The past week has been a very interesting one--fun places to stay and the best scenery of our trip to date.
We spent two nights at the Residencial Rincon just north of Los Angeles, Chile. We were only a couple of kilometers off the toll road, but felt that we were alone in the country miles from anyone else. It is a small hostal run by a German couple who emigrated to Chile twenty years ago, bought some land and built a very nice place for travelers to stay. The accommodations were rustic, the beer was cold, and the three plate dinners superb.
Our last night in Chile was spent in Pucon on Lake Villarrica at the foot of Volcan Villarrica, a beautiful, snow covered active volcano.
When we left the next morning it was cool and misting for our ride to the Paso Mamull Malal and the frontera between Chile and Argentina. It was cold and windy at the border with the mist starting to freeze on the mirrors of the bikes! Unfortunately three tour buses were clearing the border as well and this slowed our crossing which took a little over two hours.
It was cold in Junin de los Andes where we spent the night at the Hosteria Chimechuin, apparently a mecca for trout fishermen. The walls of the lobby and dining room were covered with pictures of men and their prized catches.
The ride to San Carlos de Bariloche was a cool and windy one, but the scenery kept getting better and better. Beautiful mountain lakes (some complete with trout fishermen up to their armpits in the cold water) back dropped by snow covered peaks told us that we had indeed arrived in Patagonia.
Bariloche is a tourist town pure and simple, but what a setting: lakes and snow covered mountain peaks. Cerro (Mount) Catedral boasts the largest ski complex in the southern hemisphere and we decided to take a look see. A thirty minute city bus ride took us to the base of the mountain where we then rode the cable car and chair lift to the summit (approximately 7500 feet above sea level). It was a beautiful day with bright sun, blue sky, and just a light breeze. The snow laced mountains stretched to the horizon and we were quite pleased with ourselves for spending a few hours in such a beautiful place.
Yesterday we boarded a minibus for the ten hour round-trip excursion to Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi and home to Cerro Tronador (Thunder Mountain) and Ventisquero Negro (Black Glacier); we also visited the impressive Cascada Los Alerces. The glacier really is black (the color comes from the dirt and sediment it picks up; another glacier that intersects it adds to the mix). Tronador lived up to its name when we heard a loud boom and saw a huge avalanche come cascading down the side of the mountain! It was a fitting end to a very enjoyable outing.
We are spending tonight in Esquel, a sleepy Patagonian town--especially on a Sunday. It appears that many of the 1960 era Ford Falcons and 1970s Renaults, Fiats, and Peugeots have a home here!