Malargüe

Trip Start Nov 28, 2005
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Trip End Jan 20, 2006


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Saturday, December 10, 2005

We left San Rafael after discovering that there was really nothing to do there. Upon arriving in Malargüe, we couldn´t quite figure out where our hostel was, as there was no map of the town in our travel books. So we walk one block and find the name of the street and another half block and there it is, the Nord Patagonia.

We are trying to go on guided tours in the area, and met another traveler from Holland, Melanie. We walk to a couple of tour companies, and find one that looks neat and has had a recommendation from another traveler. Sitting down in the place, we are listening to our options, and in walks Aaron, the English guy, and reimburses me for a cigarette that he had gotten from me three days previous. Pretty smooth move, I do say.

Turns out that Aaron and the girl he met had hitchhiked all the way here for no particular reason. Also staying at our hostel was an Argentine man from Mendoza. From there everyone pretty much hit it off. The six of us all decided to make dinner in the hostel. Off to the supermercado. Five bottles of wine, three litres of beer, and enough pasta and vegetables for the lively crew. It took three hours and approximately four bottles of wine before dinner was ready. Deliciously created from the kitchen of master chef Aaron and his friend Anna dinner was served. But with dinner unfolds the need of more wine, so three more bottles are bought before the store closes. I´m sure you can imagine the chaos that unfolds. In the non-smoking hostel, there are plumes of cigarette smoke, two more travelers join in on our party, bring even more beer and smoke. Invited to a disco club, I decline, for dancing is just not my thing. Around twp or three in the morning I retire, followed by, at 6am, the rest of the discoers. It turns up in the next days photo-viewing, that every one of the discoers had either made out or received a kiss.

Waking up the next day, hung over, going to a restaurant that serves only trout, and then to a beautiful river and hike up to a cave and cliff side, everybody feels a little slow. All but the Argentine (Marco) and the Englishman (Aaron), who, at lunch where they serve trout on a trout farm, (you could catch your own fish to eat) decide that another bottle of vino is on order. When the lunch arrived, Sophia and I felt a little sick to our stomachs, looking at a whole trout staring us in the face. We choked a little down, fish not being the best food to eat hung-over.

After lunch, we get into the tour guide Land Rover, and speed over dusty dirt roads to our next destination. The truck has a snorkel and we end up crossing a bit of water in it. Those of you who know my past, know that the Land Rover will be the next vehicle I purchase. We went to a protected park with a river running through it, and these crazy rock formations that stood 100m high. The river had crazy colorful rocks and it felt really nice to wade in the river, the cold water on the feet. To get to the cave and cliffs on the other side, we had to cross a suspension foot bridge. Just like you might imagine, it had plenty of big gaps between boards that you had to watch for and apparently, the bridge had been washed away a week previously by high water in the river. Up on the top of the cliffs the wind was super strong, strong enough to send us plummeting over the edge if we were not careful. We had a view of the Andes in Chile, only 70km away. (43 miles)

This night we all take it carefully, drinking water and the leftover pasta from the night before. Flavio picks up Sophia and I, who want bife do lomo (steak) who offered to drive us, we find out when we arrive, one block! Then the parilla (grill house) delivers our steaks to our hostel. People in the small towns here are so incredibly friendly. We watch a movie and quietly go to bed, quite a difference from the night before.
The next day, Monday, we went on another tour with the same guide, Flavio, whose wife is from the US. He was super helpful, arranging bus tickets out of the town. We went to Caverna de Las Brujas and Laguna Llancancelo. With Flavio was another tour guide that took us into the caves, who most of us generally disliked. Inside the caves, whose name means "Cave of the Witches" was incredible. Cold and dark, with a tour guide, who in broken english kept pointing out broken stalactites and stalagmites and saying
"Fucking people!" Along the way underneath a huge stalactite, he pointed to a stalagmite and said that this was known as the Phallic room. It did look quite like a penis, and he made Sophia pose next to it while he took a picture with her camera, which I think she quite disliked.

Our next destination, the lake was quite amazing. Out in the middle of a desert, flat as all can be and the road turning into salt flats, not completely, but a thin layer on the top, a lake 7km (4 mi) wide and about as long, with a volcanic range of mountains on the far side and only 1 - 2 meters deep in the deepest places. I theoretically could have walked all the way across with my head never in the water. Never before have I seen somewhere where the water and the land are so close together in the horizon. You have to see the pictures to see what I mean. There were a few kinds of different birds in the water there, but the most amazing part was a little pond nearby - with flamingo's. They are truly stunning to see in real life.

By this time, we are running close on time and have to rush back, trying to meet our bus. When we get to the station, the bus is not there, but Flavio knows all and rushes to the next place that the bus is going to stop. We all get on the bus and depart north again.

We had found out the previous day that although we were trying to work our way south, the road south was out of service and no buses went south from where we were. So the only way into town was also the way out. Going north to get south. Great. The bus rides, with transfers took us 21 hours to get to our next destination, Bariloche, from where we are planning to go to Chile. We part ways with Aaron, Marco and Anna. Melanie is going to Bariloche as well and we are staying in the 1004 hostel, in top of the tallest building in Bariloche, overlooking the city, lake and mountains. Will upload pictures of these events soon.

Oh, another pleasant thing about our bus ride was the kid vomiting for 10 minutes behind us. REAL pleasant.
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