This was to be new territory for us; Los Alerces National Park is remote and not easy to get to by public transport which would have involved several changes so we left Bariloche in a 'remise' ; there are 2 options for journeys by car here; taxis which use meters and remise for which a fixed price is agreed for a journey. It was 4 hours to our lodge in the National Park and the last one and a half hours or more on dirt road was very slow. It was an interesting journey and we travelled through prime fruit-growing country and saw the amazing sight of 2 oxen pulling a cart loaded with tree trunks. A bit different from the big log trucks we encounter on the dirt roads in Tasmania. We felt as if we were going back in time passing through small villages.
Driving through the National Park the scenery was beautiful with thick forests, turquoise lakes and flowing rivers. David was starting to get excited about the fly-fishing. We arrived at El Aura lodge which is the only accommodation in the Park apart from camping and some basic cabins. It is situated on the shore of Lago Verde and accommodation is in separate cabins. Ours was huge with a big log fire and large windows with lake views. A perfect base for our ‘week in the wilderness’.
We had booked an all-inclusive package and at lunch David’s fishing guide for the week came to meet us and discuss the program. We were lucky to be assigned to Andres Muller who is the head guide there and speaks perfect English; he is also a very experienced guide and excellent company. He suggested that I accompany them on some of the fishing trips as they were to interesting locations.
That first afternoon we went out in his boat on Lago Verde and the scenery was spectacular. David fished and I took in the beauty around us
. The water in the lakes and rivers here is so pure that one can fill drinking water bottles from them. We had never seen water so clear. This was typical Patagonia; wild, beautiful and pristine.
On other days I accompanied them and particularly enjoyed a day ‘floating’ in a rubber boat down the Rio Rivadavia. No engines are allowed there so these float boats are used with oars. In some parts there are rapids so we got a taste for ‘white-water rafting’.
One can see the trout cruising in the flowing water and I had fun trying to photograph the trout underwater with our new waterproof camera; trouble was the water is freezing cold so my hands got very cold.
We also saw many of the Patagonian kingfishers (Martin Pescadores) waiting, on branches overhanging the river, for a tasty fish.
When the fishermen stopped to wade I explored the river banks and was amazed to see so many beautiful Fuchsia plants growing along the banks.
I had only seen them in gardens before and was surprised to find out that they are native to Patagonia. As it was a full day trip we stopped for lunch at a shady spot and Andres produced a ‘roll-out’ table and chairs from the small rubber boat and unpacked a tasty lunch complete with wine. Perhaps I should have accompanied them more often?
In Argentina one buys a fishing licence for a period and can then fish any water, at no extra cost, that one can access. To our surprise there are regular checks made and the national park staff were often around.
Even outside the park there are ‘Guarda Fauna’ who drive around the rivers and lakes and check licences. All the fishing is 'Catch & Release'.
On the days I did not accompany the fishermen I walked and saw amazing scenery, glacier Torrecillas and ancient trees including the giant Alerces (Larches) after which the park is named..
The oldest tree there is around 2,600 years old, 2.2 metres diameter and 57 metres high.To see it involves a hike and a boat trip but it was certainly worthwhile.
The area also has lots of native bamboo canes and here they formed arches over the path.
Another day the charming manager of the lodge, Patricia, joined me on a horse-ride with a local guide to a place with fossils and waterfalls. It is amazing to think that very few people have ever been to that spot as the guide keeps the location secret and the only way to find it is to go with him. I feel privileged to have been able to visit such a place but getting there involved some excitement for me; Lucas, our guide, and Patricia are both experienced riders having grown up with horses. Having had a few rides in Torres Del Paine I was feeling confident and asked Lucas if I could try a little trotting.
If I had seen the territory through which we were to be riding I may not have. In TDP we had ridden mainly in the open Pampas but here it was through forests with overhanging branches waiting to decapitate one and there were wild rose bushes everywhere with their thorns waiting to scratch any exposed skin or tear one’s clothes. I had my first experience of speed on horseback doing a slow gallop and I was terrified but exhilarated at the same time.
We stopped for a picnic lunch by the waterfalls and it was just perfect. I even joined in the Argentine ritual of mate (pronounced maa tay) tea drinking with them as it seemed appropriate in the circumstances. Maybe I will acquire a taste for it one day?
On the way back we encountered some cattle so Lucas started rounding them up and we herded them back to the Estancia.
The day remains in my memory as one of my favourites; I was only sorry that David was not sharing the experience with me; he, however, was in his own fisherman’s ‘heaven’.
Our week passed too quickly with David fishing every daylight hour with many wild trout caught (Rainbow, Brown and Brook). The average size was around 1kg and the biggest, a brown, was over 2kg.
It was a wonderful week and David learnt so many new skills in different situations; rivers, lakes, creeks in boats, rafts or wading. One of the lakes he fished in was very difficult to access; Andres reckoned only about 15 people would have fished there the whole year and David caught several of the unsuspecting, large, brown trout.
There is something magical about the whole place and it is yet another area of Patagonia that we would love to return to.
There are certainly lots of wild trout waiting to be caught. They will have to wait as we are moving on to another fly-fishing ‘hot-spot’ further north.