Monday 21 November, 2016 – Esquel – San Martín de los Andes
Finally, time for the journey home to San Martín. We pulled out of the Hotel car park and drove past the snowman (our local landmark) for the last time, driving northwards.
We also drove past one of the engines of La Trochita (the Old Patagonian Express) that once ran from Esquel to Ingeniero Jacobacci, beautifully restored for use as a roadside monument.
And we gave the car a mini-service for the final day’s drive. Oil pressure and tyres were just fine, but a little water needed in the windscreen wash to combat the dust on the road.
Our first stop along the route home was at the Leleque Museum, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Sponsored by Benetton, it houses a beautifully displayed collection of artefacts that tell the history of Patagonia from prehistoric days until the present. Very near the main Esquel-Neuquén road, it is well worth a visit.
The museum has 4 rooms: one dedicated to the indigenous people; one recording the first contacts between Native Americans and European and North American arrivals; one devoted to land control and division (and the influence of private landowners and a Federal State); and one showing the social transformations occurring in Patagonian society as a result of immigrants from so many different ethnicities.
Beside the main museum is “El Boliche”, the word in this case denoting a general store at the beginning of the century that also served as a watering hole where people in the area could share drinks and gossip.
The exhibits in the museum were interesting and well presented; our only cavil being that the lighting was a little too dim (no doubt to preserve the textiles).
Information was displayed on people and places of all times and all parts of Patagonia.
Back on the road again, for the grandmother of shrines to the Difunta Correa, where countless travellers have left bottles of water in her honour and memory..
Travellers leave water bottles at these shrines as votive offerings to calm the permanent thirst of this unofficial popular saint, in the hope that she will perform miracles and intercede for them and their loved ones.
We had lunch again in El Bolsón (sadly no raspberry beer this time) and drove north towards Bariloche. The deep yellow of the broom was now interspersed with the various colours of the lupins coming into bloom.
We drove through Villa Mascardi, where we stopped in the same ACA for coffee/tea and filled up with petrol for the last time.
As we approached Bariloche we were reunited with snowcapped mountains and deep blue lakes that reflected the blue of the clear sky …
We took the bypass around Bariloche, aiming to come home through Villa La Angostura and the Seven Lakes road. However, something went wrong and we missed the turn for Angostura, not realising till we reached Confluencia. We drove some 30km down the beautiful Villa Traful road …
… but realised it would be terribly slow, and night was setting in. So we turned around, and drove the longer way round through La Rinconada, Junín de los Andes (where we had a pizza supper) and arrived home pooped shortly before midnight. Journey done and enjoyed; stats to follow.