The price of the slopping camper was well worth it. Yes you rolled against the side on the top bed, but since Jamaliah sleeps downstairs on the couch, I could lie diagonally and had no problems. The morning coffee at the lake side was very relaxing while letting Jamaliah have her beauty sleep.
We drove over the Ruta de los 7 Lagos northwards. It is a winding road over hills and through forests with every now and then a Mirado on one of the 7 lakes. It is a major tourist route so there were tour buses and day trippers at the Mirado’s. We therefore skipped a few. In San Marin de los Andes we stopped for a lunch break (without lunch,) and wandered through town and along the nice lakeside beach. From there the serious driving north started again. Jamaliah was fascinated with the Dinosaur digs in the neighborhood. So we made a detour to visit them. The road was through dry pampas following the Rio Limay. Along the river there is not much agriculture. Only here and there some trees. The river has several hydro dams along the way. We left the road in a small town and camped on one of the lake arms. As usual it was windy but during the night and early morning it stopped. The water was so tempting that Jamaliah decided to take her bath. Cold water!!
The first Dinosaur place was at Villa El Chocon. The town is modern and built on the side of the water reservoir. Villa’s dot the hills and the harbor has several sailing boats. Along the lake, dinosaur foot prints have been found and in the lovely small museum there is a skeleton of the largest (14m high) meat eating dinosaur which was found there (Giganotosaurus Carolini). We drove a bit further north and then turned towards Chile. We stopped in the oil town of Plaza Huincul. There, there is an even larger replica skeleton of the plant eating Argentinosaurus Huinculensis. This herbivore was 40 m long and 18 m high. You could get yourself lost between its bones.
Since the day was not over yet we drove a bit further on to the Chilean border and found a nice riverside campsite at Las Lajas. The water was warm and Rudy took a swim. Unfortunately he did not count on the sandflies. He got bitten all over. So now he has been scratching for 2 days already.
Las Lajas is still in Argentina, town not far from the border. Jamaliah didn’t want to enter Chile yet before she cooked all the vegetables and raw meat and eggs that we bought here. Chilean customs does not allow you to bring in any uncooked vegetables and raw meat into the country. Also no honey.
This time the border crossing took a bit longer. Pino Hachadod (1884 m) is a main crossing point. Besides lots of truck, there are also a significant amount of passenger cars crossing here (20 per hour). High up in the Andes we saw our first Araucarias trees (Monkey puzzle tree). They were standing above us on the ridges of the mountain.
Once over the border the climate changed again. The high fields had grass with cows, goats or sheep. There are also several small farms and villages. It looks like this border area is one of the main tourist attractions. Everywhere there are cabana’s for rent and the towns cater for the tourists. Not long after the border we drove up a track on the side of a volcano. Up above the tree line on the volcano cone there are ski lifts. Driving further up over the volcanic ash we came to a view point where you could see how the lava flowed from a small side volcano down into the valley and burnt away the vegetation (December 1988). This mirado is a recommended campsite but we found it a bit too eerie. (As the Lonely Planet book described it as a Charcoal desertscape of ash and sand and looks like the Sahara with a nicotine addiction). So we drove down and made our camp again at a small river. This time luckily without sand flies. A local Gaucho (father and son) past us by and let their horses graze along the river.
The next day we visited the Princesica waterfall and then turned off the road to go south again to visit more volcanoes and lakes in the Chilean Lake district. We drove to the Congullio N.P. First over a surfaced road but then it become corrugated again and in the park you often feel you were driving on a walking path (road so narrow) through the Araucaria forest. This volcano, Llaima (3125 m) is very active. Her last eruption was only in 2008. The road runs along the front of the solidified lava stream on the south side of the mountain. On the north side it is covered with beautiful Araucarias forest. We made 2 walks through various sections of the forest. Just south of the park we again found a campsite along a river. This time it is flowing so fast (and very noisy too) that there is no way Rudy will try to swim in it.