Road trip. Whether you’re a grey nomad, going surfing with a bunch of mates, gearing up as a family to go visit the relo’s, these two words roll off the tongue into a smile. When you get your licence it’s a rite of passage to independence.

Some road trips take on an almost ethereal sense – route 66 for example. You don’t know why you want to do it, you just do. The road of bones for the more daring, the great ocean road for any surfer, the Stelvio pass in Italy for the driver or death road in Boliva – all famous in their own way.

I’d like to tack the less-known road I just travelled on to the list, Ruta 40 , in Argentina. It is one of the longest roads in the roads in the world at over 5000km, rivalled in length by only a couple of others in length (the Stuart Highway in Australia being one). It starts at sea level in the south and goes up to 5000m in the north, travels through 20 national parks, over 18 major rivers and traverses 27 mountain passes thru the Andes. But as with most roads, the stats aren’t very exciting, why I think this road is worthy of mention is much more romantic.

For starters, it’s sparsely paved in the south and the only access to some of the most stunning landscape Patagonia has to offer. It punches a line thru terrain that has never been populated. There is times when you’re the only person for 200km in every direction, completely isolated. Because of the extremities of the south it has become a must do for adventure tourism of the motorised kind. Cyclists even pit themselves against the Patagonian gusts at times. Safe to say, it has humbled many egos.

By the time I hit the 3000 km mark, I had come to know the road quite personally. I had a close call that saw the road nearly take my trip from me (read about it here). I have spent equal hours cursing the ever illusive dead straight horizon (the longest stretch I measured was 67 km dead straight) as I have being bug eyed, in absolute awe of the scenery that Ruta 40 delivers.

Further north the seemingly never ending horizons give way to twists and turns, beset by olive groves or wineries. The scenery can change so quickly, within four kilometers you can climb a mountain pass, arid on one side, the other lush, green and humid. Also the valleys, shit how could I forget about that, the valleys are incredible, grand canyon incredible.

I’ve put together a little series of photos so you can get a feel for its diversity. But seriously, if you’re an over-lander, road-tripper, adventurer or the kind of person who likes a challenge…you must.

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See more images and read more from Shanes blog: Into The Midst