January 3, 2006
Esquel is the last place the public buses go to on the way south through western Argentina. Figuring out where to go next wouldn't be easy, so Jenny and I dedicated the day to trying to figure out what to do next. There appeared to be four options:
1. Go to Chile, which is just west of here, and move south from there. After asking some of the local people around town, we decided that this option wasn't going to work because no buses go south on the Chilean side, either. Their apparently are roads over there, which opens up the door for hitchhiking, but we were advised against trying because people with cars in that area tend to be afraid to pick up strangers off the road. This may or may not be true, but neither of us wanted to risk being stranded in the middle of nowhere for several days while waiting for someone to stop for us.
2. Rent a car and take route 40 down the entire 1500 KM stretch of road to El Calafate. No public buses go down that road, but apparently a dirt road does, in fact, exist. The only problem was that renting a car would be too expensive for two people. We have been trying to find others to go with us, but I don't think that will happen. This would be a fun option, but it doesn't look possible.
3. Take the special tourist bus down route 40. A bus does actually go down route 40 all the way to El Calafate, but it is very expensive, only leaves twice per week, and goes for two days without stopping, which doesn't sound very fun to me. I'm not in a big hurry to keep moving, and I'd rather not spend a ton of money to take that route, so I think this option is out, too.
4. Cross to the east coast of Argentina and go south from there. This would mean riding in a bus straight east for eight hours overnight before being able to head south. It's somewhat of a waste of time, but the east coast is the only part of Patagonia that has paved roads that go south from here. It also means that I'll have to backtrack somewhat on the way up, but this appears to be the only option available to me.
Unless we find some other people to share a rented car with us, it looks like Jenny and I will head out tomorrow afternoon for Puerto Madryn on the east coast.