Argentina’s Lake District: Beautiful Lake Nahuel Huapi

21 12 2011

Waking up feels unpleasant. I make my way down to the “breakfast” area, where, once again, we are only served croissants, toast, canned fruit, orange aid and coffee. Instead of the usual buffet this hostel has set out specific table servings. I wash down what’s at my seat and in my half-life state it’s not enough and I break the cardinal rule of grabbing extras from the empty place next to me. I am immediately admonished by the hostel’s maternal proprietor! She was right.

Today we are taking a boat out on the lake and then hike a beautiful water trail up to a higher altitude lake. It should be really pretty, with lots of mountains and snow everywhere cascading into the lake.

As we gather outside, someone walks raggedly down the sidewalk. It’s Mat from last night! He has not gone home yet! He is in need of getting to a bed, and it turns out he is staying in our hostel! We make quick re-acquaintances but he is in no shape to hang around. We hope run into each other sometime in the next couple of weeks.

A lengthy drive along the lake shore, past lakeside resorts and estates, leads to a port, Llao Llao, where ferries disembark for various destinations. Just behind the port lies a picturesque resort.

We wait a very long time for our ferry. It must be over an hour. We can see the ash cloud in the distance. The weather on our side of the lake is perfect, of course!

One thing worthwhile during the wait is coffee! They have this ‘electronic barista’ which makes darn good espresso! Heck we could use these in Portland!

Lake Nahuel Huapi is like a Lake Tahoe even bigger, with mountains all around, cascading into the lake. Like Tahoe, it’s over 1,400 feet deep.

Unlike Tahoe, this lake has many arms and peninsulas. So one can’t see it all from any shore. But as you can see from this map, it extends almost into Chile.

Finally we load up and depart. The ferry is a catamaran, with what looks like a space ship suspended above the two pontoons. It’s pretty fast!

Along the shore we see the lovely properties with views. Some have a sailboat moored, and docks.

The ferry picks up steam and really cruises. Although I opt to stay outside, it’s quite nice in the cabin. There are windows in the ceiling so you can see the mountains all around. And for those who want to imbibe there is a bar.

You can walk all around the perimeter of the boat, or even go up on the roof. So, it’s very nicely designed for those who want to see everything.

As we head out, we can see peaks everywhere. On our side of the lake it’s a perfect day. Very little wind, calm water, beautiful sky. Still, we can see the ash cloud and we wonder about what’s going on over on the Chilean side.

It’s so pretty, and none of my friends know about this place. None of them talk about going to Argentina! It’s kind of amazing because it’s absolutely stunning!

Our ferry comes to a small bay surrounded by snowy peaks. We stop at a dock to disembark, have lunch and then do a four hour hike up one of the cascading rivers. It’s going to be fantastic. It’s such a lovely temperature!

Once the ferry leaves we take time to have our picnic on the dock.

We’re told to meet the boat at another dock on the opposite side of the bay later on…

The trail winds amongst bamboo, some alerces trees, and the Patagonian beech trees, just gigantic, dominate everything.

It climbs away from the lake and follows a cascading river. On the climb, the trail is actually built on platforms. I get the idea that this must be really busy in the summer! We’re continually reminded that our timing is 100% perfect. Early November we experience no bugs, and few crowds. Up and up the trail winds. The sounds of the cascading river are everywhere, and there are trail extensions to view it. It’s magnificent.

We witness a duck who seems to thrive here. It’s amazing how it can dart in and out of the whitewater looking for food. It’s called a torrent duck of course!

It is simply amazing. It isn’t here by chance. This guy wants to be here, this is his favorite hunting ground! I’ve never seen anything like it.

We keep climbing, and reach a lake high above! It’s surrounded by high peaks.

I cannot help but re reminded of its resemblance to Yosemite National Park in California.

There are some other tourists there, some Swiss girls. They are really funny, they keep practicing swear words in English!

Here is a video of the mountains and lake area

Descending to the lake, we wend our way to all sorts of different flora, one of which was bamboo. There are tunnels of bamboo. It is native to this part of South America…

A towering Patagonian beech tree

On our return, the ash cloud has drifted closer to our side. It is covering one of the islands only three miles away. It still doesn’t affect us.

We’ve got one evening left in Bariloche. I’m not up for another one like last night! But Elwin is going back to that pub to try and see if Carolina shows up.

Tomorrow we will make our way over the Andes, past the Puyehue volcano and to Puerto Montt, Chile!





Andes Lakes and Fjords: Los Alerces National Park

15 12 2011

Into the Andes

I awake early to try and catch a sunrise picture of the Andes before breakfast! Guess what? It’s clear again! Wow! I walk all over Esquel, but can’t get a worthy shot. There are always trees or a building in the way! Where I have a good view of a mountain, it is only partly sunlit as it’s so early. Not photo worthy. Defeated, I head back to the hotel for breakfast. We’re going to Los Alerces National Park today. Everyone’s excited to see lakes, fjords, snow capped mountains and to get out and hike!

Off we go. The road winds and climbs through spectacular valleys with ranches, surrounded with white peaks. Along a bend in the road, we pass a gaucho with his sheep dogs. Some views remind me of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

A gaucho, but without a herd...

When we get to the park entrance, it turns out to be closed for winter – we are here early. It opens in a couple of weeks. Although facilities are not open yet we can still enjoy the park’s trails and lake shores. Los Alerces National Park was established to protect a tree of national significance, the Alerces tree, a giant of the cypress family. It can grow to 220 feet high and live 2,500 years. The slow-growing trees were prized for building materials, and thus most were logged. This national park protects one of the last stands.

We had the park to ourselves. It covers 500,000 acres, and there are several fjord-like lakes that seem to stretch forever. It’s beautiful!

Wow.

We stop at several beaches to take in the spectacular scenery! Popular with fishermen, for its rainbow and brown trout, the area is also a magnet for backpackers, mountain bikers and swimmers.

Other flora includes the Patagonian Beech and bamboo. The Patagonian Beech towers over everything in the forest!

Most of the park is untouched, because there are only roads in the east. The ecosystem is best described as a temperate rainforest.

The beaches have lifeguard towers, which are now empty but signal that the area must be popular in summer.

The highlight of the day is a hike! After so much road time, I’m happy the trip is going to include a lot of hiking from now on. I love to be out on the trail!

So, we hit the trail, and it’s not long before we reach a suspension bridge over a river which connects two of these big lakes.

It’s so picturesque! And looking down I can see 20 trout.

I have never been to New Zealand, but I continue to wonder if this looks like parts of New Zealand’s South Island? I’ll just have to go there to find out.

Well, I didn’t know the name of the exact spot in this video, but it was on the trail in the park! Very pretty.

The clarity of the water and its blue green color was incredible!

Just another gorgeous day!

Our walk winds up and down, along the rivers – it’s a big circuit taking a couple of hours.

We’ll have lunch on the lake, and then it’ll be on to our end-of-day destination, Bariloche, capital of Argentina’s Lake District.

We continue on to El Bolson, where we stop for a break. I mail some post cards, and we also get some of that yummy Argentine ice cream.

The empty road crests at the outskirts of Bariloche, and we can look above to see the ski area – the Lake District is happening in winter with several ski areas around, plus it sits on the mega huge Lago Nahuel Huapi. When we can see from this crest, a distinct change in the weather is obvious! We can see a haze in the distance. Is it changing weather? Nope. In fact it is a cloud of volcanic ash! I had heard there was a volcano in Chile that was erupting since June, and we have arrived in its domain. This is the infamous Puyehue Volcano, which has cancelled flights all summer! We’ll be directly dealing with this pesky villain in the next couple of days!