Monday, November 1st 2021 - The perfect day to start our great adventure. Unfortunately, the sky must have resented our departure, because after a week of heat, it rained for the first time, of course, right on time for our departure. After the whole Sunday, besides the aftermath of our little farewell party, was used to pack, prepare everything and do last things, we started early on Monday. We said a heartfelt goodbye to Lucía the night before, Dad Ricardo gave us a big hug before he left for work, and Mom Marta prepared us a last delicious porridge to stength us - and then we were finally off! What a feeling to roll out of the garage with our well prepared Gaucha and start our long journey south from Quilmes - a mixture of anticipation, adventurousness, freedom and hope that everything will work out and go well =) Our first stop, however, took us one last time to the center of Buenos Aires, to the immigration office "Migraciónes". Christian's visa expired after three months and the plan was to extend it for another three months. In our plans, we always assumed that this would work out - there was no plan B. Since we had already visited the place a few weeks ago, we knew what to expect: a hustle and bustle of people processing all kinds of applications and requests in six different buildings and a lot of offices and counters. During our last visit, we were assured that the visa could be extended without any problems shortly before it expired, and that's exactly what happened. After barely two hours we had the new visa in our pockets and now we could really start. In the morning rain shower, we first took the Buenos Aires highway again until we turned onto Ruta 3, which starts here and leads to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina. Vamos al Sur! 360 kilometres were on the program for the start today. The "Rutas" are usually single-lane country roads whose condition varies greatly in some cases. The biggest danger are the many big and small trucks that are at home on the rutas and that, of course, have to be overtaken all the time, when they are not doing it to each other. Of course there was a lot of traffic on the first part on Monday morning, but with every kilometre outside of Buenos Aires it became less and after a short time we had left the big city and crossed smaller and smaller towns and villages along Ruta 3. Equipped with enough mate tea, we took it easy, especially since our cruising speed with the Gaucha is about 90 km/h - tranquilo, tranquilo and enjoying instead of rushing is the order of the day. It rained sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker and after about half of the distance we made a first stop for lunch, where we enjoyed Marta's schnitzel sandwiches and realized wistfully that our exclusive food service from her ended with it and we had to provide ourselves from now on. Said and done, so we went to an almacén (kiosk) and bought some provisions for the rest of the trip. When we left the large and busy Ruta 3 on the last 100 kilometres and turned onto the smaller Ruta 30, the time had come: We changed the steering wheel and Marina covered her first kilometres on a Ruta with the Gaucha. Actually it was her first time ever driving on a Ruta! During our three months in Buenos Aires, she took driving lessons in the middle of the traffic chaos of Buenos Aires. Just in time before our departure she passed her driving test and was ready for la gaucha! Since the practical test "only" consisted of parking, learning by doing was the way to do it =) The adventure begins!
Tandil, our first destination, is a small town in the center of Buenos Aires province, surrounded by a lot of nature and some green hills. It is, besides its beautiful wide landscape, famous for homemade salami and cheese (the kind of reputation we like). With our arrival after about 5 hours on the Ruta 3 it stopped raining immediately and we ran into our first campsite, directly at the small lake of Tandil. Except for a few tents we were the only guests, parked the Gaucha protected under a tree and went directly to a walk on one of the hills. But we had made the plan without counting on the dog of the campsite. She wanted to be greeted extensively and almost didn`t let us go. But finally we were successful and climbed the holy Christo, which rises on one of the many hills above Tandil. Afterwards we went back in the rain, companied by another dog, and drove with the Gaucha to a rustic "Pulperia" (pub). There we first warmed up at the stove, dried our clothes and ordered a delicious hot stew. Our hopes that we could prepare our sleeping quarters in the dry, unfortunately, were not really fulfilled. So, we took only mild showers and sneaked in to our Gaucha for the first night, where we surprisingly slept until 8 am the next morning despite the continuous rain. On the second day we took it easy in the morning, until we were again on the Ruta 3 and travelled today about 360 km further south. With greater distance to Buenos Aires, the traffic became less and less and so we were partly miles alone on the road. In contrast to the previous day, the sun shone all day today and the wind blew pleasantly through the open windows. Our destination was a quite campground in the forest with access to the beach, a good distance from the industrial city of Bahia Blanca, in the very south of the province of Buenos Aires. Once again we were all alone, so the owner offered us to stop by her place later and sit around the campfire with friends. We chose the most beautiful place of the whole campsite and went to the beach with salami and cheese from Tandil and cool cervezas. The rough wind made the cool swim in the wavy sea unpleasant only when we got out of the water. But the sun dried us quickly and an almost cold shower at the campsite this time was followed by our own campfire. We were definitely too tired for the owner's invitation and just managed to set up our tent before falling asleep in it, dead tired.
We also slept great in our nice tent and didn't miss the chance to go to the beach early the next morning - this time with the Gaucha. Since we had a long day on the road ahead of us and the temperatures shot up in the morning, it remained with a short visit to the beach. 500 kilometres through the province of "La Pampa", past thousands of cattle herds on evergreen and never ending pastures on the horizon, were on the program and the thermometer showed 35 degrees. Good music, mate tea and the anticipation of the adventures to come made the time fly. At the border with Rio Negro province, we stopped for a salad and empanada lunch at a typical Ruta restaurant before crossing the meaningful Rio Colorado river: it is the gateway to Patagonia! And the region immediately lived up to its name. If the prospect of a cooling bath on the beach of our today's campsite in Las Grutas was the hope of the whole day, this was at least vaguely questioned by suddenly rising clouds. But of course we didn't let a few clouds stop us. After check-in (we were not alone this time, a family was already there) we packed our beach chairs and off we went ... We should have checked the tides before, because: It was low tide! The beach was great, but the water was several hundred meters out. At the same time, the clouds were gathering more and more threateningly. The result: after a few minutes we were sitting soaking wet in our beach chairs and freezing in the lashing rain. But the spectacle was short-lived, so we then packed our backpacks and marched off through the damp sea mudflats and over countless crabs, shrimp and other animals. Only when we arrived at the water, we realized that the thunderstorm was not over yet, because it started a second round. Now it was time to get off the beach. Running barefoot over stony seabed, by the way, is only semi-pleasant. In the end, we got completely wet a second time, but escaped the lightning strike and were instead rewarded by an impressive rainbow. This time we showered hot before we left for the village and treated ourselves with a delicious fish in a beach restaurant. Afterwards we spent the night a second time in the Gaucha - this time with chilled preparation with no rain. The next day, another 300 kilometres south to Puerto Madryn awaited us, where we will set up our base for a few days. But first it was time to spend the next morning on the beach - this time with blue skies, sun and water right up to the front door. It's a great way to have breakfast, and the Gaucha likes the fresh sea breeze, too. The reputation that the seaside resort Las Grutas supposedly has the warmest water in Argentina, we could not quite understand during the morning bath: it was ass-cold, but a pleasant refreshment and strengthening before the upcoming travel day to Puerto Madryn. After three days of camping, we looked forward to our rented cabin on the Valdes Peninsula, a nature reserve just outside Puerto Madryn, where guanacos (llamas), penguins, sea lions and elephants, and whales awaited us. Vamonos!