Ups and downs in the Andes

Trip Start Oct 06, 2010
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8
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Trip End Dec 14, 2010


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Where I stayed
Ladera Norte Hostel

Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, October 21, 2010

We fell in love with San Martin. Still part of the Argentine lake district; San Martin is a quaint town nestled between two verdent mountains on the shores of beautiful Lake Lacar.  Named after Jose de San Martin, national hero of Argentina, an 18th-century general and the main leader
of the southern part of South America's struggle for independence from
Spain.

As a small ski resort, San Martin is not cheap whatever time of year.  It boasts many wood and stone chalet-style buildings, most of which seem to be chocolate shops, ice-cream stores and souvenir boutiques.  But behind the touristy streets lies pleasant residential neighbourhoods with pretty rose-filled gardens, well manicured parks, and lovely little cafes.  In the Spring/Summer itīs best known for itīs abundance of adventure sports (as was Bariloche). The surrounding area has wonderful forested trails perfect for hiking and biking.  

We were lucky enough to have gorgeous weather most of our stay. Our first afternoon was spent sitting in the sunshine in a lovely pub courtyard, known as The Dublin (big Irish influence here - in fact is there anywhere in the world that does not have an Irish pub?).  It was a lovely start to our stay though, drinking chilled white wine and practicing (slurring) our Spanish!

On Satruday morning we hired mountain bikes. It was awesome!  We cycled uphill along the main road that followed the lake and then in to the mountains for what seemed like hours.  Although very beautiful scenery - snow capped mountains and a glistening blue lake - the climb was such hard work, especially as we had to stop several times mid-ascent for Sam to take pics!  Finally the fun started when we turned off the main road, rode in to the forest and on to the rough dirt track, which led us back in to San Martin.  Downhill much more fun!

The forest was stunning, like something out of a fairytale.  The lichen covered trees towered over the dirt track, with rays of sunlight beaming through the leaves and branches.  The forest came complete with wild horses grazing in the clearings, hares running across the track in front of you and a babbling brook, which we crossed three or four times on our way down. Besides the sounds of our speeding bikes bumping down the dirt track, it was so peaceful.  We stopped in a clearing and had lunch on some fallen logs next to the stream.  Being low season, only one other mountain biker passed us by. The hard slog uphill was so worth it.

Dusty and exhausted after cycling 40km, we grabbed some dinner and headed back to the hostel.  We ordered pizza and freshly baked empanadas - so delicious - they are like South American pasties, with fillings differing from province to province: mainly chicken or beef, with spices, onion, boiled egg and olives. We stayed up a little while chatting to a lovely American couple (now living in sunny Baja, Mexico) who were traveling around Argentina for a a few months. Itīs been inspiring meeting people like Bobby and Marva, still enjoying life to the full... and still staying in hostels in their sixties.  They had a suitable surname too... īDanceī... just brilliant!  All in all we had a lovely evening. We headed to bed before midnight, as Sam and I had to catch a 6 am bus to Chile the next morning...

However, our plans took a bit a turn...

I woke in the night and was dreadfully ill.  Maybe I had a bad empanada - who knows? (although Sam was fine).  I was really sick for about 24 hours and I kept Sam up in the night as he brought me supplies of water and held my hair whilst I hung my head in the toilet bowl.  Not a pretty sight.  To cut a long story, short, we missed the early morning bus and lost our money on the ticket.  We also lost a couple of days in our trip as we had to stay at the hostel until I was feeling well again. 

Luckily for us, we had booked in to a private room with en-suite... and the hostel was bright, airy and spacious, with heated floors, cable TV, massive kitchen and lounge area and all the amenities youīd need from a hostel (and if youīre not well). The hostel manager Santiago was also amazing and brought me blankets and offered to get meds or take me to the doctors.  It also rained heavily all the next day, so we spent the time mooching around the hostel watching movies and reading. It was a good day to relax and we also spent more time chatting to Bobby and Marva and some other people at the hostel.

Eventually we left the lovely little lakeside town of San Martin, and headed across the border to the Chilean side of the lake district. 
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