Soon the plains and wetlands would be replaced by the mountains and lakes. We travelled all day to reach the Andes, stopping in Zapala to get information on the camping options at Parque Nacional Laguna Blanca and the 7 Lakes region from the tourist bureau. They’re very friendly and helpful. We were given a handful of maps. Lots of gestures and grunts later we were on our way. Our first encounter with gravel roads! Very corrugated with the occasional pothole. When we arrived Lago Alumine we stopped at another tourist office and were guided to a wonderful campsite on the lakeside. Two lakes actually. We camped beside the small lake under trees.
The camp was very rustic but had all the facilities and most important of all, hot showers and cost R120 for the night. We were surprised at how few guests there were. However, one should not forget that this is off season to the area as it is actually a skiing destination and summer holidays are only in January and February.
Along the roads and around the lakes are beautiful lupins everywhere.
The lake is beautifully located between towering mountains with snow covered peaks and one forgets that it’s actually summer. It’s about 2°C at night at this altitude. We were luckily very comfortable in Michelle, our home for the next few months.
We’d found plenty of very reasonably priced supermarkets on the way. Only purchased small quantities of fresh veggies, meat and fruit daily due to the lack of storage space. Excellent wine, Malbec Vino Tinto, at R13 a bottle and 970ml Quilmes Cerveza for R12.50 went down well with our meals.
All cooked in our camper, a change from Africa where everything was cooked outside. Near the campsite was a small village, Villa Pehuenia, with lovely wooden houses on the hillside overlooking Lago Alumine. The usual touristy artisanal shops, restaurants and coffee shops were dotted around creating a wonderful laid back resort feel. Here the sun sets after 9 pm and it only gets dark around 10. But it also rises after 6 am.
The next morning we took a few photographs during the golden hour and then lazily had breakfast watching a pair of geese teaching their 7 goslings to swim. Solveig took advantage of the warm morning sun and did some washing. Life is good…
We packed then stupidly took the longer “scenic” route to the town of Alumine. It wasn’t necessary as any route would have been scenic! The road was dreadful! We were anxious that the tyres would be damaged on the sharp stoney road surface.
Once back on tar at Alumine we continued to San Martin de los Andes for the night over steep mountain passes and through lovely forests of tall trees. The road was edged with colourfupins all along the way.
We camped 6 km out of town on a steep mountain slope at the edge of the lake. After breakfast we returned to town. While Solveig trawled the shops I sat in a coffee shop that had Wifi and caught up with emails, WhatsApp chats and posted the previous chapter of the blog. We enjoyed a picnic lunch and a drink on the beach of Lago Lacar and continued on our way to experience what the remainder of the Seven Lakes had to offer.
We pulled off quite a distance from the road and continued to the lakes edge where we “wild” camped for the night. Bush camping we’d call it back home. We were miles from anywhere, alone with only the beauty of nature to surround us. We slept so well that night after a braai and a few drinks.
More mountain passes, forests and lakes the next morning before passing through Villa de los Angostura on the way to San Carlos de Bariloche.
Rather a disappointment after our expectations. The setting of Bariloche on the shores of yet another lake; Lago Nahuel Huapi, against the backdrop of magnificiant mountains, is picture puzzle perfect. However it’s not the type of town we could relax in. Far to big, too much traffic and a tourist trap! We did not even stay for coffee and decided to return to a camp close to Villa de los Angostura on the same lakeside.
After filling up with petrol in Villa de los Angostura the next morning – it’s cheaper at R13.25 per litre here than in Chile, we continued to the border.
Sadly we had to say adiós to Argentina, we’d so enjoyed the past week in the beautiful Andes, but there were still many more countries ahead to experience. With 2500kms behind us we said ciao…..