Carmen de Patagones Seen from Viedma

Carmen de Patagones Seen from Viedma

The two cities sit on opposite banks of the Rio Negro. Carmen de Patagones, on the north bank, is the southernmost city of the State of Buenos Aires; Viedma, occupying he south bank, is the capital of the State of Rio Negro, which extends west as far as the Andes and the Chilean border.

It seems that the current edition of the Lonely Planet Guide to Argentina no longer has chapters for the twin cities on the Rio Negro. I guess they’re not Disneyfied enough to draw all the tour groups. For travelers driving from Buenos Aires to Patagonia, it is at best a stopping place for the night before big chunk of attractions around Puerto Madryn and Trelew.

Viedma also happens to be the terminus of the Tren Patagonico, about which I wrote yesterday. From there, it goes clear across the State of Rio Negro to the Patagonian Lake District around San Carlos de Bariloche. Today, I finally got an e-mail response from the Tren Patagonico people telling me they’ll be ready to take my reservation for November in a week or so.

If my reservation is confirmed, I’ll spend a couple of nights in either Viedma or Carmen de Patagones and wander around both towns seeing the local museums.

In 2001, I remember being the only visitor in a two-hour period to the old fish canning museum in Heimaey in Iceland’s Vestmanneyjar Islands. I loved every minute. The curator gave me a personal tour and explained how Heimaey was the main fishing port in Iceland, a country whose GDP is based on their fish catch. Even though the museum is no more (I looked for it in 2013 but couldn’t find it), I have special memories of my visit. And that is much better than being jostled by huge crowds of tourists who distractedly push their way past all the exhibits on their way to the next destination.

So Viedma and Carmen de Patagones have been demoted! So much more for me to see!

Argentina: One Remaining Question

An Overnight Train Trip Clear Across Patagonia

An Overnight Train Trip Clear Across Patagonia

Right smack in the middle of my trip, there is a question of how I’m going to get from Buenos Aires to San Carlos de Bariloche. Most people would probably elect to fly, but I want to minimize my exposure to Aerolineas Argentinas, a state-run airline with a laughably intricate labor union structure. There are a dozen or more unions, any of which can decide to call a strike any time. In 2011, they decided to fly us to Ezeiza’s Ministro Pistarini Airport rather than Aeroparque Jorge Newberry, necessitating a fifty dollar cab ride in the middle of the night to our hotel in the Congreso district.

(As currently planned, I will use Aerolineas to fly from Puerto Iguazu to Aeroparque, and Santiago, Chile, to Aeroparque. Let’s see how badly they screw me up this time.)

What I would like to do is to take an overnight bus to Viedma on the coast, and the Tren Patagonico from Viedma to Bariloche. Below is a map of the route:

Cutting Across the State of Rio Negro

Cutting Across the State of Rio Negro

Part of this was traveled by Paul Theroux on the trip covered by his book The Old Patagonian Express—except he got off at Ingeniero Jacobacci and transferred to a southbound narrow-gauge train from Jacobacci to Esquel.

The only problem is that I have not so far succeeded in making a reservation for the November 13 train. If they do not respond to my reservation request by October 15, I will take a bus from Buenos Aires to San Martín de los Andes. From there, I will take the scenic Ruta de Siete Lagos (Route of the Seven Lakes) to Bariloche. In either case, I have a reservation for Bariloche beginning November 14.

Either way, I’ll probably have a good time.