DAY 4: Los Siete Lagos...and More
After an early morning alarm, and a light breakfast of fruits and medialunas, we are prepared to head north and discover the 7 Lakes shared between Río Negro and Neuquen. Our expert guide spends the next 12 hours leading us through diverse terrain overflowing with lakes, rivers, forests, and wildlife. Despite morning rain and cloudy skies, we still enjoy a serene drive...down dirt roads and gravel trails. This same region was the recent site of Discovery Channel's Eco Challenge.
The 7 Lakes in order of appearance: Espejo, Correntoso, Escondido, Villarino, Falkner, Machonico, and Lakar. Alternating shades of blue and green are visible through towering pine trees. Large lookout points accommodate international travelers and backpackers, all eager for the perfect picture. At Lake Falkner, we walk along the sandy shore, picking wild Calafate berries from the surrounding shrubs.
Such an excursion includes brief visits to the prestigious towns of Villa La Angostura and San Martín de los Andes, both smaller replicas of Bariloche nestled in the southwest corner of Neuquen. These quaint destinations continue to welcome worldwide travelers...and international expats seeking permanent relocation.
Our drive continues, the lakes disappear in the distance, and the landscape gradually transforms into a picturesque steppe painted in hues of brown and green. Quiet sheep farms and moss-covered fences are now behind us. It's hard to believe we were just in Bariloche this morning. We keep our eyes peeled for wildlife...and we are not disappointed! We witness wild boars roaming through low scrub, elegant guanacos meandering across fields, and curious rheas peeking inbetween foxtail plants. As condors soar overhead, we are delighted to see pink flamingos bathing in the lagoon to our right.
Our journey concludes with peculiar stone formations in the mountains, resembling elephant seals and mountain lions. We return to our hotel. It is late...but not too late for a dozen warm beef empanadas.
Wooden street sign in Villa La Angostura
The turquoise waters of Lake Escondido
Just us doing our thing...in front of Lake Falkner
Modeling in front of Lake Espejo
The moss-covered fences of southern sheep farms
Central square of San Martin de los Andes
Colored kayaks along the coast of San Martin de los Andes
Rustic fences and tumbleweed...elements of a Patagonia farm
Argentina's steppe...no, this is not a painting
The great outdoors of northern Patagonia
Roaming guanacos in their natural habitat
DAY 5: Final Highlights
A pleasant sunrise greets us through the window. We take advantage of our final few hours to squeeze in some trademark highlights of Bariloche. A brief drive along Bustillo Avenue, past budget hostels and public schools, leads us to the vibrant red cable cars that ascend Cerro Otto (4600 feet above sea level). The view is unforgettable...a panoramic unparallel to anywhere else in the world.
Back in the civic center, we visit the fine chocolate shops one last time. We lie down on the grassy slope leading from the main plaza to the central pier...as multiple Saint Bernards look on inbetween photo sessions with cheerful kids. Our time is winding down...so we decide to get up and accomplish our final goal while here in northen Patagonia - eat grilled lamb at El Boliche de Alberto. To die for.
We grab our suitcase, head to the terminal, and take our favorite seats on board the Andesmar bus: upper level/ in front. We recline our seats, pull out the iPods, and prepare ourselves for the 17-hour return journey. The sun is shining through the side window, it's actually getting hot. No problem, we'll just adjust the....oh no, the air conditioning is broken. Not good.
An early sunrise as seen from our hotel window
Cable cars ascending Cerro Otto
Aerial view of South America's Switzerland
A barren and wind-tilted tree along Lake Nahuel Huapi
Traditional preserves and jams
Grilled lamb from Patagonia (and a restaurant tip from los Galaso)