Argentina - Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes

 

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Argentina - Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes
Mar 25-29, 2000

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Mar 17-24, 2000

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Mar 9-16, 2000

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Mar 1-8, 2000

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Feb 4-7, 2000

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Jan 6-15, 2000

 

Sat Mar 25, 2000 - Cruce de Lagos

In our preferred fashion, we had breakfast in the room while we packed for the journey to Bariloche, Argentina and to meet MomC. We checked out and walked over to the catamaran on schedule at 10:45am only to learn that today they have a private party (200 people from a cruise out of Miami) taking the catamaran around Lago Todo Los Santos for one hour. This means that our trip will be delayed from 11:00am until 12:00pm.

By now we are used to such odd schedule changes and returned to the hotel. We got cozy and read in front of the roaring fire during the hour wait. The best part about the delay was that the clouds burned off. So, we enjoyed a sunny cruise across the lake rather than the dark clouds and rain that the private party had for their excusion.

The lake is beautiful. The green water laps against the forested shores. There are a few houses along the lake's shore, but they are outnumbered by the waterfalls.

Peulla is the town at the East end of the lake. The Hotel is the only restaurant, which one would expect would be prepared to handle the crowd from the catamaran. Not so. The boat company wanted to make up the hour delay by shortening the lunch break in Peulla. The restaurant was definitely not prepared for this resulting in a crazy lunch.

The buses started rolling to take us through Chilean and Argentine customs by driving over the Andes. We were embarrassed by the annoying Americans on the bus. There were two groups who spoke no Spanish and "compensated" by treating the Spanish guides horrendously. It made us truly ashamed to be Americans.

After the next boat ride, we met the Leitner family from New York City. The parents were nice, and an inspiration. They travelled around the world for 6 months when their oldest was 2.5, and she was pregnant with the second. We enjoyoed chatting with them and their 3 girls on the ride to Bariloche.

Overall, we rate the Cruce de Lagos (the boat trip) as touristy, long ad overpriced. The lakes are beautiful, however.

Rain and a cold wind greeted us. We checked into the Edelweiss, which had very funky rooms, and met with MomC after her 24 hour journey to Bariloche. We enjoyed fantastic steaks for dinner at El Gaucho, and found homemade ice cream for dessert. After dinner, MomC gave us the huge pile of loot that she brought us. It was like Christmas!

 

Sun Mar 26, 2000 - Bariloche and the Circuito Chico

In the morning it was still rainy, so we got a slow start. We enjoyed an american breakfast buffet at the hotel, and then split forces to run some errands, including laundry, shopping, and researching what to do in Bariloche. Louisa and MomC bought a fleece jacket for MomC because it was colder than she anticipated, while Tom went to 3 car rental places before getting a car and upgrade from Avis.

We finally got in the car and headed off to explore the area. We started along the "Circuito Chico", a short loop road that goes along a few lakes. Of course, we did some off-road driving, too - as much as our poor Daewoo sedan would permit.

First we explored a peninsula into Lago Nahuel Huapi that seemed to be privately owned and offered nice views back towards the shore. Then we cut off on another gravel road to the small town of Colonia Suiza, where the whole town seemed to be cooking Sunday "parilla" or barbecue. We kept on and tried the road up to Cerro Campanario (we think), but it was too much for the car - we missed our 4wd!

Once back on the "calzada" (pavement), we backtracked a little to the Punto Panoramico, to take some pictures of the area. We then continued on to Llao Llao, the most famous hotel in Argentina, which is beautifully situated on a narrow isthmus between two arms of the lake. We decided to have lunch there, and relaxed in the sun coming through the window and enjoyed the view.

When we walked out the other side of Llao Llao, it was like walking into a different day. In this direction, the clouds were dark, and a light rain was falling. It was a strange feeling - we all felt like if we walked out the door on the other side the day would be sunny! We then stopped by a nearby small church on our way back into Bariloche.

We weren't quite done exploring yet, so we decided to try driving up Cerro Otto. There's a chairlift and rotating restaurant at the top, but we thought we could save the $15pp for the lift this way. We got very close to the to, but finally there's a sign telling us we need to pay $10 each to walk in - crazy! We were high enough to take some great pictures, and then went back down.

When we got back to the hotel we relaxed for a little while, and refreshed ourselves with a dip in the pool, which is on the top floor and has a great view. After showering, we went to do some more errands, including picking up the laundry, reading email, and getting MomC's glasses fixed.

One specialty of the region is fondue, so we decided to have that for dinner. We were served huge platters of cut beef and chicken to cook in boiling consomme, and a wide variety of sauces to dip them in. Because the bites have to cook for a minute, we ate slowly and enjoyed everything. Finally, we went back to Tante Fridas for ice cream dessert, and hit the hay.

Hotel Edelweiss Review: Odd, unfriendly and overpriced. The rooms are odd shapes, with odd furniture that is not comfortable. The staff treat the guests cooly, and are not helpful with inforamtion about Bariloche, restaurants or the surrounding area. The breakfast was good, with a wider selection of foods (including a deliciouos fresh fruit salad) than ususal.

 

Mon Mar 27, 2000 - San Martin de los Andes

After some time in the internet cafe, where even MomC sent an email or two, we left commercial Bariloche for areas less developed. We headed along the north shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, part of a circuit known as the Seven Lakes. After a couple of hours of amazing and ever-changing mountain and lake views we arrived at the town of Villa La Angostura, and ate lunch at a small local restaurant.

We continued through Park Nahuel Huapi, taking small dirt roads where possible, and discovered tranquil Lago Espeja Chica (Lake Small Mirror), a little off the beaten path. As we continued on, we saw a work crew building a vista point over a beautiful valley, but Tom sensed that it must be for something more and pulled over to the side f the road. Louisa and her Mom were dubious, but then saw the beautiful Cascada Vulinanco not visible from the road.

A short while later we drove over a bridge for the Arroyo Partido (Parting River) and, again, Tom pulls to the side. This little stream divides at this point, with one half traveling to the Atlantic Ocean, and the other to the Pacific. We enjoyed witnessing such a rare phenomenon and marvelled at the location, since it does not appear to be at a particularly high altitude.

We then took a side road signposted "Arraynes Circuit" that went along a winding dirt road and led us into San Martin de los Andes a back way, with some great views across the lake. We looked near the lake for a place to stay, but finally settled on a very cute place closer to the main street called "La Cheminee".

We then walked around a bit to explore the town, and finally realized that we'd like to go fishing tomorrow, so we hurried to find a guide before dinner. After trying several places we finally found a very nice guy, and got everything arranged. Then we went off to Cha Cha for asado dinner, which was very good, and they were very friendly.

 

Tue Mar 28, 2000 - Trout Fishing on Lake Lacar

After a delicious breakfast of eggs, homemade bread, fresh orange juice and rewal coffee, we were ready for a day of fishing when Cacho, our fishing guide, picked us up at La Chimenee. First stop was to purchase a fishing license for the day ($15), then we dropped Gabriella, his 14 foot boat, into Lake Lacar and headed out.

The weather cooperated completely. Last night was windy and we had been informed that too much wind would require driving to a different lake, but the day was clear and calm. We were a bit chilly at first, with the sun not yet over the mountains and the boat cruising out to our fishing spot, but we had brought enough clothing to be comfortable.

We started out with deep trolling, in a part of the lake that was very deep, along a high cliff. Cacho showed us how to hold the rods and move them to simulate the movement of small fish that large trout like to eat. Louisa and Tom started out, and we rotated positions throughout the day. We relaxed and fished and chatted with Cacho, translating for MomC.

After a while with no strikes, Cacho told us to reel in and we went further down the lake. This time MomC tried it, with Tom, but we still didn't have any luck. Finally, Cacho decided to try shallower trolling, with different rods and lures.

We cruised over to a shallower part of the lake, and unlimbered the smaller rods. The water was so clear that we could clearly see tree limbs and rocks 30ft below. MomC, in front, was great at spotting fish swimming by, while Tom and Louisa fished and Cacho slowly drove with the trolling motor.

Finally, we got a strike! Tom's pole jerked, and he immediately pulled back to set the hook. Louisa and MomC looked to see what the excitement was, and at that moment the fish jumped high to try to get rid of the hook, delighting everyone. Tom reeled him in, and tried to hold him up for the camera, but he proved quite slippery and almost got away several times. Cacho estimated him to be about a 2lb rainbow, and he definitely was the largest trout we had ever seen. After admiring him for a little while, we dropped him in the bucket and went back to fishing. Cacho relaxed considerably now that we had caught a fish, and we really started to have fun.

At this point the sun had come over the mountains into a cloudless sky - an absolutely perfect day. We were in awe. The snow covered mountains in the distance glistened, while the forests that crowded the lake were just turning golds and reds with autumn colors. There was not a single soul out on the lake, and the land as far as we could see appeared untouched by humans, although the occasional meadow betrayed the presence of a few invisible Mapuche residents in the Parque Nacional Lanin. The name of the lake, Lacar, is a reference to a drowned city similar to Atlantis in a Mapuche legend.

We had a leisurely lunch of sandwiches and cokes, and then continued to troll over behind a small island, still further down the lake. Louisa broke her line when her lure caught a rock, and Cacho amazed us all by finding the all but invisible lure and recovering all of the line. Then, Tom got another strike, and reeled in another rainbow, very similar to the first.

Louisa got a big strike in the afternoon, and when she reeled him in, he played dead, floating upside down on the lake. Cacho poked him, and he suddenly renewed his thrashing, startling all of us. He was the biggest rainbow of the day, slightly larger than each of Tom's, and had already had one eye put out by a hook. We kept him - he was nice and big, and looked tasty, as well as being the first fish Louisa ever caught.

This day continued to be one in a million. The unbelievably calm water mirrored the mountains, and we tried to capture it by taking tons of pictures. We could almost see the volcanos in Chile, just a few kilometers away. The warm sun made us relax completely, and both Louisa and Tom took short naps in the bow when not fishing.

We had been quoted for a half day, and had expected to return by 2pm, but we had no plans, so when Cacho asked if we wanted to keep fishing, we enthusiasticaly agreed. He then placed a cute cellphone call to his wife, roughly translated: "I know I said I'd be home early, but it's just too beautiful out today, so we're going to keep fishing."

Later in the afternoon we went back to deep trolling, and both Tom and MomC had big strikes that ultimately got away. Tom did manage to reel one in, but it was small, so we threw it back. Around 4pm, we stopped at a small beach to clean our prizes. Cacho did the dirty work, even showing us a crawfish claw in the stomach of one of the trout.

On the way back we decided to take some pictures of Cerro Abanico, and it was so nice we had some tea and chatted a bit more. We then headed in and trailered the boat before going back to the hotel.

We showered and relaxed a bit, although we really had a relaxing day. The hotel let us use their internet connection, so we sent some emails, and then took our trout out for dinner. Since it was only 8pm, most restaurants were just opening, so we walked around for a few minutes, and then returned to La Tasca as the first (and throughout the night, the only) patrons.

We gave them the two fish (we had given one to Cacho) and asked them to grill them. Then we chose sauces on the side to eat them with, along with veggies, and a good bottle of wine. When they were served, we were surprised that the slightly larger and pinker one had substantially more taste than the other. Both were absolutely fantastic, however, and we didn't leave a single bite on the table.

The waitress was so entertained by us - we were obviously enjoying the fish, and told her it was Louisa's first - that she offered us complimentary glasses of champagne to finish the night. We all agreed on the toast - to our perfect day!

 

Wed Mar 29, 2000 - Parque Nacional Arrayanes

The day started with another amazng breakfast at La Cheminee. We left quickly afterwards, reteurnig to Villa La Angostina. En rooute, we stopped again at Arroyo Partido for another picture since the first did not turn out. Fortunately, we had another nice day with lots of sun, but not too hot.

We arrived at Villa La Angostura at 11:15, got gas, enjoying full serve which is all that they have in Chile and Argentina. We bought the fixin's for a picnic, then headed to the tiny village and the park. Originally, we intended to hike the 12km out and back to the Arrayanes Forest, but were worried about time and decided to rent bicycles.

The helpful man at the bicycle rental shop told us about the boat, which convientiently left in one hour. So, we rented mountain bikes, enjoyed our picnic lunch in the plaza and loaded onto the boat for the hour trip to the forest.

The boat chugged along very slowly, but it was nice to be on the water of Lago Nahuel Huapi. The tour guide gave a very animated tour, which even MomC could interpret even though it was in Spanish. The Arrayanes are an interesting tree-like bush, with a reddish bark.

Rumors abound in the tour books and local literature that the forest inspired Walt Disney with the movie Bambi. These rumors started shortly after the release of the movie in Argenina in 1942 and resulted in the government takig the land from the Lynch family and creating a National Forest.

At the end of the tour, the guide mentioned a letter from the Walt Disney Association that we could read if we wanted, and he mentioned generaly where it is located. The three of us headed over and had an interesting read. The 1997 letter emphatically states that the forest had no part in Bambi beccause 1) Disney visited Argentina when production of the film was almosst complete and 2) he did not visit that part of Argentina.

At 3pm we started our bike ride back to the village. Immediately, the trail confrotned us with a level of difficulty that we had not expected. The path is really a hiking path, complete with roots, narrow passes through tree trunks and steep grades. The first 3 km tested each of us, butfortunately it evened out in the middle for an enjoyable ride through the woods, with the lake peeking through the trees. We came upon a old character on horseback at oone point. He shouted "Too Fast!" at Tom with a growl, but Louisa and MomC only got "Pass Slowly."

The final descent was incredibly steep, and included a set of "Stairs" that was difficult to even walk. We arrived back in town quite invigorated.

On the trip into Bariloche, we checked out Cascada Rio Bonito, another attractive waterfall that falls into a deep, emerald green pool. The road had great views of the lake, with the sun on the snow-covered mountains.

We arrived in Barilohe and walked into the Aerolineas Argentina office just before closing, but the man was very accommodating, had heard back from the office in the states, so we bought new tickets for the rest of Argentina. MomC filled this time by shopping, which she did amazingly quickly!

We checked into the Tres Reyes Hotel on the water. It was wonderful. The staff was friendly from our first question, and provided lotsof othere information as well. The hotel has old world charm, it was probably built in the 60's and maintains the type of service expected then, e.g. attentive bell boys. The woman also enjoyed Tom's Spanish, which resulted in a price lower than one listed anywhere, which is always nice.

Every guest receives a free drink. Before dinner we stopped in the bar to imbibe. While we had other options, we all chose the 'Tres Reyes Cocktail, a concoction of vodka, blue curacao, orange juice, and grenadine served in a champagne glass with a maracino cherry speared onto a plastic mermaid hanging on the edge of the glass.

Dinner was a repeat at El Gaucho for great steaks, cordera (lamb) and grilled vegetables. Ice cream dessert again at the same place (Tante Frida) to round out our Lake Region adventure.

Revised: Wed Feb 13 11:37:55 2008 on www.shieldsaroundtheworld.com.
Copyright 2000 Tom & Louisa Shields. All rights reserved.