Day 12: Los Alerces Park to Villa La Angostura

Trip Start Dec 02, 2008
Trip End Dec 26, 2008

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 12:  Drive from Los Alerces Nat'l Park to Villa La Angostura,
El Faro, Sunday, December 14th

It's 8 AM and Harvey wakes me up and suggests that I put some clothes on and go out to take those photos of the big tree by the lake this morning.  I look out the picture windows and see that the sun is already up and the light has already created that dappled look on the tree trunk, rather than the soft morning light that looks so beautiful in a photograph. I have overslept and it is too late!  Since I am up, I start the packing ritual - we are leaving this morning for Villa de Angostura.  I am talking to myself about how we have been here for four days and I could have woken up early any of those days and taken photos.  I am focused on that missed opportunity and a sense of loss.  Maybe the feelings are accentuated since there are so many places to explore in this world that it is unlikely that we will return here and I have so enjoyed it!  I resolve - I am going to go to the lake and take the photos that I had in mind, as a memory or momento of not putting things off.  And besides, who knows what else I may find!  What is the saying - don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today!

While I walk along the lake, I resound to the stillness. The water is so calm that there is only a hint of the water lapping on the shore as it does in the afternoons.  I hear a trout splash.  There are ripples on the water surface from fish feeding.  The sound of ducks that fly by breaks the silence.  It is exquisite.  Instead of the photos of the big trees that I had in my mind, I captured some photos of the morning stillness.  And found some of that inside myself as well. 

We have breakfast and complete the packing.  Patrice finds us so that we can settle up our bill.  The cabana and breakfast and dinner was prepaid, so we have only incidental drinks and sandwiches.  Fortunately, we have enough cash with us since the satellite internet is down and they can't process our credit card.  We ask Patrice about an appropriate gratuity; she suggests that we give one amount and that she distribute that equally among all the staff.  We are familiar with this in lodges in the western U.S., since there are always people who you never meet but contribute to our experience.  However, we needed to dip into our US dollars to pay!  We are so glad that we started out the trip with US dollars, and kept some in reserve, just in case.  We have planned to depart at 10 AM, but it is 10:45 before we are in the car ready to go.  All the chatting and hugging and saying goodbye!  Jose has washed our car so that we can see through the front windshield and we are thankful.

It is approximately 60 kilometers on the gravel road from El Aura towards El Bolson.  After 1 hour and 15 minutes, when the road changes from gravel to paved, we say "yeah"!  What a soft ride it has become!   On the way towards El Aura and Los Alerces National Park, Harvey was driving at 40-60 km per hour; on our return, he is driving at 70-80 km per hour.  He has gotten used to the roads and also has found that it is a smoother ride when you go faster.

At El Bolson (from El Aura, about 1 ˝ hours), we find the Banco Nacional ATM and get some cash.  So important!  Then we find an outside café where we have some terrific homemade ravioli with tomato sauce and a salad completa.   Just yummy!  We gas up and we are on our way to Bariloche, which takes about 2 more hours.  I take photos along the way from our speeding car and through the dirty windshield, but you can still get a feel for the beautiful landscape and scenery!   We talk about this and that...and when we have run out of things to talk about I ask Harvey if he would like me to sing a particular song.  He comes up with Simon & Garfunkles' "Sounds of Silence" and we just laugh! 

We make our way directly through Bariloche and continue on to Villa La Angostura, another 1 hour.  The town of Villa La Angostura seems at first glance to be like Banff in the Canadian Rockies maybe 25 years ago in terms of size and quaintness.   We drive through the main street and continue north a few kilometers to find our hotel.  We will return to explore!

Harvey has driven about 4 ˝ hours today, and he is glad to turn into the driveway of El Faro.   We turn off the road to the entrance sign and are unsure of how to proceed!  Just past the entrance arch, there is little green light low to the ground and a very steep driveway that curves to the left.  Since the light is green, we proceed downward and follow the drive as it curves left, right, left, right again in this narrow single lane surrounded by a carefully tended garden with multi-colored blooming flowers. Finally we are at what appears to be at lake level and El Faro appears!  We figure out that there is one way in and out and the green light at the top was indicating that no one was going up, so we were okay to proceed!  On this trip, Harvey has refreshed himself on driving with a manual transmission, learned how to drive on gravel roads and now has had more practice with driving in low gear on a steep incline!

El Faro is situated directly on the Lago Nahuel Huapi and has a spectacular view of the lake and mountains. This place is a "boutique" hotel and is so polished in comparison to our cabana at El Aura. Our room feels like our home and we are very comfortable.  We have a large picture window and balcony facing the lake and distant mountains.  We are pleased to be here! 

We talk with Andres at the front desk about the restaurants, hikes, waterfalls and trees.  He calls to make a reservation for the boat to the Arrayanes National Park and find there is no answer; we will need to try again tomorrow morning.  When I say that I love trees, he suggests an old cohie tree that is 300-400 years old that has a very large trunk.  There are also two waterfalls that are easy hikes.  He has an album showcasing the most popular attractions in the area with information about each and photos.  Andres provides us with a local map and list of restaurants.  Very helpful!  We have 4 nights/3 full days here in Villa La Angostura and there is no shortage of options!  One of the days will be a special day trip with Anna and Gabriel (from Wild Patagonia, so we actually have two days of additional choices.

We decide to walk around town and pick up a light dinner in the town of Villa La Angostura.  As we are walking through the lobby, we meet Andre and the Chef, all dressed in impeccable whites, who asks Harvey about his lactose intolerance.  When making the reservation at El Faro, they had asked us about any dietary concerns, and we now learn that they actually did communicate this information.  The chef said that he had specially prepared a milk-less bread for breakfast.  We are truly impressed that they had gone to such lengths to provide for Harvey!  We all know that food is a way to a man's heart and we appreciate the thoughtfulness, attention detail and follow through.

Downtown Villa La Angostura's main street is maybe 6 blocks long with a median strip planted with varying colors of rose bushes.  Chocolate shops (I like this place already!), sportwear, outdoor expedition gear, camera and souvenir shops, as well as outdoor cafes and restaurants line the street.  It's charming!  This really is a small town, if you turn off the main street you are on a gravel road. Finding a parking space was tough, yet it seems that there is hardly anyone around.  What is it like in busy season?  After Los Alerces, we're now back into civilization!  We opt for a pizza and salad and call it a day, returning to El Faro.

We enjoy our balcony as the evening light changes the landscape of lake and mountains every second.  The maid, in the evening turndown service, has left each of us some chocolate!  Yum. Harvey catches up on the latest news with BBC TV.  We turn on the laptop and enjoy wireless internet.  When we finally climb into bed and put our heads on the pillow, we are asleep in just a few moments. 

Today's photos!
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