Argentina 4: Gaucho Festival, Parque Lanin and Villa General Belgrano


If we could, we would have stayed longer in the seven lakes area. As luck had it, we visited a typical Argentinian Gaucho gathering.

Argentinien und Uruguay sind bekannt für ihre Gaucho Kultur. Pferde und Rinder sind hier die Essenz des Lebens.

Caro had no difficulty in persuading us to accompany her to the annual Gaucho festival – what an experience to see how real gauchos were handling their horses. The town Junin de los Andes was abuzz, streets were lined with shops selling everything a gaucho needs.

Our stay in San Martin d.l.A. was finally coming to an end – but not before we paid another visit to the famous ice cream shop Mamusia – not to be missed when in the area.

After we said our goodbyes we proceeded to Lago Huechulafquen at the foot of Lanin volcano into PN Lanin. Here we found a superb free camping spot among trees (camping libre) far into the park and at the foot of the volcano ( S39°45.1194 W071°30.5982).

During the night we had some rain, but the morning turned out perfect and we later passed Corral de Piedras, proceeded along Rio Limay to Embalse Ezequil Ramos Mexia, a huge dam and found a camping spot near the dinosaur footprints at Camping las Huellas, basic but ok.

Since we had brought with us a post card from Post Office Bay on Galapagos, we drove to Neuquén, where we delivered the post card to Teres Perleaz, to whom it was addressed, then proceeded on the R151 to Santa Isabel, the road littered with potholes. The road was straight for miles on end and Karin did most of the driving, relaxed as there were no more curves. For the night we reached the town Telen, where we camped in the recreational park – a police woman promised to keep an eye and she patrolled a few times during the night.

We tried to cover a good distance through the pampa – not the most diverse landscape. Passed through Victoria toward the North, then through Villa Mercedes, an ugly and poor town. While en-route to Merlo we got hit by one of the notorious hailstorms and had to seek shelter to prevent the vehicle getting damaged. Many other vehicles stopped and draped their windscreens with blankets. The soft light and the clouds were beautiful and impressive.

In Merlo we overnighted at El Rincon Camping Municipal; the town is worth visiting, close to the mountains, full of restaurants, art shops and action companies offering paragliding, fuffy sliding (Tirolesa), quadbiking etc. We had a terrible rain storm during the night- not the best night for all the campers at El Rincon.

Following a breakfast and stroll through the picturesque town, we hit the road through the mountains towards Villa General Belgrano – the road had been closed due to the storm, but as we proceeded the first paragliders jumped and enjoyed the view from high up and were soaring with Condors. The mountain road became almost a track and quad bike groups and enduros raced along.

We were rather surprised when an oncoming camper vehicle suddenly stopped and the two occupants jumped out and greeted us – Eric and Nancy Hesemans are the owners of the balloon safaris along the route towards Sossusvlei in Namibia. What a surprise in the middle of the Andes. They were on their way to Vallecitos Parque Natural and hopeful to see some Condors. (Note: the red Mercedes bus shown below is not theirs -it is typical for some locally converted camper buses)

We reached Embalse Ministro Juan Pistarini, the camp site at La Cruz was very busy and partially flooded, then we passed a Nuclear powerstation after Embalse and ended on Camping Club de Pesca, which was pleasant and not overly full.

After a stroll along the lago and a small breakfast, we proceeded to Villa General Belgrano, a village with the largest annual beerfest (Oktoberfest) in Argentina. I-Overlander indicated that Camping la Florida is a popular stop over, run by owners Ralf Lage and Bettina Wittkop, originally from Hamburg’s pub scene.

While we were setting up camp, travel friends Willy and Gaby Cordes arrived in their bright red Toyota Hilux (we called them bombeiros due to the red vehicle – an unusual colour for overlanding vehicles). Willy kindly offered us his gas bottle, which fitted our bracket perfectly (we had lost our Cadac gas bottle in Ecuador ).

Ralf persuaded us to partake in his Super Asado – a braai of enormous volume: sausage like Chorizo, Blood sausages, chicken, the fatty gland that regulates the growth hormones in cattle, beef ribs cut across, all with the typical Chimichuri sauce. We spent the evening until late, eating and talking as it is typical for an asado.

Our first full day at the camp was occupied by washing, cleaning, mailing, blogging. Then we walked into the town – mind boggling to hear old german folk and country songs, every shop offering various Oktoberfest paraphernalia including the widest variety of beer mugs. Below a liter capacity nothing seems to go. We spent a restful evening at the camp, assisting Bettina to book some flights as they do not have any credit card facilities at the camp.

We had ordered fresh, home baked bread and met the Bavarians Sepp and Annemarie Still. They promptly convinced us to stay on their small holding next afternoon, where they had Gaucho friends coming across and it gave us a chance to meet some of the locals –both gaucho and Germans, some being descendants of the Graf Spee mariners, a ship that sunk in Montevideo in WWII.

The next afternoon and evening we spent outside Villa Los Reartes at their small holding, the visitors singing while Annemarie played an accordion, first having coffee and cake and then eating a pork, masterly prepared by Sepp.

This post covers 12th to 22nd February 2017

Author: Dieter

A passionate traveller and photographer with an urge to share the beauty of our planet.

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