Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bariloche, Argentina to Puerto Veras, Chile

It is easy to understand how Germans, Swiss and Italians fell in love with the San Carlos de Bariloche region. It is reminiscent of the Alps.

At 6:00 a.m., it was still dark. Savored the early morning: it's so nice by the lakeshore. Though the highway goes right by this hotel, the building's configuration shields the rooms on the lakeside from the noise. Mostly, you just hear the water.

After checking out, I wanted to travel the “Circuito Chico” loop out to Llao Llao Parque Nacional. I had been told it's a beautiful drive, and not very far. I had come close the other day, but at the time didn't realize the road I was on made a loop. I turned around. It is amazing how like Italy's lakes region this is!

The Llao Llao Hotel and Resort, outside of San Carlos de Bariloche

Returning to town, fueled up and left Bariloche, bound for Chile once again. Another perfect day for riding. It's a bit over an hour's drive to the frontier, all on excellent highway.

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina spreads out beneath the Cordillera de los Andes. In the foreground, "California" poppies!

There is a marked contrast between Chilean and Argentine checkpoints. The Chilean office, a model of organization and efficiency, the Argentine office...well, not. My timing was bad: I arrived just after a large tour bus had unloaded. It took probably an hour to get through.

The pass to Chile is fairly low. The Andes are "shrinking" the farther south I go. No longer the intimidating rampart they presented to the north. In the mountains, big “horse flies” attack the flesh. It is common to see tourists flailing away, trying to repel the onslaught of these hungry insects.

Along the Chilean-Argentine border, stands Cerro Pantojo, the basalt plug or core of an ancient volcano. The mountain has eroded away.

Along the western slopes of the Andes, the landscape is dramatically different: forests and green fields, rich farmlands, and an orderliness and perfection that makes me think of Germany. There are raspberry farms, and wild berry bushes growing along the highway shoulders. The air is fragrant from grasses and wildflowers. It's a beautiful countryside.

Approaching Osorno, I chuckled at the chainsaw billboards, so common in southern Chile. (I can't recall seeing such billboards anywhere else in my travels.) And hot dog (salsicha) billboards!

Made a brief foray into Puerto Montt, where I found hotels to be expensive, and the city to be not particularly appealing. Then I remembered nearby Puerto Veras: the manager at "Hotel Patagonia" in Bariloche recommended it as a nice town to visit. Drove ten miles north out of Puerto Montt, and found the "casino town" of Puerto Veras.

On the outskirts, along Lago Llanquihue, I came upon the "Borde de Lago Hotel". The small hotel appeared still under construction, but a man working outside waved me in. They had rooms available, and it looked very nice, but when I learned the price, $70, I almost choked. "Sorry, too much!"

But I took a look, nevertheless, wondering what $70 buys you here. The rooms and furnishings looked brand new.

Then he offered "how about $40?"

I shrugged.


"Okay, I'll take it."

It was a clean, very peaceful setting, with only a five-mile drive to town.


Tonight, it appeared the kitchen staff was working solely for me. A fish (congrio) dinner was quite nice, if not spectacular. Tried the “Royal Guard” cerveza. Forget it!

The server, “Francisco” (also known as "Poncho", the common nickname for Franciscos throughout Latin America), spoke some English and told me he's studying journalism. When he learned of my travels, he said he wanted to do a story about me. I later sent him my photo and link to the website.



Perhaps you should contact some greeting card companies....I believe you have quite a collection of potential postcards!

timtraveler said...

Maybe you could be my agent? You're doing a pretty good job of it now!

Anonymous said...

1 comments (reposted here due to post consolidation):

Tim Spires said...

You've also mentioned many times of places that remind you of California! Its amazing to me that these places you visit do look so much like geographical regions a world away. I need to get out more!