Yep, still over a month behind on the blog as we’ve since been to Buenos Aires and are now in Uruguay! It was great of David and Barbara to suggest we join them for the weekend driving route 234 and the Siete Lagos, primarily between Villa la Angostura and San Martin de los Andes. The seven lakes, embedded in forest covered mountains, are (from south to north) Nahuel Huapi, Correntoso, Espejo, Villarino, Falkner, Machónico and Lácar. Fortunately all the lakes can be viewed from the highway because we only had a weekend and there was far more to see than just the seven lakes. For us the most impressive lake was Lago Espejo – it was in a picturesque location with a flat, mirror reflection to finish it off.
We continued on route 234 after passing through the very quaint town of Villa la Angostura, full of Swiss style chalets, outdoor gear stores and more chocolate! We stopped for lunch and to grab a few delicious pieces of chocolate! Our plan was to stay in San Martin de los Andes on Friday night, seeing as many of the lakes on the drive up before dark, Saturday head a little farther north to Junin de los Andes, and finally down to Traful for our 2nd night.
Arriving after dark into San Martin gave us problems finding a nice hotel, eventually stranding us in a hotel that resembled an active retirement community. There were about a 100 tourists aged over 65 traveling on a tour bus through Argentina and they were LOUD! They pretty much decided to have a party at our front door around 6:30am. I’ve never heard such cackling in my life – I guess I hope I’m like that when I’m older. In the morning we headed to Junin, where other than a pretty church and good supermarket empanadas we didn’t think much of the place. We now had to retrace our steps so we could get onto a mostly unpaved route 63, taking us past Lago Meliquina and en route to Confluencia. At the far end of the lake is the small village of Meliquina, a very beautiful place with only 80 residents, and our well deserved lunch stop. The scenery in Meliquina was out of this world. The leaves were changing and we saw the most vibrant shades of yellow against a perfectly blue background. I could have stared at it for hours and hours, but we had to move on!
Only another 50km of unpaved road now stood between us and Confluencia in the National Park of Lanin. There were many great photo opportunities as we were surrounded by mountains, and the wildest of stone formations that had taken millions of years of weather abuse to create. This road was one those places where everywhere you look there is something beautiful to be seen. I felt that way for the first time in the South Island of New Zealand. The scenery was spectacular. We pulled over many times to try to get great shots, but the pictures once again didn’t do it justice. Between the numerous lakes were rivers rich in trout where fly fishing is the pastime of choice in these parts. What I would have done to have access to my mountain bike on this road too!
After reaching Confluencia, where only a gas station and small shop exists, we had to head back across another unpaved road, route 65, only this time partially covered with wind-blown ash from a previous Chilean volcanic eruption – very cool as it looked like snow! We were hoping to stay in Villa Traful, located on the shores of its lake namesake, Lago Traful. This was an assumption, mainly because we were well out of season now and many accommodations were closed. The first few places we asked were either closed or too expensive – you would have thought that being in the off-season they would have reduced their prices to fill beds, but I guess they didn’t need Pesos in this town. Finally, we arrived at what must have been the center of town, and after asking at the only restaurant open we were directed to the owner of a decent little apartment that slept 4, and it was only a couple of minutes to the best trout I’ve tasted!
A few kilometers outside of Traful we passed a couple of hikers when suddenly the women of the car started yelling to stop as they thought they recognized them. It ended up being some friends we had met in Bariloche a week earlier, David and Karen – he was backpacking around South American and she had flown down from NC to spend a couple of weeks with him. Very coincidental meeting them off the beaten path like this.
This is supposedly the most scenic drive in the Argentine lake district and we couldn’t agree more. If anyone is ever in this area, definitely make the car trip to the Seven Lakes. We wouldn’t recommend taking the bus due to the limitless opportunities to stop and appreciate the scenery.
April 19th – April 21st 2013