately we were not the first drivers. If you saw black brake marks then you knew that there were potholes and could reduce speed and do the highway tango around them. Along the way there are not that many petrol stations and the private ones you find only accept cash. Fortunately we knew this and had changed some extra $$ in El Calten before leaving in the morning. After the hamlet Baro Caracoles, we took a 70 km gravel road (again) off RN40 to Cueva de las Manos along the Rio Pinturas river. The park was just closing when we arrived. No problems. After repairing the hand break (the cable had jumped out of the break lever), we drove a bit back out of the canyon and parked below the rim and had a lovely view of the canyon and ranger station.
The next morning we had a guided tour of the rock paintings. They vary from 7000 to 1000 years old. Besides the many (left) hands there are also pictures depicting the guanaco hunt as well as some other animals.
From there it was back over the gravel road to the RN40.
Because of the severe wind we could hardly drive in 5th gear and often had to go down to third. Sometimes the steering wheel was at 35 deg and sometimes at 145 deg. Every truck that came by caused a zigzag. We left RN40 at Perito Merino to drive back to the Chilean border. The road on the Argentinean side was tarmac and straight over the plains. On the Chilean side is was rough gravel and very winding and steep. The country side is a lot greener and you see cows in the field as well as vegetable selling along the road. Climbing up and down the road has to be done with care. The corrugations are so severe that you can easily lose your grip when over speeding. That is not such a problem on a straight road but with all the bends and steep drops it becomes dangerous. The coragations were especially sever in each climbing or descending bend. Great road for the passenger, murder for the driver. He cannot enjoy the scenery but has to concentrate on the road. We spent the night on a parking place at a fisherman’s jetty in a village along the large Lago General Carrera. In the morning we dropped in at the local garage. The left front wheel suspension shows oil leakage. This is caused by all the bumps it has to suffer. Most likely the joints are loosening. After the Russian trip the homokineet on the right side had to be replaced. Most likely now the one on the left side is wobbly and needs replacement. Nothing the mechanic could at that pont in time. Keep your fingers cross.