Homage to Patagonia

Trip Start Jul 05, 2009
Trip End Jul 04, 2010

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Monday, April 5, 2010

A couple of months later than planned, Finola and I arrived in Patagonia, Argentine style. We awoke in luxury long-haul bus comfort to another complete change in landscape, and when we stepped off the bus in San Martin de los Andes, we were in another world.

This small town was filled with gimmicky Alpine-style lodges, outdoor pursuits agencies, camping & ski-ware shops and a ton of chocolaterías; all of which were stacked up on steep, sloping, pine-covered hills and sat on the shore of a stunning lake. It was lovely, if not a little touristy. We spent a few nights in a cosy, homely hostel (albeit with paper-thin walls and  bedbugs), and enjoyed picnics and lazy walks during the days. We also shared some Argentine stout with a group of British, public sector employees, and had a really enjoyable evening, chatting easily about things that are easy to chat about when you're from the same place.

Journeying south, we spent a good six or seven hours wandering around Lago Faulkner and Villarina, huge and beautiful and almost completely deserted. One other tourist had the same plans us as, a Rosarian named Milton, whom we followed that evening to a hostel in Villa La Angustura and almost entirely failed to understand, due to the thickness of his 'shhhh-ey' accent. We arrived in the tiny, freezing-cold town and located the hostel: a large ski-resort-style lodge with under-floor heating that kept us awake, tossing and turning and far too hot.

That next day, we walked ourselves into a national park on the Península de Quetrihué, just south of the town, and along a 12km track to El Bosque de Arrayanes: a forest of strange, bark-less trees that are cold to the touch. We considered walking back along the track, but opted instead to take boat ride, which turned out to be one of the gorgeousest boat rides we've ever done. We chatted about how epic Patagonia is, and thought about comparing it to the Lake District in New Zealand, which is just as stunning but on a much smaller scale, a sort of mini-epic dose of lakes, nestled in amongst a load of completely different stunning sites... whereas Patagonia is just epic, enormous, and crazy-ass fine!

More: San Carlos de Barioloche. We completed a hatrick of excellent hostels when we took that lift up to the 10th floor and walked into Flat 1004, with panoramic views out over Lago Nahuel Huapi, with mountains and clouds and loads of trees and stuff... it was gorgeous, but very windy out there on the terrace. The hostel was great, and we succumbed to a wine-tasting session on our first evening that escalated into drunkenness and a bar in town, which kept us in our lazy beds the next day, away from the great outdoors.

We did venture outside, but only to buy supplies and spoil ourselves with gourmet chocolate. Lots of excellent chocolate. We met a really nice group of people whilst there, and such was our inclination to relax and chat that when we finally did get ourselves outside and onto a local bus and into the right frame of mind for climbing Cerro Lloa Lloa, we didn't even make it up to the top before having to ditch our new buddies, turn around and hot-foot it back to the bus station, in time to catch another 20-hour bus, back to Buenos Aires. During this time, the bedbug venom really started working its magic (I was adorned with a most excellent set of hives) and I didn't do much sleeping that night.
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