Pucon to San Martin de los Andes

Thursday 12th November 2015

I said good-bye to Helene, Aurelie and Laetitia in the morning. It was really cool to travel with them and know them for a few days, it really felt like meeting old friends again, such a cool feeling. Hey girls, you have to come to Australia, don´t forget!! 😀 Here is the sign at the entrance of Ecole, the hostel where we stayed, telling me about all the other cool things I could have done there if I had stayed longer. As usual…I wish I had more time!

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I walked to the bus station. Right next to it was the bakery where I bought some croissant, bread, cheese, salami for the journey. I sat down and waited there. I checked with my neighbours that they were also waiting for the same bus. A friendly street dog came and sat at my feet. He was probably hoping that I would give him some of the food I had just bought.

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Here was a map next to the terminal. Can you spot Pucon and San Martin de los Andes? I am going from one to the other.

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Here is a better map, where you can see the journey for the next few days, crossing to Argentina and checking out San Martin de los Andes, Bariloche and El Bolson.

Pucon to El Bolson map

The bus arrived. It was supposed to be at 9.15am but arrived around 9.45am. We loaded the bags and got in.

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I had planned to use that time to prepare blog articles, so was sitting at the back. View of the bus from the inside from my seat.

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View from the window. Pretty rainy that day.

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We stopped for a bit at this Cabana place located next to the river. In the bus, there was a guy who came to give us cafe and a snack before we got there and kindly told to all of us that the stop would be 10 minutes here and that we could get out and go stretch our legs next to the river if we wanted. That guy was very cool, it is not always that you get a driver´s assistant helping out and also communicating well to the passengers.

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Photo of the river.

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Had lots of fun with the long exposure.

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Higher up in the hills, we could see the fog invading the forest.

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The road on which we were about to continue.

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More fog up there.

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We arrived around 11.40am at the Chilean border where we gave our exit paper and got an exit stamp in the passport.

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Right next to the border were these Araucania trees.

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20 minutes later, we were passing the Argentinian border and getting an entry stamp in our passport. No paper to keep though.

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Right next to this border was Volcan Lanin. You can also ascend it and it must be pretty awesome but it takes 3 days. It is 3,776 meters high. I chatted a bit more with my neighbors from the morning before to get back in the bus. It was Annina and Claudio, a couple from the German-speaking part of Switzerland. They also had their tent and all equipment and were also keen on doing multi-day hikes and had also been disappointing not being able to do the 4-day hike in the Huerquehue National Park. We talked about trying to check out multi-day hikes when arriving in San Martin de los Andes, while at the same time we kept an eye on Lanin Volcano until it revealed its summit! Then we climbed back in the bus. Off we were in Argentina!

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The rest of the journey on the Argentinian side of Patagonia was interesting as the landscape was actually really different, much dryer than on the Chilean side.

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Some more view

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Passing a river.

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Cows in the fields.

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Heading towards some blue sky.

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River and hills

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Some little summits.

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We arrived in San Martin de los Andes bus station at 2.30pm. No change of time zone, still the same time zone as in Chile.

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On our way to the centre, we ran into the Conaf information centre. As it was opened, we entered it to ask about the trekking possibilities.

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The guy was sadly not friendly at all. To be honest, he almost looked satisfied of announcing to us that “no, sorry, you guys are too early in the season. It would be very very complicated and difficult to go trekking for multiple days here. Come back in January, February.” Thanks. Great. He showed us this map. Bottom left, you can see the Parque Nacional Lanin. There is a possibility of a multi-day hike but it requires to go by boat to the end of the lake, which costs 400 Argentinian pesos, or to go by transportation but in this low season there is no bus going there, and not many cars either. From there, it is possible to hike back through Parque Nacional Lanin, it could be a 3-day hike finishing in Quila Quina. That was one of the only possibilities he really showed us. Besides looking satisfied of telling us we could not hike, this guy was not really clear when giving us information about the hikes and we had to make him repeat several times to understand clearly where the starting points and ending points were. Not a really motivating experience. He told us that there were otherwise 2 hikes of 3 hours each that we could do, that can be found in the top-right of this map. We left a bit disappointed.

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Here is a map outside of the National Park office showing the little 3-hour walk that he had talked about.DSCF7654 (Medium)

We went to the hostel that Annina and Claudio had booked and I took a bed in a 3-beds dorm there. The hostel was called “El Oso Andaluz” and was very pretty and quiet, perfect! After dropping the bags, we went to withdraw money and check out the city and the tourist information centre. We passed the main square. On the ground, you can see paintings of white scarves. It was the same in Mendoza and the girl during the city tour of Mendoza had explained to us that it used to be the white scarves the women who were demonstrating every Thursday morning in all cities of Argentina were wearing. It was the mothers of the “desaparecidos”, about 13,000 people who were kidnapped and “disappeared” during the military regime between 1974 and 1983. For years, every week, the mothers have been gathering since 1877 to ask in each city for the government to tell them where their children disappeared.  The mothers aged and became more like grand-mothers. To make sure they are remembered too, along the names of their sons and daughters who disappeared, white scarves have been painted in most of the squares, sometimes along with the names of their children who disappeared. You can read more about them here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothers_of_the_Plaza_de_Mayo

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We visited the visitor´s centre where a very friendly woman told us about the Argentinian National Bank nearby where we could withdraw money. View of various tree colours while withdrawing some money. In Argentina, you can only withdraw 1,000 pesos at a time. Often, the bank charges 57,72 pesos for the transaction. So annoying.

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We walked towards the lake to go check it out and boats going to Quila Quina as she had suggested to us that going one day there could be nice. Statue next to the lake.

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Cool mini-bus next to the lake. Who knows. Maybe it belongs to some long-term travelers stopping over. How cool!

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View of the lake, called Lago Lacar. Average depth of 167m, maximum depth of 277m. Its water drains across Chile and into the Pacific Ocean. It is the northernmost lake on the eastern side of the Andes that drains to the Pacific. It was belonging to Chile until 1902!

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View to the right.

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View to the left.

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Some of the walks one can do around the lake.

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We walked to the pier and booked boat tickets to go to Quila Quina the next day.

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The boat ticket was an open ticket but when looking at the timetable, we were thinking of taking the boat of 11:00 and returning from Quila Quina with the 17:30.

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Then we stopped at the restaurant-bar located next to the lake. The wind was so crazy on that lake that no one was eating outdoor! It was already 6pm so we decided to also order food. The menu was funny, adapted to the area. Fancy a Monte Tronador salad? Or a Volcan Lanin or Volcan Osorno one? 😀

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So much wind, coming from the North-West-West. The flag was always floating in the same direction.

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Patagonia beers!

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On the way back to the hostel, we could only laugh looking at the footprints a dog had made at the time in the fresh concrete. Dogs are really present everywhere in South America!

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We stopped at the supermarket to buy some food. If you haven`t brought all your own hiking equipment, you could always buy it in Patagonia. Gas stove anyone?

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Anyone needs a tent?

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No matter where we are in the world, there is always this moment when we have to queue at the supermarket!

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View in a street of San Martin de los Andes.

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Very leafy streets.

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Funny architecture.

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We went to a travel agency called “El Refugio” opened from 5pm to 9pm where we met Pablo and bought a “7-lakes tour” for the day after Quila-Quina to go from San Martin de los Andes to Bariloche while stopping over to check-out the various lakes. The next two days, sorted!

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The next day, off to Quila Quina!