Valle Verde

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Saturday, September 22, 2012

On the short bus ride from Bariloche to Bolson the weather changed every five minutes from rain to snow to sun to cloud and back again. As we napped intermittently the surrounding mountains came in and out of view.

Nestled in a valley between mountain ranges, El Bolson is home to a pleasant microclimate that avoids harsh winds and provides the ideal conditions for growing everything on highly fertile land.  Billed as a hippie town, it had an organic food and artisan flavour but there was no shortage of modern conveniences either.

Peheunia was a short walk from the bus stop.  The room we had booked was still occupied so we scored our own family-sized alpine cabin for the same low price of 150 pesos (~$30).  With lush forests all around, wood is plentiful so they use it to make everything.  The bathroom door looked and felt like it was made for giants.

As always, our gracious hosts provided us with a map and local recommendations.  We quickly got settled and made our way out for lunch.

Apunto was amazing.  We devoured a big bowl of goulash and spaetzl with grated parmesan and an even bigger side dish of potato wedges with melted cheddar, smoked ham and green onions.  We washed it all down with a massive raspberry shake.

Never really knowing exactly what we'd be in for we signed up for the hostel's barbecue night once again.  Although they'd told us it would start around 9:00, nothing was ready until 11:00 pm.  It started with bread dipped in chimichurri sauce and a few glasses of red wine.

Meanwhile, host Claudio grilled up 11 kilograms of meat for 14 people.  Aside from every cut of beef imaginable, including the kidneys, we also threw down rack of lamb, chorizo and blood sausage.  We ate it all while standing around a backyard table in the rain, sharing one umbrella.  By the end our hands were freezing cold and our bellies were beyond full.  We had no trouble falling asleep.

Unfortunately we had to change to a standard room in the morning.  It took a while to get it ready so we hung around the common area.

It was a glorious day for an afternoon hike.  We set our sights on a trail with several lookouts and a waterfall at the end.

The road wound upward and we walked along cliff edges overlooking the Rio Azul and with expansive mountain views.  The road ended at a trailhead with several options.  We chose the Indian Head lookout first, named for a rocky outcrop shaped like a human profile.  The C-shaped overhang and precipice narrowed so only good balance and a feeble safety wire prevented a disastrous fall.  We zigzagged down the other side and returned to the starting point.

Then we set off on our second 'Trail Of The Elves', named the same as the one in Bariloche.  It was much more fun to hike on a trail instead of the many roads we'd walked recently.  There were a few muddy sections on the well marked path leading to Cascada Escondida though.  Once there, we followed the loop trail with views from the top and bottom of the wide, diverging falls.

We spent a restful evening in the overly warm hostel planning for our last few weeks in South America.  We also successfully made it through an entire day in Argentina without eating any meat.

The next day we took a local bus south to Lago Puelo, a big breezy lake surrounded by mountains.  We strolled along the sand and gravel beach, then cragged up a rocky headland to an area with several perfect lookouts interspersed with forested trail.  The path went on forever but we had to turn back.  Then we hiked up a second steep path to another rocky lookout over the lake and mountains.

As with Bariloche, the weather kept improving, as if urging us to stay longer.  At sunrise, the mountaintops reflected a warm orange glow that rapidly faded to their stark white reality.
With another long night bus on the horizon we lounged around the hostel all morning, then went out to survey the Saturday market scene.

We spent our last afternoon loading up on everything artisan.  From smoked rainbow trout, sweet black beer, fries and ice cream to ceramic bowls, El Bolson satisfied all of our cravings and more.

We had the opportunity to really bond with the family that ran hostel Peheunia.  Claudio had grown up in the same house and after it had laid empty for many years, he turned it into a hostel.  He met Valeria while working as a chef in Buenos Aires, married her and they had two wonderful children named Nico and Agustina.  Having to say goodbye to such wonderful hosts and the other guests made it even harder to leave such a beautiful place.
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