Pete and I had an RCI week that was about to expire (31 Dec '12), so to avoid losing it, we decided to use it in Bariloche, and visit our friend Russell Ferrier at the same time. We booked the Hosteria Del Lago for the week of 1 - 8 Dec, and then moved in with Russell for the next four days.
Where is Bariloche? It is nestled up against the Andes Mountains in Patagonia, on the edge of Lago Nahuel Huapi.
Bariloche, or San Carlos de Bariloche to give it its full name, is a city in the province of Rio Negro, Argentina, situated on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and is surrounded by the Nahuel Huapi National Park. From the Climate Chart above, you can see that even in December it is still quite cold at night. The wind blows a lot, causing the lake to become quite choppy.
The wind whips up the lake to cause white caps, and larger waves on the shore.
From our bedroom at night we could hear the waves lapping on the shore, and the thing I noticed most was the increased
frequency of the waves, much more frequent than the waves of the ocean, which we are used to hearing in Cabo.
There is evidence of people having appeared in the Patagonia area between 10 & 30 thousand BC, during the higher Paleolithic Period. Today, Nahuel Huapi National Park is one of the jewels of Argentina. Our arrival on 1 December could not have been better timed. Spring time explodes with colors, predominately Lupin and Scotch Broom, which were literally everywhere. Both are introduced plant species, and they thrive like crazy in this climate.
This Scotch Broom and Lupin were in Russell's yard. When he picked us up from the airport, which is
very close to his home, we stopped there for a coffee before going into town to collect our rental car.
Speaking of the rental car, I made a reservation last July, and the company, Europcar, charged my credit card immediately for the full amount of the rental. Normally the car rental company just takes your credit card number, and does not charge you until you return the car. When we went to the address at Metri 22, which was the address on their website, the company was no longer there. Well, now what do we do? Fortunately we had with us Russell and his cell phone, and he called the phone number for the car company. A girl answered, and apparently she runs the business out of her home now. She said she would deliver the car to our hotel in 45 minutes. In a way it was quite funny, because just before we left Buenos Aires, I received an information message from Europcar telling me about all their improvements, and wanted some feedback from me regarding our experience. I was thinking about that as our experience with Europcar progressed.
It was raining when we arrived, and the foul weather continued for the entire 7 days that we were at the Hosteria Del Lago, with the exception of two days when it didn't rain, but was very cloudy. The day that we check out from the hotel to move to Russell's home for our last four days in Bariloche, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and on that last night at the hotel I saw the most amazing array of stars which I have not seen since my last back packing trip in Yosemite, many years ago.
On our first night when Russell dropped us off at our hotel, he took us out to a really nice parrilla restaurant for dinner. It was wonderful. The next evening we drove to Russell's and met a few of his friends.
In the background is Russell's Parrilla and dinning room, so he can have a parrilla any time of the year.
While Russell busied himself with preparing some appetizers for ourselves, and the guests to arrive later . . .
. . . Pete and I occupied ourselves by enjoying a Gin and Tonic.
That evening after a pleasant time of socializing with Russell's friends, they left, and we went out to another parrilla restaurant near Russell's home. I ordered a steak, Oja de Bife, and it was excellent, but it was so big that I couldn't even finish it. This was Sunday. On Monday I took some photos of our hotel, the Hosteria Del Lago.
Three of these photos were taken from one of our windows which faced the lake. You can actually see some blue
sky in a couple of them, but that didn't last long. I was amazed at just how fast the weather situation can change.
Pete and I spent a good part of the day driving the short circuit, which takes you around one of the smaller lakes, Lago Moreno.
Our first stop was at the Llao Llao (Llao means "sweet", and doubling it means "very sweet") and it is named for the
large knots of wood that form on one of the native trees. The knot is sweet, and a delicacy for various forest animals.
Eleven years ago when we were last in Bariloche, we rented a driver for the day, and he took us to the Llao Llao to have a look around. He waited in his car while we went inside the hotel and visited the bar. We had the best Manhattan we had ever had. We didn't do that this time because it was too early in the day. ;o(
This is one of the critters that live in the forests here in Bariloche. It is a marsupial (pouched animal) that some call the forest monkey.
It actually has a prehensile tail, which becomes fat during the warm seasons so that it will survive through the winters when it hibernates. This little guy is so tiny that he would fit in the palm of your hands.
This is another critter that all cartoon lovers should recognize. Yes, this is
Woody Wood Pecker. I can't imagine how much his brain is jarred around
by his constant pecking holes in trees to store acorns for eating later.
Continuing our drive around Lago Moreno we came upon a little stream rushing down from the mountains. It is a mystery to me how these streams, and as you will see later on, large waterfalls, can continue to run with such volume. There isn't that much snow on the mountains, but that might be deceiving. Views of the lake were magnificent. The forests appear to be completely unspoiled. Mother Nature is at her finest here in this beautiful national park.
The variety and profusion of beautiful flowers gave one the feeling that you were witnessing something very wonderful in our natural world. Creations beyond our comprehension filled one with wonder and awe. The Iris was Phyllis' favorite flower.
There is a lot of history associated with Bariloche. The name itself comes from the Mapudungun word Vuriloche meaning "people from behind the mountain". The Vuriloche pass was used by the Poyas to cross the Andes and was kept secret from the European priests for a long time.
The lake of Nahuel Huapi was known to Spaniards ever since the time of their Conquest of Chile. In the summer of 1552-1553 Governor of Chile Pedro de Vildivia sent Francisco de Villagra to explore the area east of the Andes at the latitudes of the city of Valdivia.
Another early Spaniard to visit the zone of Nahuel Huapi Lake was the Jesuit priest Diego de Rosales. Diego de Rosales was ordered to the area by the governor of Chile Francisco Antonio de Acuña Cabrera y Bayona (I defy you to say that quickly) who was concerned about the unrest of the native Puelches and Poyas after the slave hunting expeditions carried out by Luis Ponce de Lión in 1649. Gee, I can't imagine why a little slave hunting would cause unrest among the native tribes. Diego de Rosales, who beginning at the ruins of Villarica in Chile, crossed the Andes through Mamuil Malal Pass, and then traveled further south along the eastern Andean valleys reaching Nahuel Huapi Lake in 1650. Obviously travel in those days wasn't easy. The first Jesuit mission was established in Chiloé Archipelago in 1670, but it only lasted until 1674. A new mission was established in 1703 on the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake, but was destroyed and burned down by natives in 1717.
Despite having stronger connections to Chile than the distant city of Buenos Ares during most of the 19th century, the explorations of Francisco Moreno and the campaigns of the Conquest of the Desert brought the area into the claims of the Argentine government which saw it as the natural expansion of the Viedma colony and the Andes as the natural frontier to Chile. In the 1881 border treaty between Chile and Argentina the Nahuel Huapi area was recognized as Argentine.
The modern settlement of Barilohe developed from a shop established by Carlos Wiederhold, a German immigrant that had settled in the area of Lake Llanquihue in Chile. Carlos Weiderhold then crossed the Andes and established a little shop called "La Aleman" (The German) near the present city center.
A small settlement developed around the shop, and in 1895 the settlement was primarily settled by Austrians, Germans, Slovenians, Chileans and Italians from the city of Belluno. It has been claimed that Bariloche got its name after the German-Chilean pioneer Carlos Wiederhold. In letters addressed to him, he was erroneously addressed as San Carlos instead of Don Carlos, which is why the city was called San Carlos de Bariloche.
During the 1950s, on the small island of Huemul, not far into lake Nahuel Huapi, former president Juan Domingo Perón attempted to secretly build the world's first fusion reactor. Even though the project cost the equivalent of about $300 million modern US dollars, it was never finished, due to the lack of the highly advanced technology that was needed. There were also serious problems with the Austrian Ronald Richter in charge of the project, who many accused of being simply crazy.
Bariloche made headlines in the international press in 1995 when it became known as a haven for Nazi war criminals such as the former SS Hauptsturmführer Erich Priebke. Priebke had been the director of the German School of Bariloche for many years.
In his 2004 book Bariloche nazi-guia turistica, Argentine author Abel Basti claims that Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun lived in the surroundings of Bariloche for many years after World War II. The estate of Inalco has been pointed out by Abel Basti as the place that Argentine Nazis chose as Hitler's refuge. Hmmmm!
Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler, published by British authors Simon Dunstan and Gerrard Williams, proposed that Hitler and Eva Braun hid in Hacienda San Ramon, six miles east of Bariloche, until the early 1960s. The account is disputed by other historians.
There is a lot more interesting stuff about Bariloche, especially in the scientific arenas of physics and engineering, but I should carry on with our present touring.
On Tuesday we departed from Puerto Pañuelo for the lake tour to Puerto Blest. It was a beautiful place to visit, and we went to see Green Lake (Lago Frias). From Puerto Blest those passengers who wanted to continue on to Chile were taken from Puerto Alegre to Puerto Frias by boat, which was a boarder crossing point into Chile. A bus would then take them down the mountain to I presume Puerto Montt.
We arrived at the port a little early, so we waited by the car, and we saw this family of ducks go buy in an orderly
manner. The boat was a catamaran, and was fairly spacious inside. As we left the port several seagulls followed
close by looking for a handout. This was the first day since our arrival that we actually saw some blue sky.
En route to Puerto Blest we pass by Isla Centinela and see the white cross which marks the resting place of Perito Moreno, whom I consider to be the John Muir of Argentina.
The captain blasts the ships horn in honor of his memory. He was the creator of the Argentinean national parks.
Born Francisco Pascasio Moreno on 31 May 1852, he is known in Argentina as Perito Moreno (perito means "specialist, expert"). Perito Moreno has been credited as one of the most influential figures in the Argentine incorporation of large parts of Patagonia.
He even has a glacier named after him.
Where we were at Puerto Alegre was just 25 km from Bariloche. We saw this little bird sitting on the fence rail trying to stay warm. Note that in the National Park signs above, the distance to Bariloche is 25 km, but in the sign below, the distance is listed as 55 km, and we were standing at the same point. I haven't figured that one out yet.
These are the boats that take people across the lake to Puerto Frias. Eleven years ago, when we first visited Bariloche, we actually took the boat ride to Puerto Frias which is a drop off place for those who are actually crossing the Andes and visiting Chile. The most spectacular sight they see when they cross the Andes is Mount Osorno, an almost perfect cinder cone volcano, much like Mount Fuji in Japan.
Next we will have a fantastic lunch sat the hotel restaurant in Puerto Blest, and then I will take you to see the Cascada de los Cántaros. Very impressive!