Saturday, April 20, 2013

Villa La Angostura and on to San Martin de Los Andes

Our first day was an easy drive to Villa La Angostura, located halfway between Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes. Spanish for “narrowness – ville”, the village sits on the northwest shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi inside Nahuel Huapi National Park. It is very similar to Bariloche in that the architecture follows the stylized Alpine wooden type of buildings and there is a preponderance of artisanal stores selling products like beer, chocolate and delis stocked with smoked salmon and trout and lots of cheese and pates. It was actually declared a disaster area two years ago when a volcano eruption in Chile dumped a massive amount of ash on the area. Since then there has been a huge cleanup campaign and only here and there do you see the remnants of the devastation. Our destination is a campground to the east of town at the edge of Lake Correntoso. We had stayed here before in December when we made a trip to Isla Chiloe in Chile so we knew it was a great place to spend a few days and get used to being on the road again. The campground is owned and managed by the indigenous Mapuche and is a little rundown but since we are fairly self sufficient in the motorhome, that part doesn’t matter and its location by the lake is beautiful. We spend a relaxing couple of days just hanging out, reading, playing with Winston and catching up on some chores. The weather stays sunny and fairly warm until our third day and the clouds start amassing over the lake. Time to move on. We head north and then just as the Andes begin to loom higher in front of us, we turn onto a dirt road to begin a climb up past gorgeous, glistening glacier lakes and rivers fed by the Andean snow. Keeping the Andes on our left, we stay on the dirt road that is known locally as “the route of seven lakes”. The terrain is subantarctic and is lush thanks to the huge rainfall and snow melt that it receives. The 110 km drive (about 70 miles) takes about three hours with plenty of photo stops along the way. We had planned to stay a couple of days in San Martin de los Andes but the only campground in town was just to the north but was really not that pleasant. Belonging to ACA (Automobile Club de Argentina) it was just a dirt and gravel area with a small stream running down its side where the tent camping was located. Motorhomes were parked by the fence at the main road so traffic was audible most of the time as this is one of the busy routes for trucks entering Chile. After getting parked, level and plugged in, we decide to spend just one night here and get further north. When I was here with Mariano and Marcela in February, we had eaten at El Regional, a cerveceria/restaurant serving artisanal beers and local regional cuisine. At that time I had had a “guisa”, a type of casserole topped with pastry and filled with tender chunks of venison with vegetables. I had mentioned it to Tom who since then has wanted to try it. We walked, fed and played with Winston and then asked for a taxi to take us the short distance into town and El Regional. We both ordered the guisa and Tom agreed with me that it was delicious and oh so filling. That, accompanied with a bottle of Argentinean Malbec wine was enough to send us happily back to the motorhome for the night and to an exuberant Beagle who received a little of the venison.

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