Lassie, Argentina style

Trip Start Mar 07, 2009
Trip End Apr 08, 2010

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Where I stayed
La Casa De Viajeros

Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Thursday, September 17, 2009

15th - 18th September 09:

We arrived at El Bolson at around 1030am which made a nice change as we have been landing pretty late recently so weīve been searching in the dark but this proved irrelevant because we were greeted at the bus stop by some geezer calling himself Agostin saying he had just the place for us. He showed some pictures and it turned out it was in the book anyway so we jumped into the back of his motor and headed to his place, after waiting for him to pick up some groceries!. Agostin and his wife Lauda apparently settled here 30 yrs ago after traveling round South America, and built himself a couple of log cabins, one of which we were to occupy for a few days. El Bolson is full of Artisans (read hippies) like him, and he spends his time making leather belts and wallets for the market which we discovered when he gave us the tour of his workshop. They had some animals as well of course, 2 dogs, 2 cats and some chooks. The cabin was really nice, chilly but with a gas fire and log burner in the corner which I soon got going, must have incinerated half a forest keeping us warm for a few days. After settling down we hiked round town for a few hours, sussing out the local hiking trails and other activities. Naturally we also sampled the local ice cream parlor, as always it was top notch. Argentina is known for its steak but the ice cream is under rated, itīs a national institution, even during the cold winters.
When we got back we found a young American couple had moved into the dorm upstairs, they were nice enough, although the girl was singing all morning which I thought was kinda weird, not just in the shower but while she was making breakfast, getting ready to go out, and even while doing weird standing on her head yoga moves. Still, it takes all sorts, maybe she was auditioning for pop idol or something.
Our first morning we went out on a so called secret hike to see these Indian head shaped rock formations. The hostel dude gave us a map he had clearly made himself and was quite adamant he wanted it back (it was just a photocopy) but it sounded interesting so off we went, left a little late because we were only intending on a half day stroll after the epic bus trip (31 hrs total). The trail was easy enough at first then became a bit technical when we had to climb & bolder around a small rock face over fast running water. It was a bit of a leap of faith as we could not see what was around the corner and we thought for a second old Agostin was winding us up but it was the right way and after about 3 hrs of Bear Grylls style canyoning we arrived at terrific waterfall where we had lunch. After wasting an hour dragging our feet the wrong way down a dusty road and back we found the rest of the trail and made it to the rock formation which was pretty cool though we almost missed it because itīs not especially obvious. Unfortunately the route back to town was just walking along a road, though the views were pretty good, but we didnīt get back till late and were absolutely exhausted. The other 2, who left after us got half way and then turned back, probably a good idea but they had a bus to catch which meant we had the cabin to ourselves, and we would for the rest of our time in El Bolson, which was nice.
Next day had an easy day doing short walks around a lake about 18km away, really quiet and the weather had turned a bit, really windy and wet. Speaking of windy, both Ang & I were struggling a bit today after she cooked up omelet's the night before, or under cooked I should say! Spent about 4 hrs walking in the park and went back for an early night ready for a more strenuous hike the next day.
We had intended to hike up this local mountain and spend the night in a shelter up there but we were both knackered and the weather the day before had put us off a bit so we decided to taxi up to the end of the mountain access road, then hike around from there and walk back down. It was about an hours uphill climb to get to the refuge, and on the way was a clearing with about 40 sculptures carved from logs and dead trees, was very different. The refuge was much more civilised than we had expected, really warm and inviting. By this point I was done in from todays and the previous days excursions but we both decided to press on, though the refuge bloke said it would not be possible to make the summit (normally a 2.5hr hike) due to the amount of snow and ice still on the ridge, at least not without specialist equipment. We figured weīd just go as far as we could then turn back. As we set off one of the 3 dogs there was sniffing around so I gave him a bit of my chicken, survival rations we had brought along. He seemed to appreciate this and set off ahead of us. We figured heīd get bored and turn back but an hour later he was still leading us on this hike, thatīs right we were actually following the dog. By this point all trail markings had been covered by 4 ft of snow so had no clue where we were heading but this dog was on his game, running ahead for a bit then waiting for us to catch up before setting off again. The scenery was outstanding, thick blankets of snow with mountains either side and the town and rivers we could still see way below in the distance. We were still following the dog as it took us half way up this steep mountain and eventually we had to turn back as it was becoming a bit dangerous, it was about a 60 degree slope with sheet ice and thick snow, we actually had to slide back down on our arses it was that hairy. By the time we got down from that bit I then had to find the dog who had disappeared off somewhere else, didnīt really want to head back without him. Managed to convince him to come back and good as gold he led us back to the refuge, by now the clouds were heavy and dark so it was difficult to make out our footprints in the snow.
Got back to the refuge and gave the dog the last of our chicken before Ang & I tucked into some home brewed ale and a pizza. We told the refuge bloke his dog had shown us the way and he did not seem surprised, though when I showed him the photoīs he pointed out we had tried to climb the wrong mountain, damn dog :) When we left to start the hike down we had to go back because the dog, and one of the cats bizarrely wanted to lead/follow us all the way down into town. After giving them the shake off, the hike down was brutal, about 4 hrs back to our digs mostly just stomping downhill on a dirt road, slept well that night!
Next morning we had a late morning bus to catch to Bariloche, luckily only about 2 hrs away for a change, but we would have very fond memories of El Bolson.
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