Wednesday, 21 January 2015

0181 Lago Puyehue Chile to Lago Nahuel Huapi, Argentina

16th Jan 2015 

The campsite in Entre Lagos had filled up after I arrived, and when I woke up this morning there were only a couple of spare spots !  All Chilean.  I am not used to the locals all getting out and going camping – So far from the Mexican border south, it has only been “foreign travellers” doing the camping.  One couple next to me, about my age, were obviously first timers – They struggled with the tent and I think it took them about ½ an hour to blow up their new (still in a box) air mattress ! Their tent was smaller than my Alaska one !!  Anyway, when I woke up at 6.30 am after a great night’s sleep, not a soul was moving.  Normally campers are early risers, but not ro here – it was about 8 am before any one stirred !  No one even rushing up to the loo for an early morning pee !  So I was showered and breakfasted before anyone else was up.  Maybe it was because it was suddenly totally overcast – A complete contrast to the last few days with not a cloud in the sky. 

The camp site owner had offered fresh bread last night, and I had taken him up on his offer, and he brought down two lovely hot crusty rolls for my breakfast ! Service !  After chatting with a few more of the campers, who are all fascinated by Troopie and come over all the time asking questions, I hit the road towards the Argentinian border.  It is not that far to Bariloche but I don’t quite know what to expect road-wise, and then of course
there is the border – You never know how long that will take.  Entre Lagos is a funny little town – Lots of wooden houses, brightly painted rental lodges, and locals wandering around the streets, but also a lot of (local) tourists camping and enjoying the lakes with their families. After getting on the road, I drove along beside Lago Puyehue for about 20 kms – Lovely views over the water, but no volcanos visible today – All hidden in the cloud.  I spotted some big birds in a field near the road – They looked like birds of prey with a curved beak and talons, but they were wandering around in the field like ducks, fossicking in the grass.  I later noticed that in the field in the distance were lots more of these birds !  Most odd.  Will start showing pics around to find out what they are !

As we started to climb a little (have been at sea level for a while now), came round one corner and noticed a great waterfall – Then spied a parking spot beside the road and dove into it.  There were a bunch of kayakers there who have obviously been out playing in the white water of the river.  I walked back to the view of the falls, and it was a great river – Spoiled by a lot of VERY large horsefly type beetles flying around, and watching how hard people were trying to swat them away, they obviously bite !!  Reminded me of the “bulldogs” up in Churchill on Hudson Bay – Might be needing my head net !!

Almost without warning I came round a corner and there was Chilean Customs – Even though the map was saying another 30 kms to the border.  But it was all very easy, even though I apparently didn’t have a paper for the car that they asked for – Eventually the customs official just shrugged and said I could go !  No Argentinian border in sight !

So off I drove in no-man’s land, and suddenly starting to climb more quickly, I was amongst dead trees and a very white landscape, as if it had snowed – Except it wasn’t snow.   It turned out to be very fine sand that has a lot of fines so when you walk in it or drive on it, it send up a lot of dust.  Given the number of volcanos round here, I presume it is some kind of volcanic ash.  But it certainly made for a very dramatic and sudden change from the greenery around the lakes.  It is even piled up beside the road like snow drifts – Maybe it blows across the road and has t be swept off ?  We only climbed up to 1300 metres but they obviously have a lot of snow here, with snow poles everywhere and signs saying “Only cars with chains”. 

At the top of the pass at 1321 metres there was a big parking spot and lots of “Welcome to Chile” and “Welcome to Argentina” signs (depending on which was you looked ! This is the start of the Nahuel Hapi National Park, supposedly one of the biggest and most beautiful in Argentina, and one of the reasons I have made this detour before continuing south.  Certainly a very dramatic start to the park.   Coming down the Argentinian
side of the pass, there as a sign showing how one of the mountains was just the remainder of the core of a volcano, and was once much bigger.  No wonder there was so much ash !

After a very pleasant drive down the mountain,  I at last came to Argentinian Customs – And there was a queue a mile long !!  Holiday time, and a Friday afternoon ! But the police were very friendly, even if not very efficient – The long queues were cause by only 2 of the 7 booths being manned.  And the toilets were closed, so there were a lot of people hopping around !  Probably 2 hours with all the queuing, but the actual paperwork took only about 5 minutes once I got to a desk !  The immigration guy couldn’t work out why I was English, when my passport said I was British – It took a while to explain to him that Britain is made up to 3 and a bit countries, one of which is England !!  I still don’t think he understood fully, but as he stamped my passport, I don’t care !  While queuing up, I ended up chatting to a delightful couple from Buenos Aires – Claudio and his wife Maricel. They have just been in Chile for a few days and are on their way home, but gave me lots of other ideas of interesting places to go in Argentina.  They also invited me to look them up when I get to Buenos Aires.  Thank you, Claudio.

By the time I escaped from the border, it was 1.30 pm so I pulled over (in a cloud of volcanic ash !!) beside a lake just past the border post so I could have some lunch.  It was actually a really good camping spot – But a bit early to stop.  Carrying on afterwards, I stopped at a viewpont over the large Lago Espejo, and shortly after ended up in the town of Villa de Angostura – Which if I woke up
in the middle of and had to guess where I was I would have said Banff.   In the middle of nowhere, suddenly tourists, cyclists, and back packers everywhere.  And driving into town I spot the very distinctive and old local green motorhome belonging to a Belgian couple we had met in Mendoza, so we stopped for a chat. I did a quick grocery shop and then headed on down beside Lake Nahuel Hapi.  Studying the maps and guide books, I think the best option is for me to do a couple of loops out from Bariloche – One to the south, and then another to the north, which will enable me to see a lot of the beautiful countryside around here, and leave me in a good position to pop back over the border to Chile and head south from Puerto Montt. 

Once I had a rough plan of action, I decided not to head into Bariloche on a Friday afternoon, and so when I spotted a National Park camp site down by Lake Nahuel Hapi, I went in and set up camp beside the lake.  A delightful spot – And after a brief wander round the park, I promptly fell asleep in the van – Obviously slipping back into afternoon siesta mode again !!  I woke up later to
cook supper, and while I was doing so a lady from the site next door came over with her two children and gave me a small baked kind of pie, and said “Welcome to Argentina – Here is something typically Argentinian”.  All in Spanish, of course, but how nice was that ?  It was a bit like an empanada on the outside. But inside was a sweet kind of jam – Whatever, it was delicious.  But more I was touched by her gesture.  After that I cooked my supper and went to bed !


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