Monkey puzzle trees and a mighty trout

Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
Trip End Apr 05, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, November 17, 2005

We´d arrived in Argentina! It was never really in our plans to visit the country, but with hiring the car in Chile it was straightforward to cross the border, and the car gave us the freedom to move around and explore the Lakes region on both sides of the Andes.

So on Wednesday morning 16 November, after having the puncture repaired and buying a fishing licence in Junin, we hopped in the car with our travel companion Andrea, and drove out to the Lago Huechalafquen sector of Parque Nacional Lanin. Though it takes its name from the volcano at its northern end, we´d seen the previous evening, PN Lanin is covers a massive area and adjoins the PN Nahuel Huapi further south, creating a continuous stretch of protected wilderness all along the Andean cordillera.

We drove the length of the long, blue lake on the gravel access road. The wind was up, so the lake surface was covered in white horses. At its head we looked around for a walk to do; the park ranger´s office was shut, so we took the only trail in sight - the one that leads to the base of Volcan Lanin.

The walk took us all along a clear stream up a densely wooded valley; at first we were surrounded by tall southern beech trees with small, dark-green leaves, but as we climbed higher, beautiful big monkey puzzle trees started appearing. Well, what a treat to walk right amongst weird, ancient trees I´d heard and learnt so much about! These were beautiful, tall specimens with bark covered in lichen... I was all excited and got Rich and Andrea excited about them too!

We munched on a little picnic of cheese, salami and rolls and continued our walk - four hours in all, so nothing too strenuous. Dark clouds were all around, and a few times it seemed the heavens would open on us, but luckily it stayed dry. We decided to camp in the Park that evening - Andrea had no tent but would sleep in the car. After buying some essentials from folk in a couple of cottages - home-baked bread, two bottles of wine and some vegies - we pitched camp among the trees at a lakeside spot, and spent a blissful evening around the campfire. Apart from a few drops of drizzle here and there, the weather held.

There was no way Rich would have passed up the chance to wet a line in the vast expanse of clear blue water that is Lago Huechalafquen, so early on Thursday morning he was out there with shorts on, knee-deep, casting away... and struck it lucky! He hauled in a huge brown trout, about 70cm long! As he was fighting it in, a local arrived on horseback and demanded camping fees of 2 pesos per person from Andrea and I. We all went down to the water´s edge together to see the enormous fish being landed, and the little man exclaimed ´Bueno, bueno, Señor!´ Yup, bueno indeed! We could feed an army with this catch.

The rain came in and we drove back to Junin, where it was pouring down. After having another puncture repaired, it was time for some decisions: Rich and I were keen to head to Peninsula Valdez on the Atlantic coast - we had read that plenty of marine wildlife could be seen there. Andrea´s plan was to take the bus to San Martin, about 40 minutes away, but with bad weather having arrived in the area, she was not so sure about that. Eventually she decided to join us, and at midday on Thursday 17 November the three of us started the loooong drive east.
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