Route 40, Bariloche to Perito Moreno

Things I see while riding the bus for 12 hours:

Tussocks of grass, soft and round and pointed and prickly grow in clumps in the grey-brown gravel and sand. Stones with splashes of white or black tar-like patches sit amongst a landscape of green, grey and a dozen shades of brown and yellow. Faraway slate-violet hills rest under dark clouds that hang so low I feel I could reach up and touch them.

Picket fences are the only things of human scale in the landscape. Dirty grey sheep watch the bus go past. Sandy coloured guanacos and a few blonde horses trot by. A dead thing is caught over a barbed wire fence, its faded golden fleece hanging loose. Rocks mimic crouching cats, birds of prey and dead bodies.

A small grey fox runs along the roadside. Long-legged, long-necked choique with stringy grey feathers gallop away like mini dinosaurs. A large brown hare, black spots on the back of its ears, leaps under a fence. Buzzards perch on posts and a pair of condors circle above.

Roadside shrines are wrapped in red cloth. The burnt-out shell of an over-turned van lies in the black remains of its inferno. Empty bottles shine in the gravel and plastic bags flap, caught on spiky twigs. A yellow digger sends up dust clouds and a large pit smoulders in the grey earth.

As the world begins to darken, square shapes appear. A two way road is lined by single storey buildings. A small frontier town appears out of the dust as a grid pattern of streets emerges. Perito Moreno, we’ve arrived.