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Report on the Road trip down the Route National 40 from Bariloche to El Chalten / El Calafate with Bariloche Adventure



 
 
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  #1  
Old January 29th, 2004, 02:22 AM
dimjon
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Default Report on the Road trip down the Route National 40 from Bariloche to El Chalten / El Calafate with Bariloche Adventure

DOWN THE ROUTE NATIONAL 40 with 'BARILOCHE ADVENTURE'

ABSTRACT: The most horrible organized trip I did in my life, and i did
some. It's expensive, has poor equipment, is badly organized and
unsupportive. Don't do it! Look for private alternatives in the
internet instead.

WARNING: Maybe I'm a little bit biased, because next to the bad
organisation I had to struggle with severe stomach problems during
this trip, and any trip involving three days in a car over unpaved
roads would have been horrible with a stomach desease, I guess, even
the most perfect one. But judging from the reaction of some of the
other people doing this trip I think I'm not completely wrong with my
judgement.

IN DETAIL: I did the RN40 trip in the middle of january, organized by
Bariloche Adventure, Mitre 125, Bariloche. They offer two kind of
basic packages: A three-days trip from Bariloche to El Chalten, or a
five-days trip including a hike of two days in the Fitz Roy area with
camping. I chose the 5 day package, including the 'cueva de las manos'
and transfer to El Calafate. My only worry was, that I would only have
one afternoon for the glacier in El Calafate before my flight to
Ushuaia, the glacier being the most important part of the trip for me.
But the friendly salesman convinced me that the glacier is most
beautiful in the evening anyways.

The trip started at 6:00 AM in the lobby. I was there at 5:45, as the
friendly salesman had warned us: 'We'll wait until 6:05, if you're not
there in time, we're gone!'. They arrived at 7:00. Not too bad for me,
as I only had to wait in a warm hostel lobby, but the four girls that
had to freeze for 1 1/2 hours at a road junction near their camping
lot had a real bad start.

But the driver - Claudio - (an external temp helping out for the
original driver who had broken both his arms) was nice, had some good
music, and so we started still in a good temper until after kilometer
8 it turned out the battery of our vehicle was broken. And you can't
cross Patagonia with a broken battery. So Claudio dropped us off at
some hostel out of town to head for a garage. He told us that at 10:00
we would continue, and we should have some breakfast in the meantime.
We reminded him to fix one of the seats as well, that
was just unbearable to sit on.

Then some guy from B.A. showed up telling us the electric generator
was broken as well and they had to replace it. But at 12:00 we would
continue. 'ˇSeguro!'

At 13:30 the bus arrived. With a replaced generator and a still
unbearable seat. The B.A. guy had no word of excuse for the delay or
the overall desolate condition of the car. "This is a Route 40
adventure, not a normal bus trip!".

Maybe you, honoured reader, think the same at this point: "European,
lower your standards! this is Argentina!!!" But please consider that
the whole vehicle was just a big collection of chunk, and even Lonely
Planet tells you that you should take extra care in the preparation of
a RN40 trip, as it can be really lonesome in Patagonia, the road
conditions are bad, and there are wide areas without any possibility
to use a phone.

A flat tire or a breakdown doesn't bother me, that's what just happens
on such a trip. But to start such a trip with a crappy and obviously
unchecked car from the beginning is just stupid and not what I expect
from a tour that charges far more for a road trip than you would spend
for a flight with Aerolineas Argentinas. In addition, sitting in some
hostel, watching 'Friends' and eating pizza while you wait for the
mechanic is NOT my definition of adventure!

However, we started again, and with the first small hills it turned
out that car was even worse than I thought, as it already had severe
problems driving up the paved slopes. It started to smell a little
burned and the temperature meter climbed to the red zone, but Claudio
appeased us that it wouldn't mean anything until after about 100km the
car deceased in a cloud of boiling water, conveniently right in front
of the main gas station of El Bolson. At this point even Claudio said
he refused to drive with THAT car anymore (I would have liked to see
him try, though...) and called the B.A. guy.

We had lunch, we had drinks, and waited for Bariloche Adventure to
organize another vehicle. El Bolson is a nice little town if you like
hippies. Claudio and other people that had seen the Glacier in El
Calafate told me I definitely should see it in the morning, because
the light is nicer and the chance of good weather is better in earlier
hours. That was the time when I got really upset. If you wonder why,
please read the first paragraph of IN DETAIL above again.

After interpolating the time we needed for the first 100km on a
perfectly paved road on the trip ahead I figured we would reach El
Calafate around April, well, at least not in time to see the glacier
at all. I told the B.A. guy I wanted to cancel the trip now, get back
the money, try to catch a flight and forget about it. He assured me
that this would not be possible, as they would organize another car
and the trip would go on 'as planned'. We would just drive the night
through and be in time again. Well, they already had the money, so
what can you do!? I asked him if it at least was possible to cancel
the hike in Fitz Roy now (sadly enough - I really wanted to do that!)
to be sure I'd reach El Calafate in time and also see the glacier in
the morning, but he told me also that it was not possible.

Fortunately all other cars of Bariloche Adventure were unavailable, so
they agreed to rent a car from another company, which was indeed in a
MUCH better condition, and we really drove the night through, not
seeing too much of the 'legendary RN40' this way, of course. I mean,
that's what it's all about.

To make things shorter: We arrived at every place later than planned,
but still in time for the hike. I guess we were in luck overall,
because after 100km we had the opportunity to change to a car NOT
belonging to B.A. I saw the 'Cueva de las manos', and I advise anyone
who passes this area to do so, because the hands are really wonderful,
most impressive and located in an awesome canyon scenery. I skipped
the hike, flushing 400 Pesos down the drain, but well, that's just 100
Euro thanks to the glorious U.S. government, so f*** it. A friend who
did the hike told me afterwords that it was wonderful, even though it
was raining all the time. The tour is organized by chalten travel, and
the representative in El Chalten told me I would have been able to
cancel it until yesterday. If you wonder why I was angry, please read
two paragraphs above again...

Still I'm glad I didn't do the hike, because this way I saw the
glacier in both morning and evening, and it was the most impressive
thing for me since Iquazu. If you go there, try to be there a full day
to see the change of light, and take lots of films. Do the boat trip
on the south side, it will approach the glacier much closer.

OK - That's it. Thank you for listening. But now you still really
really want to do the RN40-trip, and there's indeed no other company
in Bariloche that offers it. What should you do?

I was told afterwords there are some one-man-companies offering the
same trip, and some of them use well maintained Mercedes vehicles
instead of crappy Fiats. They offer their services in the internet, so
just look for them in the web. I can assure you it's worth it, because
you will probably not end up with an organisation that:

- Does not care for customer satisfaction after they collected the
money
- Is willing to sell you things that are contrary to your needs if it
pays
- Charge very high percentages on things that they just do the booking
for
(they i.e. charged 30% more for booking the trip to the cuevas de las
manos
than other people paid that booked directly)

....but they have a really friendly salesman!
  #2  
Old January 29th, 2004, 08:06 PM
JohnM
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Posts: n/a
Default Report on the Road trip down the Route National 40 from Bariloche to El Chalten / El Calafate with Bariloche Adventure

In article , dimjon
writes
The trip started at 6:00 AM in the lobby. I was there at 5:45, as the
friendly salesman had warned us: 'We'll wait until 6:05, if you're not
there in time, we're gone!'. They arrived at 7:00. Not too bad for me,
as I only had to wait in a warm hostel lobby, but the four girls that
had to freeze for 1 1/2 hours at a road junction near their camping
lot had a real bad start.


Hehe - I don't think I have ever started a tour in South America on
time, dimjon :-)

-- snip snip --

I think the gist of the story is that they should have provided you with
a proper solid vehicle and everything followed on from that. I agree
with you they should have done. From then on, well, if you allow
yourself to get into a negative state of mind... it doesn't help.

--
JohnM
Author of Brazil: Life, Blood, Soul
http://www.scroll.demon.co.uk/spaver.htm




  #3  
Old January 30th, 2004, 12:35 PM
philipj
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Posts: n/a
Default Report on the Road trip down the Route National 40 from Bariloche to El Chalten / El Calafate with Bariloche Adventure


"JohnM" wrote in message
...
In article , dimjon
writes
The trip started at 6:00 AM in the lobby. I was there at 5:45, as the
friendly salesman had warned us: 'We'll wait until 6:05, if you're not
there in time, we're gone!'. They arrived at 7:00. Not too bad for me,
as I only had to wait in a warm hostel lobby, but the four girls that
had to freeze for 1 1/2 hours at a road junction near their camping
lot had a real bad start.


Hehe - I don't think I have ever started a tour in South America on
time, dimjon :-)

-- snip snip --


I think the gist of the story is that they should have provided you with
a proper solid vehicle and everything followed on from that. I agree
with you they should have done. From then on, well, if you allow
yourself to get into a negative state of mind... it doesn't help.


JohnM, Your last sentence sounds to me to be rather smug.
Put yourself in the same position and if you think that explaining what
happened is negative then I suggest you re-evaluate your philosophies as you
are missing something. Methinks I would have been somewhat annoyed also.

cheers philipj, tasmania, Oz

--
JohnM
Author of Brazil: Life, Blood, Soul
http://www.scroll.demon.co.uk/spaver.htm






  #4  
Old January 31st, 2004, 02:04 AM
JohnM
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Report on the Road trip down the Route National 40 from Bariloche to El Chalten / El Calafate with Bariloche Adventure

In article , philipj
writes

JohnM, Your last sentence sounds to me to be rather smug.


I'm sorry, it wasn't meant to sound like that :-)

Put yourself in the same position and if you think that explaining what
happened is negative then I suggest you re-evaluate your philosophies as you
are missing something. Methinks I would have been somewhat annoyed also.


I agreed that the poster was right. A car that takes you from A to B is
the minimum one should expect from a travel company be it in Europe, Oz
or South America. Had the poster just left it at that, I would concur
and there would be little more to add; but it seems to me that the guy
has let it fester.

So what *would* you do in such a no-win situation? Either you sulk which
is ultimately self-destructive or you go with the flow. Read what
happened to me when I was robbed blind in Bolivia:

http://www.scroll.demon.co.uk/satrip/chap7.htm

It could either have destroyed my trip (I nearly went home) or I could
grit my teeth, sort myself out and plod on, which is what I did. As a
result I had a terrible time for seven days but a great time for the
five more weeks that followed.

--
JohnM
Author of Brazil: Life, Blood, Soul
http://www.scroll.demon.co.uk/spaver.htm




  #5  
Old February 5th, 2004, 05:46 PM
dimjon
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Report on the Road trip down the Route National 40 from Bariloche to El Chalten / El Calafate with Bariloche Adventure

I agreed that the poster was right. A car that takes you from A to B is
the minimum one should expect from a travel company be it in Europe, Oz
or South America. Had the poster just left it at that, I would concur
and there would be little more to add;


You're right - that's the main point! But it's also about the bad way
the company treated us during the following trip.

So what *would* you do in such a no-win situation? Either you sulk which
is ultimately self-destructive or you go with the flow


....and tell other people about it afterwords so they don't have to
make the same mistake as well.
 




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