Paso Los Libertadores and Mendoza

Pictures from last year’s trip over the Andes from Santiago to Mendoza. It was probably the second most scenic bus ride I’ve taken (first place goes to the Cardinal Samore pass)

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Cardinal Samore Pass

The bus ride I took from Bariloche, Argentina to Osorno, Chile, was the most scenic bus ride I’ve ever taken. The route along the Cardinal Samore Pass (named for the Cardinal who helped negotiate a peaceful end to the 1978 conflict between Argentina and Chile) winds along Nahuel Huapi Lake and through the Andes. A couple weeks after I traveled through the pass, it was covered by three feet of volcanic stones ejected from Puyehue-Cordon Caulle.

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I enjoyed a couple of hikes around Bariloche, enjoying the great views and the dogs that would follow me around. Luckily, I left before the town was covered in volcanic ash.

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Tren Patagónico

Pictures from the overnight train ride from Viedma to Bariloche:

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Patagonia Bus Marathon

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Traveling the 1400 miles from Ushuaia to Viedma took about 37 hours by bus. The first leg was especially slow given the four border posts (for the short stretch of the trip in Chilean territory) and the ferry ride over the Strait of Magellan. I took a couple hours to walk around Río Gallegos and stayed for one night in Comodoro Rivadavia to break up the rest of the trip. Traveling in coche cama, which includes food, drinks, and bed-like seats was a treat. I also enjoyed the expansive views of the pampas and seeing some guanacos.

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Sights of Ushuaia

Sights from the southernmost city in the world:

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El Tren del Fin del Mundo

In Ushuaia, I rode the southernmost railway in the world. The Ferrocarril Austral Fuegino was originally built to ferry prisoners from Ushuaia’s jail to logging camps in what is now Tierra del Fuego National Park. Riding it right after the year’s first snow was quite scenic.

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Ferroclub Argentino

Railways played an important role in Argentina’s economic and political development. The Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz National Railway Museum writes, “The railroad, that magical and alluring world of trains, is one of the most transcendental inventions of humanity. In our country, the first rail line was inaugurated on August 29, 1857, just years after this revolutionary means of transit began to run in Europe.”

Much of Argentina’s early infrastructure and rolling stock was built with foreign investment. When Colonel Perón nationalized the railways in 1948, Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz, who had written “railways constitute the fundamental key of the nation,” claimed that Argentina had finally “bought sovereignty.” The country’s golden age of rail did not last long, though some rolling stock was manufactured domestically from 1957 up until 1982. As the current Railway Infrastructure Administration explains:

In the late 1940s, the railway network reached 43,000 kilometers. Railway schools were started, and steam engines, diesel locomotives, and all types of carriages were manufactured. The trip from Buenos Aires to Rosario was covered in 3.5 hours. But that progress came to a halt after the coup of 1955. Argentine railways entered into a gradual and continual agony: the Larkin Plan during the government of Frondizi; the means of “rationalization” of the civic-military coup of 1976, and especially the railway scrapping undertaken by the neoliberal regime of Carlos Menem. During that administration, under the promise of improving services, the lines were privatized or transfered to the provincial governments.

Much of this history is documented in the National Railway Museum as well as a number of Railway Clubs. Members of these clubs volunteer to restore rolling stock and run charters with restored steam engines. The Colonel Lynch branch I visited is home to 88 coaches and 9 locomotives. I especially enjoyed seeing some of the original Line B subway cars.

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