The distinctive snow capped Volcan Lanin in the near distance at Junin de los Andes made visiting Parque Nacional Lanin a must.
A visit to a few shops before they closed at 1.00pm, then back to camp for a catch up on washing and research. Many shops in many towns are open from 9am-1pm then again from 5pm-9pm. As travellers, it’s tricky to adjust to these opening hours.
Sunday 25th we headed off to the national park for a short walk and a closer look at the volcano. Moyses’ mis-guided tours made this a long drive as we headed off north along the Ruta 40 by mistake. Our travelling buddies were very forgiving as we turned around after at least 20 minutes in the wrong direction. Lucky that the scenery was stunning!
Lago Tromen in the foreground and Volcan Lanin in the background was a beautiful setting for an 8km walk, through thick Beech forest, along a glacial lake and then back to the cars across a pampas plain.
Our destination that day was a short drive to the delightful San Martin de los Andes. This a very tourist oriented town where you can stock up on all your brand name gear for outdoor pursuits for all seasons and book tours to match. Coffee shops, hotels and chocolate shops are in abundance. We grabbed a couple of extra gas canisters for our Jetboil, which is proving to be one of our best loved appliances – the ability to boil up a cup of tea on the roadside quickly is a must!
Monday 26th November, another (short) stunning drive to San Carlos de Bariloche through spectacular scenery.
Bariloche is situated on a stunning lake, just a short drive from the ski slopes and is also popular for its chocolate shops and architecture – a reflection of the Swiss heritage. Fresh trucha (trout) is a local speciality and didn’t disappoint.
From Bariloche, taking a side trip on Circuito Chico via Colonia Suiza, we enjoyed a 4km wander through thick bush to another panoramic viewpoint. It’s all starting to sound the same isn’t it? More panoramic views over stunning pristine lakes and snow capped mountains in the back ground. Sometimes, the views from the road are hidden by tall tress or private properties, so the glimpses you get and the views from the many miradors are special.
We stopped by a running stream, which at home would be considered a river, for some lunch before heading south to El Bolson. On the way we stopped to view a lake and found ourselves in the right place to assist a local man bogged on the lakeside after launching his boat. Given we were the only 4WD around, he was very pleased to see us – and our retrieval gear!
Lonely Planet encouraged us to visit El Bolson for the markets and to see Bosque Tallado. By the time we arrived late in the afternoon at Bosque Tallado, after navigating the rough gravel track up the mountain that overlooks the town and having completed the steep 1km uphill walk (read climb) we were a little too tired to really appreciate the artistry and beauty of the site. The views from the top were beautiful but we were a little underwhelmed at the 50 figures carved from logs – although the effort of creating such a monument to bushfires wasn’t lost on us.
The markets the next morning were well worth staying for. We managed to buy a little fold up BBQ grill in its own carry bag, some fresh strawberries, spinach, potatoes, home made bread and vegetarian empanadas. We love markets because it’s a great environment to talk to locals selling their crafts and you get a great feel for a place observing the happenings at markets.
The road heads into a rather harsh environment after you leave Esquel and the little valley it’s situated in. The green lushness gives way to the barren Patagonian plateau, still flanked by mountains, but open and wind-swept. We visited the Leleque Museum which tells the universal story of first peoples living a traditional lifestyle in this harsh landscape for 13,000 years before British/European settlers arrived. The very thoughtful museum, is a project to rescue and preserve the remaining remnants of Patagonian history from the stand point of the Tehuelche , the traditional keepers of this land.
Our overnight stop in Esquel was cold and windy! A fact of life in Patagonia. Interestingly the weather changes very suddenly. A few times in the past week we have been in short sleeved tops in the morning and on getting out of the car two hours later, find ourselves rushing for jackets and beanies.
We all went our separate ways on Friday and the Moyses took a drive to Parque Nacional Los Alereces which is famous for its ancient Alereces trees. A stunning drive to the park and then a drive around the lake – a very big lake, surrounded by snow capped mountains, a few waterfalls and even a glacier off in the distance. We stayed overnight at a campground which we likened to camping ‘nirvana’. Green grass, a little stream curling past our campsite, wood provided for our BBQ tea, hot showers, shade, plenty of protection from the wind and not another person in sight.
Just a 43km drive to Trevelin, where Pete and Barb had settled for 2 nights in this lovely winery/campground. This was a delightful campground, surrounded by vineyards, a river running past, echoes of the nearby cascades filled the air, offers of home baked bread, organic local produce and a tour of the winery complete the picture. Sergio’s wine is very good! We all bought a couple of bottles with the idea of saving them for later – didn’t work – opened one to ‘just try it’ and drunk most of what we had purchased! Each day is a complete surprise!