Esquel to Bariloche – near disaster!

Over breakfast at Canela B&B we learn more about our hosts Jorge and Veronica. Before moving to Esquel 20 years ago Jorge Miglioli managed a large sheep property near Los Antiguos. Veronica is now a painter and Jorge an author and photographer.  His books include one on the history of the Welsh immigrants in Patagonia and another on La Trochita, the narrow gauge railway we travelled on yesterday.  Unfortunately now out of print but we found a couple of copies on Amazon.

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We had a lunch appointment about 180 km away in El Bolson with Klaus, the German guy who had organised insurance for our cars just when it all looked too hard.  He is a motor bike adventurer who looks right at home in El Bolsen which has a reputation as fairly alternative.  The lunch was booked at Otto Tipp micro-brewery, just a pity we had to drive further and had to decline the beer tasting option to accompany the rather generous meals. As we were leaving an even more alternative lady drove past in the world’s most battered 2CV van. An absolute barn-find (the van, I mean)

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For the final 140 km into Bariloche we are surrounded by serious mountains in the shadow of the Andes and the sky ahead was ominously dark. RIP stopped to put up the hood and then the rain came down. Lightning, thunder and incredibly heavy rain. Casper and Shiraz decided to pull over and we followed as the tail car. No let up for at least half an hour before Kay let out a shriek – ‘get moving, there’s a mud slide coming down the cliff right alongside us’. We just got the cars out in time before the mud and rocks blocked the road.  Fortunately the rain had eased slightly so we covered some distance before coming up behind a couple of cars blocked by another mud slide. Mike decided we could make it through if we could dodge all the rocks and tree branches but just a few more kms on there was a long line of cars blocked by another slide. This one was a bit more serious, a roaring torrent of rocks and mud more than a metre deep right across the road and more than 30 metres wide. Even a Landie wasn’t going to get through this.

Around 6 pm the police and emergency people started arriving telling everyone it could be 5 or 6 hours before the road could be cleared.  The thought of driving down the mountain in the dark wasn’t very appealing but we didn’t have a lot of choice.  A grader turned up and made a few attempts to start clearing but it wasn’t up to the task at all.  Finally a low loader arrived with a front end loader and the police said it would only be an hour, two at the most.  We settled in for another wait when suddenly everyone in front started moving and we were off – Lorraine hardly had time to get the iPad out but managed to get a few quick pics before we were through.  Meanwhile down at Bariloche the other five crews received mixed messages – from our end Mike had managed to get a message through before the others were out of range so at least they knew we were safe.  Then they heard that we had been diverted back to El Bolsen and wouldn’t make it through until the next day.  Everyone was very relieved when we finally arrived around 10 pm but we were a bit late for the complimentary welcome drinks and had to buy our own…

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It’s all my fault for suggesting to Sue over breakfast that the trip was starting to get a bit too easyand we needed some excitement…

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