San Martín de los Andes

Trip Start Sep 05, 2007
Trip End Feb 24, 2008

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Hello again from the Lakes District.  I'm leaving here today for Central Argentina (specifically, Mendoza).  Here's what I've been up to the past few days.

I woke up early on Thursday to catch a 9am bus to San Martín de los Andes.  After already being in a couple of towns with long names in this area -- Villa la Angostura and San Carlos de Bariloche (just referred to as Bariloche in my previous blog) -- I figured one more couldn't hurt.  I was supposed to get to San Martín at 1pm (with a scheduled stop in Villa la Angostura) but it left late and I arrived at 1:30pm.  The road between Villa la Angostura and San Martín is called Ruta de los Siete Lagos (Route of the 7 Lakes) and had a lot of great views.  It was slow going though, as much of it was not paved and there seemed to be a lot of roadwork going on.

There are 4 hostels in San Martín and the one I had tried to book in advance had emailed me saying they were full.  So upon arrival I walked to another one, which was also full.  At the third, I managed to get the very last bed.  It's definitely the busy season here (mostly because of traveling Argentines).

San Martín (and this whole Lakes District area, really) is a fairly fashionable place for Argentines to vacation.  It's right on the shores of Lake Lácar and sits between two green mountains.  It has a lot of nice wood and stone buildings in the center and plenty of houses spreading out from there.

I had to take care of a few things when I got to San Martín, for example figuring out getting to Mendoza afterwards.  The bad news was that there is only one bus per week that goes direct from San Martín to Mendoza.  The good news was that it left Sunday afternoon and got in early Monday morning, which actually was fairly good timing for me.  More bad news though -- as of the day I arrived in San Martín (Thursday), it was already full.  So I have to go via Neuquen, with a one hour wait.  But since the wait is just an hour, and Neuquen I guess is not really much of a detour, the two-bus combination doesn't take much longer than the direct bus.  And, another good thing -- they are both about the same price, but while the whole ride on the direct bus is semi-cama, the leg from Neuquen to Mendoza that I'll be doing is a full cama (meaning, more comfortable).

So after taking care of a few things, I went over to the lake (San Martín sits right on Lago Lácar) and rented a kayak.  It was fun and relaxing to just paddle around the lake and take in the views.  I hadn't done any kayaking or anything like that yet on this trip.

The next day I went on an excursion to the Lanín Volcano and a few other places.  We left at 9am from San Martín in a big van.  Our first stop was Junín de los Andes, a town less than an hour away (founded in 1883, it's the oldest town in the province).  It's a bit smaller than San Martín and is famous for its trout fishing.  The main thing we did there was go to the Santuario of Laura Vicuña, a young girl who was recently beatified.  It was somewhat interesting I guess, but not something I would have done if I were on my own.  We also bought tickets to enter Lanín National Park, through which we would be driving.

We stopped again at Lake Huechulafquen (say that ten times fast -- or even once slowly) where there was a great view of the Lanín Volcano, which is 3,776 meters high and perpetually snowy on top.  The volcano is right on the Chilean border and is much taller than any of the mountains near it.  We then continued driving along the lake and stopped at a restuarant to have lunch.  After lunch, we could walk a few minutes to the rocky beach and sit watching the lake and scenery (again, really beautiful).  We then made another stop at a lakeside church where we wandered around on the shores for an hour, and then, back to San Martín.

The next day, after an early lunch, I headed towards the Mirador Bandurrias, which was about an hour (or less) hike from town up a mountain, through a forest, along the lake.  It was really nice up there, just sat in the shade and enjoyed it.  When I got there, I was the only one (and wasn't sure if I had made it to the right place or not, since there were no signs and lots of trails), but then many other people arrived (so I figured I was at the right place, though no one seemed completely sure).

Afterwards, I went to the the town's beach on Lago Lácar and hung out there for a bit.  Went swimming -- the water was cold, but not Lake Baikal-cold, I had no problem staying in there for about 15 minutes.

One interesting thing about the hostels I've stayed at in Villa la Angostura, Bariloche, and San Martín is that most of the guests are Spanish speakers, whereas throughout my travels the hostels are usually dominated by English speakers (well, including Germans, etc. who speak English).  Lots of Argentinians (makes sense since this is their summer break now), but also, for example, people from Spain, Ecuador, etc.  So I've been getting to practice my Spanish a lot more.

Anyway, I leave today at 1:45pm and should get to Neuquen at 8pm.  From there, my 9pm bus should get to Mendoza 7am tomorrow.  Hasta luego.
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