We were keen to see Argentina and the beautiful lakes district and we were fortunate to be able to base ourselves with our friend Caro Mantella in San Martin to explore from there. Caro was our guide on a previous Antarctica trip and she runs the travel company Icetracks Expeditions.
Das Seengebiet diesseits der Anden ist bekannt für seine unberührte Schönheit und Natur. Wir campten bei unserer Bekannten Caro Mantella und bekamen jede Menge gute Tipps für dieses Gebiet.
This was now our first Chile – Argentina border crossing. We knew that the Chileans are very thorough on entering their country –how would they be when exiting and how would the Argentinia border post be?
Once we passed through Coñaripe we continued on a dirt road towards the Chilean border – the crossing was quick and little interest was shown in the contents of the vehicle. Continuing along the beautiful mountain pass Carirriñe we passed through a lush forest area and drove along Lago Huechulafquén, barely visible behind the dense trees.
However Volcan Lanin (3768m) omnipresent and clearly visible, while the road was getting smaller until we finally reached the Argentinian border.
Although some other vehicles were searched, our customs official, who spoke some English, was more interested in talking about South Africa – a country he would love to visit. Then we proceeded to Laguna Verde to find a spot to camp inside the National Parque Lanin (Peso 300 for the night).
We enjoyed a walk around this clear lake, watched some anglers catching trout and had a very quiet night with a little drizzle. We laid in for a while waiting for the rain to stop and Caro and her friend Jurek with her big fluffy dog Naook (“polar bear”) arrived. On our way back we stopped at a grove of old Araucaria trees, apparently a remnant of the Mapuche Indians who used the seeds of the trees as food.
As we got closer to San Martin de los Andes, we were greeted by fields of Golden Amancay, Slipper Flowers, Fuchsia and many others. We managed to manoevre our vehicle up the steep path into the back garden at Caro’s house, which would be our next “wild” camping spot within the forest area – thanks, Caro, for allowing us to stay and we enjoyed the time tremendously – including the welcoming braai – “Asado”- with her friends. It did not take long and neighbours visited to view our somewhat unusual vehicle.
The next few days were like a holiday – visiting the town, driving to Caro’s brother Marco and his family to barbeque and to motorboat on Lago Meliquina – with stunningly clear waters.
Late afternoon we proceeded and found a nice camping spot along the Rio Traful, close to a ridge where we might have a chance to see Condors in the morning. Next morning Karin discovered a Condor sitting high up and we decided to stay put to observe it. I climbed up along the ridge to get closer and by about 11:30 we are lucky to see it taking off after preening itself, then spreading its massive wings a number of times to see whether the thermals were getting strong enough to take off.
Our drive from here passed through very scenic rock formations, the area also being a popular free-climbing area. We passed Lago Traful, through Villa Traful, a beautiful village with a number of camping sites in the area.
Continued along Ruta 65 until we reached Ruta 40, passed Lago Correntoso, Laguna Bailey Willis, Laguna Bullines, Laguna Espejo on the Camino del Siete Lagos (seven lakes route) until we reached Villa Angustura on Lago Nahuel Huapi (another quaint village but very touristic and expensive).
For the night we drove to Lago Espejo Chico and stayed for Peso 150 pP on the lake. We could not take a shower ( which costs extra) as we missed the shower time – how odd to regulate shower times, something we are not used to from South African camping sites and parks.
We continued around the lakes area, took a swim in the cold Lago Traful and reached the free camping area Lago Villarino situated between Lago Villarino and Lago Faulkner where we met with Caro and her dog Nanook again.
Next day we took the Ruta 40 to the south, stopped and trailed to the waterfall Cascada Ñivinco and finally turned north on R237 through an area reminiscent of the Drakenberg in SA.
While we set up a wild camp along the Rio Limay, we noticed another camper with two horses – here we met Felipe Masetti Leite, a young Brazilian who had previously travelled from Canada to Brazil on horse (his book “The Long Way Home” will be published in a few weeks) and who is currently heading to Ushuaia by horse, having started in Brazil. At this stage he had been on horseback for 4 ½ years.
We shared some stories as well as our concern as he was heading into winter time in southern Patagonia. Early morning the local TV arrived to interview him before he proceeded. His next planned adventure is to ride from Marokko to Cape Town – so maybe we shall meet again.
The Rio Limay seemed to be a popular trout fishing area –a number of smaller boats passed us with anglers. We drove along the Limay towards Embalse Alicurá, passed the Mirador del Condor, a large cliff where Condors tend to nest, then on to Junin de los Andes, photographed volcano de Lanin on the way and were certain that it was emitting a large plume of smoke – somewhat unusual and were later convinced by Caro that it merely were clouds.
Back in San Martin de los Andes we had a chance to catch up with homework and paid a visit to the private museum of the family Nicolaevici. The well-know photographer Isaias Miciu Nicolaevici showed us around the private collection of family artworks started by his grandfather Konstantino, who arrived from Rumania after the world war. His son Georg continued as an artist and so did all the children of the current generation. The gallery is called Museo Coleccion Georg and not only houses the paintings, but also the incredible photos of son Eliseo, a renown photographer of Patagonia.
Following this inspiring visit, we departed with Caro to the annual Gaucho festival in Junin de los Andes – another new experience.
This post covers the period 2nd to 11th February 2017