Bariloche, the Lake Tahoe of South America and a Land/Water/Land/Water… passage.
We flew north, leaving the land of glaciers and ice bergs, and landed in San Carlos de Bariloche, on the Argentinian side of the Andes. When we arrived at the airport, this cat was waiting to greet us.
Bariloche is very similar to North Lake Tahoe in so many ways. It’s on a beautiful blue lake, surrounded by pine trees (not native) and mountains and it offers many of the same activities winter and summer – skiing, hiking, rafting, horseback riding, kayaking. There are also many palatial mansions, constructed of large timbers and looking just like Lake Tahoe homes. The light is so sparkling that it brings out the colors of everything. Bariloche is different in that it has hundreds of chocolate shops and the city seems to almost ignore its lake. Also, there are almost no stop signs, street lights, or yield signs on Bariloche streets. When we asked a driver why drivers don´t run into each other, she said the “strongest always wins”. We enjoyed 3 easy days in Bariloche, sightseeing and kayaking on one of its pristeen lakes.
Francisco Moreno is a famous historical figure here, and several people told us that he´s their hero. He was quite a guy. He was an early explorer of Patagonia. In about 1880 he was asked to represent Argentina in the border dispute between Chile and Argentina. Chile was arguing that land should be distributed based on whether the rivers flowing through it go to the Pacific or the Atlantic. Argentina was arguing that the “continental divide” line defined by the highest mountain ridges should be the deciding factor. Moreno tipped the scales in
Argentina´s favor by taking 100 soldiers up into the mountains for a week. The soldiers dug ditches and built dams so an area´s drainage changed from one ocean to the other, thus demonstrating that a border based on drainage could be easily changed. The Argentinian Government offered to pay Moreno in land rather than money for his accomplishment. Moreno agreed, and then promptly wrote a 7 page letter donating the land to make Argentina´s first National Park. He also started a museum and scouting in Argentina, and died broke.
we traveled back across the Andes to Puerto Varas, Chile, taking what´s called the Land and Lakes crossing. It involves 3 boat rides, 3 bus rides, and one short hike. Long ago, before the advent of machinery capable of making roads, this was one of the best routes across the Andes. Now it provides a somewhat adventurous passage through mostly wild country. We chose to stop for a night and a horseback ride half way through. It turned out that the hotel in this wild country was a fairly posh lodge, so we spent a very comfortable night and continued the journey in a massive rain storm the next day.
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