There are hundreds of lakes in near Bariloche and they all seemed to be surrounded by forests and have bright blue waters reflecting snow capped peaks. The seven lakes route from San Martín de los Andes to Bariloche is justifiably known as one of Argentina’s most beautiful routes.
The New Year started with perfect azure blue skies, we really appreciated our free municipal parking spot right on the lake in San Martín. The preceding day when the rain was bucketing down only a few brave souls ventured out of their cars to take a quick snap of the grey lake. Now the shore was filling with families enjoying the fresh cold air and bathing in the warming sunlight.
Once we set off we were soon “Ooh-ing and Aah-ing”, as the mountain vistas of peaks, lakes and pristine evergreen forests unfolded. With the great weather, summer holidays and it being a bank holiday it was pretty busy with everyone enjoying the day out.
We found a lovely spot in the free campsite next to Lago Villarino. We are starting to turn Argentinian in our cooking: out came the firewood, folding grill, tons of meat and potatoes wrapped in foil. Next morning we had one of our shortest drives ever, I’m not sure Steve even needed to turn on the engine, as we rolled 20m down the hills to a recently vacated camp spot right on the lake.
School started for the girls the following day, after their Christmas break, and it was just another short drive to Laguna Traful. As the road had turned to dirt we were back out deflating our tyres to reduce shaking and avoid damaging the tyres. This seems to be a daily occurrence at the moment as we are on and off corrugated dirt roads. Luckily the truck has a built in compressor, so re-inflating the tyres once we are back on the tar isn’t a problem.
The lake shore was heaving with campers, so we found a little track a few kilometres back and drove down. We found a lovely spot close to a shallow stream in the forest. The stream looked much like the shallow gravel beds so familiar to us from New Forest in England. Like at “home” the girls soon got going building dams and floating sticks downstream. The main difference was the temperature, as the water was straight off the glacier above, even a few seconds emersion was painfully cold.
We waved goodbye to John and Betti the next morning, as they needed to go to Bariloche to do jobs. We meandered through the last part of the spectacular seven lakes route, stopping on Lago Nahuel Huapi for the night.
It was our turn for jobs the next day in Bariloche, once a week we need to stock up on food, water, fuel and find a laundry (ideally). Bariloche is one of the most popular tourist towns in Argentina and we are here right in the middle of peak season, so it was very busy. Dragging the girls around town tends to slow the process down, so they usually do school while Steve stocks us up. The added complication in Argentina is that siesta time is been 12 and 4 or 5pm; most businesses close and you can’t get anything done.
We rendezvoused with John and Betti that night at a quiet spot they’d found next to a stream, high above the town. They love dogs and have a totally different attitude to strays that usually turn up whilst we are cooking. Whilst we usually ignore them or chase them off if they come too close to the barbecue, Betti makes friends and feeds them with titbits. That night a dignified, older, white mountain dog turned up. We think he must have been only recently abandoned as he had a sweet, easy manner around humans and was very well behaved. He was soon christened “Bundy” and the girls fell in love with him, once his kind nature had been revealed. Maybe John and Betti are on to something though, as “Bundy” in exchange for our barbecue scraps settled down underneath to guard the trucks for the night.
Just a couple of hours drive through more beautiful scenery is the little town of El Bolson. We’d timed our arrival so we could visit the local market where they only sold locally home-made products. The truck is heaving at the seams after Christmas (as much as we said to the girls “one toy in, one toy out” it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way), so our shopping was limited to the “window” type. However the home cooked food was delicious.
Our campsite that night had an onsite microbrewery – I think you can you guess who chose the spot. We had a final night with John and Betti, enjoying both the beer and the local rainbow trout. It was sad to say goodbye to them, we’ve all enjoyed their company a lot, but as we are all heading roughly southwards we may well see them again along the way.