Because public transportation is almost nonexistent on RN 40 between Gobernador Costa and Perito Moreno, only self-propelled southbound travelers normally see the crossroads town of Río Mayo; in fact, few vehicles of any kind use the dull but spine-jarring gravel section that intersects RP 43, the paved route between Comodoro Rivadavia and the Chilean border, 124 kilometers to the south. Despite having little to see, it’s a stopover for cyclists, bikers, and motorists, as well as southbound safaris from Bariloche.
Living primarily off the wool trade, though petroleum is making a comeback, Río Mayo (pop. 2,940) is 224 kilometers south of Gobernador Costa, and 274 kilometers west of Comodoro Rivadavia via paved RN 26 and RP 20. There is westbound public transportation on RN 26 to Coyhaique, Chile; some buses take the slightly longer route via RP 55.
Sights and Events
Río Mayo’s modest Museo Regional Federico Escalada (Avenida Ejército Argentino s/n, tel. 02903/42-0400) is open 8 a.m.–1 p.m. and 4–7 p.m. Monday–Friday.
Featuring sheep-shearing contests and horseback races, early January’s Festival Nacional de la Esquila is the principal festival.
Accommodations and Food
Camping El Labrador (Belgrano and Sarmiento) charges US$3 per vehicle. Modernized Hotel Aka-ta (San Martín 640, tel. 02903/42-0054, hotelakata [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] ar, US$27 s, US$47 d) has rooms with private baths and an improved but cramped restaurant with Internet access.
Reservations are advisable for Hotel El Viejo Covadonga (San Martín 573, tel. 02903/42-0020, covadonga_hotel [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] ar, US$15 pp, US$22 s, US$40 d), which fills with safari passengers on the RN 40 circuit between Bariloche and El Calafate. Though the previous owners absconded with its classic Old West–style bar, this spruced-up hotel has gracious management and it is also the best place to eat.
Getting to Río Mayo
Schedules are subject to change from Río Mayo’s Terminal de Ómnibus (Fontana and Irigoyen). Transaustral (tel. 02903/42-0167) has daily eastbound services to Comodoro Rivadavia (4 hours, US$8), and westbound buses to Coyhaique, Chile (6 hours, US$26), leave at noon Wednesday and Saturday (reservations are essential as these often fill up in Comodoro).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition