Argentina at Last! - San Martin de Los Andes

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Where I stayed
Cumelen Hosteria

Flag of Argentina  , Lake District,
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Crossing the Andes sounds really adventurous, but in reality, this is the easiest place to do it.  It is a 4 hour or so bus trip from Pucon through the Chilean border post, across no mans land and through Argentine immigration and we are there.  Argentina at last. The drive is, once again, through very beautiful scenery, unfortunately none of this is recorded as the cameras were packed away, But take my word for it, the views of volcanoes and Monkey Puzzle Tree forests will never be forgotten neither will the views of the Villarica volcano from the Argentine side.

We finally arrive in San Martin and, in what is now becoming a familiar routine, we hoist up our backpacks and head off to the Information Centre to find somewhere to stay.  We get a recommendation in our price range and head off to check it out.  Of course it is at the opposite end of town from the Info Centre and when we get there the rooms they have are considerably more expensive than had been quoted.  We tramp off in search of another place and eventually find one to our liking and check in.

San Martin is a really nice little town, once again, situated on the shore of a large lake.  This town very much caters to the ski crowd in season.  It is now out of the ski season and so it is very quiet.  After dumping our bags we head off in search of food and are spoiled for choice as there are so many choices, from basic pizza joints to upscale places of which Gordon Ramsay would be proud! The big thing here appears to be lamb. Lots of it!   Every other restaurant seems to be an Asado with whole lambs being slowly roasted on vertical spits revolving around a big bonfire.  All this usually takes place in the front window of the restaurants. It is truly mouth watering (assuming you are not a vegetarian!).   In between the asado restaurants are chocolate shops and more chocolate shops.

It is a lovely green leafy town with a good feel to it.

The next day we check out the car rental places to see about renting a car here and driving down to the world famous lakeside resort of Bariloche. We call into the local Avis franchise to find out about prices and are quite shocked at how expensive it is.  Apparently we are not the only ones -  as we leave we are followed by an Italian guy who, with his Spanish girlfriend is also trying to do the same thing. They helpfully point out that it is much cheaper at Hertz and ask if we are interested in sharing the car and cost.  We go for  coffee to have a chat about it and, as it seems that they want to do visit the same places, we decide to do it together and then pop around to the Hertz office and sign up the paperwork.

I seem to draw the short straw and end up driving (my first time on the wrong side i.e. on the right). This is probably not the place to try, but hey, how hard can it be?

After lunch the four of us drive of in our very compact Chevrolet Corsa towards Puesto Canea and Lago Huechul and yet another volcano.  The drive starts of easy enough on tarmac roads, but as 70% of Argentine roads are gravel (at best!) that soon changes and we are quickly on to loose gravel which is quite fun if you are in a 4WD but not so much if you are in one of the smallest production cars around!

Anyway we make it to the lake OK and along the way we get to know our new traveling companions, Claudio, who is a chef from Naples and, bizarrely a Millwall fan??) and Isabella who is Spanish and works for a car hire firm.  Both of them now live in Barcelona but formerly worked all over Europe including London and Guernsey (where Carolyn worked for a time).  Both of them are great company and we have a greater deal to talk about as they are also keen travellers.

The road to the lake seems much longer than anticipated but we make it, unfortunately not before the last boat cruising on the lake has sailed for the day.  It is on this drive that for the first time, we get a real sense of how massive and sparsely populated Argentina really is. We drive for miles and mile and barely see another car. The lake is massive and very pretty, but unfortunately the volcano which was right beside the lake seems to have disappeared into the clouds. We head back to San Martin and dinner for the night which  is one of those BBQ lambs (well not a whole one, but getting on that way!) - absolutely delicious.  Argentina is definitely the place to come if you like meat. 
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