The first day there we walked down to the river - which was only a few blocks away
. It was positively the cleanest river I have ever seen. Absolutely beautiful! We then went to the town square and got ice cream - mmm... They looked at us like we were crazy when we got 3 scoops of just mint chocolate chip! We sat in the park and ate it. After that we got some beer and went back to the river and sat on the shore. A couple walked by with what we thought was there dog but he came right up to us and didn't leave. We thought he had owners so we were petting him and everything. After 15 minutes and no owners coming back we realized he was a stray (there are stay dogs all over South America) - but an awesome one. He was a K9 police dog type. Brian had been playing fetch with a stick and the dog became completely infatuated with it. We tossed it to him about 100 times. Once I accidentally threw it in a tree and I thought he was going to knock the tree over to get it - he was going crazy. It was hysterical. We were getting a little sick of tossing it after awhile so we threw it in the river - I know, it's mean, but we were ready to go. The dog jumped in and tried to get it, but when he realized there was no hope he backed up, stuck his head underwater for awhile and came up with an enormous stone. It probably weighed 5 pounds and was literally bigger than a softball - I have no idea how he held it in his mouth. So he brought that over and wanted us to toss it to him. He also stood right behind us and shook off a few different times, completely soaking us. Anyway, we had fun at the river with a stray doggy
That night was New Years Eve and the owners of the hotel had invited everyone to a feast. They served the best empanadas ever and so much other great food. There were the couple from Iowa, Lynn and Bob (who, yes, were wonderful - not just saying that because they are from Iowa) and two other families plus the owners and their daughter. We had no real countdown but all toasted to each other and enjoyed our meal. After midnight we went outside where all the locals had come outside to set off fireworks. It is just like our 4th of July back home. One group took a rope and tied steal wool pads to the end and lit it on fire - then wiped it around and around to make the coolest firework/sparkler thing I have ever seen. Afterwards, everyone sat around and chatted. Although, I have no idea what anyone talked about because it was all completely in Spanish. But overall, it was a pretty good New Years.
The next day we spent at the river. Afterwards we were invited by the owners of our hotel to go out to these huge scared rocks/caves that Indians had lived in about 1,000 years ago. It is not open to travelers or the public. Lynn and Bob came too. What an experience! To think that this family thinks highly of us enough to invite us on their family outing
. It was the most beautiful ride yet as we road through rural Patagonia- check out our pictures. When we got there we climbed around these rocks/caves and saw what hardly any other traveler gets to see. It's not even in the tour books.
The following day we went back to the river again - surprise! This time we floated down the strong current wishing we had a raft to just relax. That night we had a great meal with our Iowa friends and said goodbye as the next day we were off again. But before we left that afternoon we hiked to Cerro de la Cruz, this mountain park overlooking town that has numerous monolith statues telling the story of Jesus's life. Amazing! The statues were so big and detailed. Unfortunately, you'll have to believe me on that one as our camera battery died after only 2 shots.
I hear that a bird pooping on you is good luck - which turned out to be true in the town of Junin de los Andes. It is a little sleepy town of 12,000 people right next to the Parque National Lanin. This town is absolutely wonderful! It is surrounded by huge mountains, a beautiful river (Rio Chimehuin), and the people are so nice. We found this great place called Hotel Alina's. It is a family run place. While we were negotiating the price (which we got a good deal on) the owner's daughter arrived home from Buenous Aires for New Years. I can't explain how great these people were - and they spoke very very little English and us very very little Spanish, but still managed to get to know one another and really liked them! We got there largest and last available unit. It was two big bedrooms, a family room area, great kitchen and bathroom. Also, when we checked in we noticed in their book that another couple was staying there from IOWA!!! Yippee!