Bariloche and the Lake District

Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
Trip End May 29, 2008

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Monday, May 26, 2008


Our next main destination was Bariloche but equally important to us was to see the Ruta Del Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Route) so we made our first stop at the northern point of the route in San Martin De Los Andes.  The small town, built aside a lake has a very swiss feel due to the first European immigrants that came from the mountains of Switzerland, Germany and Austria.  Along with the mountains and lakes, beautiful log cabins with stone bases provide that swiss feel.  The only problem is we could barely appreciate any of this because it was raining.  It felt exactly like a cold rainy day during fall in New York when you can feel winter coming in the air.  I shouldnīt have been surprised because thatīs exactly the season Argentina is in but it was just wierd to experience that kind of weather late in May.  All we wanted to do was lay in a warm, comfy bed and watch the rain from inside and so we did just that.  Thanks to the low season we were able to check into one of the top rated hotels in town for a really good price.  Besides the laying we just barely got a glimpse of town during a brief walk when we booked our trip for the following day and bought some dinner provisions.
Early next morning a private van picked us up for our ride down to Bariloche along the Seven Lakes Route, of course it was still interminably raining.  Even though it was cloudy, rainy and cold we still got some decent views of the lakes on the four hour ride down.  The nice part about the van was we could open the side door open to get a good view without having to step out into the rain but once the van dropped us off in the center of Bariloche we had to fend off the cold on our own.  We werenīt very inclinded to do so and spent the rest of the day in bed peeking out the window, praying the rain would end.  I wish I could say that was the end of our problems because there was also the issue of the active volcano nearby.  We werenīt in any danger at all but our flights south were; apparently large volumes of smoke rising from the volcano had been cancelling flights for the past two weeks.  As for ours, we would have to wait and see until the morning of the flight.  We decided to put it out of our minds and just try and enjoy our time here and cross that bridge when it came.  I should mention the one ray of light that day was the chocolate from Mamushchka, the top notch chocolate shop in a city famous for it.  It again confirmed that dulce de leche makes anything better.
Thankfully, the next day there was a break from the rain and the sun was shining!  Even though it was still a little cold due to strong wind I pushed us to climb up Cerro Otto in order to catch the best views of Lago Huapi and its surrounding mountains.  The views were breathtaking but of course the lift at the top was temporarily under repair for the week.  This fact, on top of the rain seemed to be a penalty we were paying for coming in off-season.  Becca was feeling a little sick and as we started our descent down the same path she was preparing to bite my head off until I was saved by a friendly guy driving down who even dropped us off in front of our hotel.  After a quick bite we did a short tour around town and looked into renting a car in case our flight was canceled.  I say short because besides the natural scenery there isnīt much to see in town, even the swiss architecture is lacking here.  Back to car, since we had to face the possibility that our flight would be canceled we decided to look into alternative means of getting around.  Taking a bus south was completely out of the question; in low season there are no direct routes and it requires changing a bus at least three times over a two day journey.  Driving down was equally ridiculous because even though it would be half a day shorter we would have to pay over $600 to drop the car off down there.  Iīm not familiar with renting cars in the US but here in Argentina if you drop off a car in a different city than where you rented it, you have to pay a large "drop-off" fee, even if the company has offices in both towns.  We decided to (in the event of our flights getting canceled) rent a car and drive back up to San Martin De Los Andes in order to see the town and the Seven Lakes Route during better weather.  We could hitch up in our favorite hotel and slowly make our way back up north before returning to Buenos Aires plus it would be fun to drive.
What do you suppose happened the next day? Our flight was canceled and it was raining again...ugh.  There was no point in driving up or going to San Martin because it would just be raining the whole time.  We decided to get the hell out of the area and jumped back on bus to San Rafael.  At least over there it was dry season and considerably warmer.  What a sad, sad dissapointment of a day. 

The lakes region is beautiful, but definitely a spot better visited in summer (even if it is high season.) It was a shame that the rain tainted most of our time here, especially the 7 lakes drive, during which it was raining ice and there was snow on the ground. On top of that, I got sicker and sicker with each passing day I spent in the cold. My body is just ready for summer I think. On the upside, the cute little place we stayed in San Martin was fabulous - brand new and cheap, with the comfiest room ever complete with a towel warmer. And breakfast in bed. As for Bariloche, I enjoyed it during the one day of sunshine we got - the hike we did was difficult for me because I had to blow my nose every 5 steps, but the views from the top were unbeatable. Definitely a really nice area of Argentina that Id like to maybe come back to one day when the weather is right.
As for the flights....I was totally bummed because I really wanted to see glaciers and penguins. But on the other hand I was sort of grateful to avoid another week of even colder conditions - Patagonia is another area I think is better visited in summer. So, hopefully we will get there on another future trip. This trip has really taught us both to be flexible with plans, because lets face it - things dont always go the way you want. In fact, they rarely do. Despite the fact that our initial plan and backup plan both fell through we tried to stay positive and come up with a practical alternative. And so it was decided to repay a visit to the glorious wine country :)
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