Road tripping Siete Lagos, Argentina

The Borduin family is traveling through Siete Lagos area, Argentina on route 40, the most famous route in Argentina. We are staying on the Argentina side down route 40, going north to south from Junin de Los Andes and San Martin de Los Andes, heading to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. Mike, Vivian Niles and I are traveling in two vehicles with pop-up in pickups. We will be traveling for a year 8/2022 to 8/2023.

This is close to our 5th month of travel. But it is only the first month of travel in the pickups in South America. We have done all of our camper travel in Argentina thus far after shipping vehicles to Buenos Aires (we recommend shipping to Montevideo).

The Siete Lagos area is glacially formed lakes surrounded by mountains which have evidence of volcanic activity. The volcanoes created the mountains first and then the glacier shaped the valleys and cut through and deposited rocks throughout the valleys. It’s simply gorgeous to take this drive. There are many ways to do this as evidenced by the people traveling.

There are people staying in hotels, cabanas, hostels, established and wild camping. There are people traveling by motorcycle, camper van private vehicle, rented vehicles, taxis, hiking, biking, bus. Last night we stayed in a parking lot close to one of the ports that ferries people around the lakes. The parking area had six camper vans overnight; we were the only pop up pick up setups. I spoke with one family from Argentina. They planned to cross the border to Chile this morning early and this is why they camped close to the ferry.

The government infrastructure for tourism is developed in this area with new public restrooms popping up, trail systems, online information and advertisements of road construction and improvements by the Neuquen Provincia government.

We are in a pattern of nightly stops and traveling days as we make our way South, utimatly to Ushuaia, Argentina. While writing this post, we are stopped to cook an egg breakfast. On these days we try to overnight for free in parking areas or wild campspots and use the money we save for a restaurant stop.

After Ushuaia, we will come up the Atlantic Coast towards Puerto Madryn with the goal of seeing Orcas on their feeding grounds there. Currently, our Northern route is undecided because there is political unrest in Peru and Venezula. We are researching a way around that situation that can land us in Cartegena, Colombia preferably around June. Or, we will need to ship our vehicles from Santiago, Chile or Montevideo, Uruguay to Panama if Peru and/or Venezuela continue to be too dangerous for land travel.

How do we store and cook food on the road for a year?

Our two vehicles at a trailhead near Junin de Los Andes, Argentina making solar power for the solar battery stored in the back of the Chevy Colorado (left).

We are traveling for a year in our pickup campers through South America with our dog and two teenage kids. Most people we meet in South America camp traveling are using converted vans, buses or bike packing with tents. Our set up is a little different and I’d like to share what we are doing. Like most overland travellers we are on a budget but our set up is where we splurged.

Prepping Arepas, so easy

Food is what makes or breaks our mood some days. Our daily budget while in Argentina is $33USD for food for 4, fuel and any camp fees. We break the budget often by some dollars but, it’s good to have goals. As we travel, availability of food ingredients varies and our camp environment too so, we have to be flexible.

Currently our favorite meals are: Arepas with dulce de leche and peanut butter, chorizos, tartillas de verduras, oatmeal, asado, eggs, ham sandwiches, salads, beans and rice with leftovers, pan fried Scottish bread, fruit smoothies and alfajores with dulce de leche for desert.

Grilling on the Parrilla in camp
Outdoor dishes are better than indoor dishes.

We have outfitted our vehicles with 3 food storage options: cold, cool and room temperature storage.

Cold storage: A small camper fridge with tiny freezer in our Northstar camper can store meat, leftovers and some durable vegetables (inadvertently freezes veggies when weather is hot or fridge is near empty). It can be powered by battery, propane or electric power from a plug in at a camp (not compatible in South America) or our Ecoflow solar charged battery in the other truck.

Cool Storage: A Yeti cooler that we use when we travel through hot days higher than 80°F or just to keep tender foods from getting crushed. It’s stored in the cab of the Dodge pick up. We shade it with a blanket and sun visors to maximize the cool. We exchange freezer packs from the fridge’s freezer daily. This keeps the Yeti cool enough for vegetables and eggs that have been washed.

Room temperature storage: the Northstar has cabinets for food storage. We keep rice, coffee, flour, mate and arepa flour in the deep cabinet. We haven’t needed to buy and store canned goods but as we go south, we may run lower on fresh fruits and veggie. Pots and pans, Vitamix and Instapot, oils and vinegar go under the sink. Lots of bottled spices in a slide out tray in another cabinet. In cooler temperatures we keep our unwashed eggs, fruits and tomatoes in a cardboard box in the camper instead of the Yeti, for convenience.

Cooking Options: we use propane to fuel the two burner stove in the Northstar: hot water, eggs, Arepas, stir fry, warm leftovers. We can also power the Northstar with enough electric from the solar battery to run the Vitamix or Instapot or set either of these appliances outside on the other truck’s tailgate: smoothies, stews, rice, beans etc. Without the solar battery we run the risk of draining the Dodge’s batteries and needing a jump. To cook with fire, we cook on a collapsible grill (parrilla) over wood or carbón or in a cast iron pan over our tiny Solo stove instead of the propane stove any chance we get. When BBQing we use embers from a mature fire in the Solo stove poured into a fire pit to light charcoal briquettes. Most established campgrounds provide grills, but we have been using wild campsites so we bought a foldable parrilla from a Ferriteria near San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina.

Fuels used: propane, solar electric, wood, and carbon. We use propane for cooking and heating. We have two US bought 7.9 kg propane tanks which can be filled at sites we identify through ioverlander app. In Argentina, Buenos Aires Provincia is the only place we have had trouble filling our US bought propane tanks because of not having a tank certification, all fill stations have had adapters to our tank fittings.

Solar electric is used to cook with appliances, charge devices while in camp, and run the digital thermometer and fan of the propane heater in the Chevy Colorado. Wood is used for camp cooking and caveman TV. Carbon for BBQing longer cook meats and veggies.

Old container from the US that now has original Avena (oatmeal cut for quick cooking). Mike’s oats are topped with bananas and dulce de leche.
Fridge power usage settings can be switched from inside the camper.
When the Northstar is plugged into power, we can run appliances.
Two burner stove in the Northstar, propane.
Fridge with tiny freezer at the top which we fill with freezer packs. We also fill water bottles and store them in the fridge to stabilize the temperature when fridge isn’t full.