After dropping off the Szymanski’s we needed to do a little life catch up after two weeks of ignoring our to-do list. We needed to plan our next moves and especially update the sad state of the blog. We drove right back to Pucon from the Valdivia airport and holed up for a few days of computer time, where Eric would fill his day with some work and the search for empanadas and I was placed in blog jail. From Pucon we were ready to cross into Argentina for the first of MANY zig zags through this southern part of South America.
The road to the border crossing was beautiful and soon enough we got a perfect view of Volcano Lanin, the highlight of National Park Lanin. The border control buildings looked more like forest service buildings, or lodges that would be nice to sit around a fire place and enjoy a hot toddy than any official control point. Upon arriving to Argentina the accent changed once more and our Toyota became a “Toy-sho-ta”. Once we were through the very friendly, helpful and simple border process we hit the road for our first experiences in Argentina. Right away we noticed that the area was being reforested with lots of new trees at different stages of growth. We also noticed the strong wind, which we would later learn was peanuts compared to Patagonia. Along the way we saw a cyclist and stopped to say hello and see if he needed anything. Ryan, from England, said he was fully stocked but instead insisted we take a spin on his touring bike. Heavier and more burley than expected, after a 2 minute taste of that I said think I’ll stick to Pedro.
San Martin de los Andes was our first Argentinean town and it was love at first sight. It had a very touristy main drag, ice cream shops and panaderias galore, but once you left that zone, there were wonderfully kept houses with beautiful wood details and mountain style architecture. We managed to quickly figure out all the usual intricacies of a new country, such as the grocery stores, best beers, and here, the blue dollar exchange. We drove a little ways outside of town, passed a vibrant blue lake, a harbor filled with sailboats, and eventually found our lakeside campsite.
We went back into San Martin the following day to explore a little more, enjoy the weather and most importantly purchase a replacement for our misplaced wine opener. We had a few days to spend in the general area and slowly moved on. The skies were even bluer than the day before, the clouds wispy and the drive providing endless beautiful lakes and green, green scenery. We had set our sights on a campground south of the town Villa Angostura. There, we stopped to stretch our legs, bought some snacks and a huge ice cream trio. We were excited over the sunny little town and jacked up on the sugary ice cream but sadly upon arriving to the campsite it was closed. We then went on a hunt for a better place to enjoy the endless lake views.
We backtracked out of the city to the north and came upon Lago Correntoso, Camping 7 Lagos and Omar. The weather was foggy, muddy and wet, and the caretaker Omar thought it was pretty funny that we wanted to camp but he said of course. We followed a dirt road through his field, crossed a stream and came to a clearing once out of the trees with a view of the lake. We had the place completely to ourselves for two peaceful days.
We got back on the road after our two rest days of wood-fired hot showers, fresh snow on the hillsides, constant jokes with Omar and the sheep herd flowing in and out of the campsite. Our next destination was the popular town of Bariloche. To say the drive was beautiful again would just be repetitive but it really was amazing every day. In Bariloche we stayed at a place just barely outside the city with a view of the lake. The town itself wasn’t amazing but we found some gems. Usually when a place is in the guidebooks it’s jam packed with tourists and only decent quality food, but our dinner and beers at the Manush brewery was great. Every patron, local or not, was packed into that tiny old house elbow to elbow but loving the evening as much as we were. We planned to head outside of the city after two days and enjoy the National Park Nahuel Huapi but we both experienced mild panic over the fact that at this time we only had one month left to make it to Ushuaia and back to Buenos Aires and enjoy all the goodness in between. After we hurriedly packed up the car we decided to drive the scenic loop, the Circuito Chico, to at least catch a glimpse of the area that we know we will absolutely be back to. Next time hopefully with skis in tow.
After Bariloche we were on the move again back to Chile to begin our driving portion of the Carretera Austral. We camped in the sleepy town of Esquel, got some laundry done and had surprising good internet and coffee at the gas station outside of town.
We continually try to count how many times we will travel back and forth between Chile and Argentina and between losing count and giving up we will have to make our tally at the end.