We made it through one of the longest roads in the world – more than 5000 km which in our case turned into 8000 km since we made lots of detours tempted with what was there to see around. We’re happy now. Very happy. The first stage of our Argentinian trip is behind us.
Does every road have two ends? Usually not but once again Ruta 40 is an exception. Its southern part in Patagonia is constantly being modified due to growing tourist traffic. Sometimes they make new parts of the road go through more picturesque areas, sometimes they simply take the ’40’ sign and put it on an existing asphalt road instead of doing some road work on initial Ruta 40. That’s obviously cheaper. We had three physical maps, GPS and Google Maps and none of those showed the same route. The end of ruta was transferred to a new location which can be reached with more ease. The real one is located in Cabo Virgenes and that’s where we headed first.
First end of Ruta 40
About 20 minutes after Rio Gallegos, you see a railroad crossing after which you can turn right and drive towards the new end of ruta. But if you drive a little bit further, you will find another right turn which will lead you to Cabo Virgenes through a sandy road – just 130 km before we reach the long-awaited end of our 40 day trip. First hour passes, then the second – Patagonian steppe around us, a bunch of ostriches and two flocks of vicuñi (smaller version of lamas).
But our thoughts are somewhere else. As we talk, we return to the very beginning, to the first few days. From the very start, we struggled with a light case of altitude sickness and then we spent hours on a 50 km long stretch of the road that lead us through amazing Abra el Acay to tiny Cachi. The more I think about this trip, the more I think that the North of Argentina was the most impressive part. Sandy, a little bit wild, full of cities emerging out of nowhere, but also full of difficulties conquering which made us feel proud. Maybe that’s why I’m so sentimental about it. Then, flat middle part and Mendoza area before Patagonia got into the picture – huge and legendary. It was cool to spend so much time there and be able to enjoy it. We met people who made thousands of kilometres on night buses and we kind of pitied them for attempting to see this huge area so quickly.
We get interrupted by a lighthouse we see on a hill nearby. But we just pass it by because we want to see a penguin colony first. (There’s quite a gallery documenting our visit) Fortunately the guards turn back when they see us and let us in. After 1.5 joyous hours spent with the Magellanic penguins it’s time to dip our feet in the ocean and with this, end the whole trip. We drive towards a patch of grass which serves as a parking lot here. A moment later another car parks next to us. The wind is extremely strong, we can’t hear a word and it’s impossible to set the tripod since the wind keeps blowing it down. We’re finally here – we’re looking at the ocean and smiling at each other. This trip meant a lot to us, mostly in terms of our relations and that’s what we value the most about travelling. We experience things together, each of us in their own way, but there’s so many shared memories that we sometimes just talk about what we experienced, how it affected and changed us. We’ve got so many new moments to digest right now – we’re full and it will take a while to process it all. But we’re moving along. It’s just the end of Ruta 40.
We turn back, Ania holds her hair which the wind blows in all directions and we return to the car in order to drive back, up the hill towards the lighthouse where we’re hoping to find a symbol…
Surprisingly, there’s a cafe right next to the lighthouse. We’re happy since now we can also eat something and enjoy the end of the road even more. A young married couple with a child runs the place. Each customer is worth one’s weight in gold which makes them very eager to talk with us. When they here that we made it through whole Ruta 40, they can’t believe it and produce all the stickers with the route’s logo which they give us. They also tell us where our current holy grail is – the 0 (zero) km post. Despite the changes made to the course of the route, this most important symbol is still here. The beginning and the end of Ruta 40 which has been tempting travellers for a long time. We’re hoping that despite its growing tourist potential and more and more asphalt parts, it won’t fill up with cars and motorcycles and lose its lone nature. But I guess that’s just an egoistic dream which may be wrong since popularity may be beneficial for the people living near it.
With regret, we leave and head back to Rio Gallegos in order to drive to the new end of Ruta 40. We keep on wondering why did they change it. It’s just 50 km but the road is so full of potholes that we’re driving slower than on a gravel road. It’s been a while since we had to be so careful – one hole comes after another and the drive turns into a slalom. Not the safest one.
We’re not feeling particularly sentimental about this end – unless they are giving diplomas and throwing confetti in the air – this dream fades away quickly right after we arrive at the harbour. We see a drawbar blocking the way and that’s it. The road signs are obviously out of date. I walk to ask the security guard if it’s really Ruta 40 – he seems to be surprised with my question and says that he’s not sure but it should be. ‘Uhm’ I mutter and get back to the car.
Maybe they will put something here in the future. A sign of some kind or something. Right now, there’s nothing. Just the drawbar, the harbour and a few security guards. Trucks drive by occasionally, swinging their trailers left and right trying to avoid the potholes in the road. I guess that it’s just part of a bigger plan and soon it will become an ‘attraction’.
Here’s a kind of summary – our trip in numbers:
- Start: 26th October
- Finish: 3rd December
- National Parks: 9
- Number of entries on the blog: 46 including this one (there will be a few more practical ones, but later)
- Total distance: more than 8000 km
- Car breakdowns: 0
- Scratches: 1 (our fault), 1 ‘because someone who passed us by had a coin in handy’
When we started I thought we might turn back at some point. I mean, what else can an inexperienced driver think? However after first day on Ruta 40 I already knew that there’s will be no turning back since I never felt something like that before. This empty spaces of Patagonia, hairpin roads over a chasm, pointy mountain tops, glaciers and other beautiful views that distracted me from all directions, I will remember for long. Same goes for the people on the road who were always kind and helpful.
I would like to congratulate Ania. It’s her who deserves respect and recognition for taking us to the end of this road.
It was a very interesting experience. Just road. Distance measured in kilometres and thousands of experiences on our way, most of which we didn’t expect. For us – a couple and a family – it was a huge and cool test. Thank you for keeping track of our entries and reports from the road, different to what we’ve done before and for all the good energy we got and which we tried to give back to you.
Tierra del Fuego is our destination for now, then we’re going to head back to Buenos Aires.