Saturday, April 6, 2013

San Martin de los Andes at Carnival

After saying a fond “adios” to Luis Felipe, Cristobal and the others, Mariano loaded our luggage into the jeep along with the dogs and we took off for our 4 days in San Martin de los Andes. Along the way, to better improve my Spanish, Marcela had me read from the newspaper about things to do and restaurant reviews for San Martin de Los Andes. I had to read and then translate what I thought I was reading. Pronunciation was corrected as was my interpretation of the article. Only when Marcela was satisfied, could I move on. I think both Mariano and I heaved a sigh of relief after the ordeal but I know that this is really the only way to move ahead in my Spanish. I was also distracted because of the amazing scenery. We were traveling along the road known as the “Route of the Seven Lakes”. Shortly after leaving Villa La Angostura, the road is unpaved gravel which gets quite sinuous as it climbs into the Andes. As we get higher in elevation, the views just get more and more outstanding. We can also see some quite ominous clouds gathering over the mountains which would seem to be a pre-cursor for storms in the next few days. Two hours of driving from Bariloche gets us into the small but bustling town of San Martin de los Andes. Founded in 1898 on lands that belonged to the Mapuche Indians, this charming mountain town of 35,000 or so inhabitants is located on the tip of Lago Lácar between high mountain peaks. The town is considered the tourism capital of the Neuquen province and that is believable judging by the quantity of arts-and-crafts shops, gear-rental places, restaurants and hotels that make up much of the downtown area. San Martin has grown considerably in the past few years, but a city law that limits building height and regulates architectural style means the town has kept its quaintness and mountain, village-like atmosphere. It is also the starting point for entering Lanin National Park where we intend to do some sightseeing in the next few days. It is way past lunch time and we can’t check into our cabana until 3pm, so Mariano suggests some lunch. We walk the dogs along the lakeside for a while and then eat at La Costa. The town is busy with tourists due to Carnival and although crammed, we are shown to a table and the service was attentive. Afterwards it is time to check into our cabana. When Marcela and Mariano had made the reservation, the first comment was that no pets were allowed. Then they said that small pets were okay. Mariano registered us and as we walked to our unit, the manager checked us out. “That” she said pointing to Pelusa who is a Jack Russell terrier “is a small dog and that” as she stared at Winston “is not”. The lady was very good natured about it and just reminded us to keep the dogs on leash through the grounds. The cabana was super. Three stories, with living area, dining, kitchen and a bathroom on the ground floor, a queen bed suite with sitting area and bathroom on the second and a third floor with 4 twin beds and bath. After checking out the place Marcela and Mariano wanted me to have the queen bed suite. “That’s nonsense” I said “Winston and I will be fine on the third floor”. It took a little persuading but finally they came to my way of thinking. As I settled into the room at the top, I was elated. Here I am with great friends who have invited me on a fabulous 4 day adventure of new sights, great restaurants and some relaxation and Winston got to come too. Fantastic!

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