Life goes on...

Trip Start Jun 21, 2010
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Trip End Aug 11, 2010


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Wenise's Car

Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Saturday, July 3, 2010

After the catastrophic and tormenting defeat by the Teutonic forces, we figured we should at least enjoy the divine sunshine outside before the rain clouds moved in.  Wiktor had been wanting to go see Villa la Angostura (a small tourist town across the lake from Bariloche), so we loaded up the car with mate goodies and we headed west (first going east for about 40 kilometers, before turning west for 60...).  The landscape changed from forest at the Gnome's to "Estepa" (pre-desert brush-land), back to forest and eventually "Selva Valdiviana," the cold rain-forest.  We walked around the quaint and elvish downtown of Villa la Angostura (all two blocks of it!), and then decided to check out the "Angostura" the town is named after-- a narrowing in the Quetrihue peninsula of about 50 meters, that essentially allows you to be surrounded by the lake, pretty cool.  Irina hugged (literally) some particularly strange and cold trees ("Arrayanes"), and Javier scoured the forest floor for a Coihue knot (a fungus that grows in the trees here, that turns into a sort of knot in the branch, and looks pretty amazing).
After some mate and cookies (and a stray mutt that meekly kept on trying to be fed by us), Wictor suggested we head further west, towards both the famous "Siete Lagos" trail (a road that unites the small towns of Villa la Angostura and San Martin de los Andes through a scenic tour of seven Patagonian lakes) and the international border with Chile.  As expected, the drive westward took us higher and deeper into the Andes, and we enjoyed the changing landscape, as the Valdivian forest grew denser, and eventually gave way to a Lenga forest (higher up in the mountains).  We reached the international crossing, but without passports or any really intention to go to Chile we turned back home.
Anyone doing this trip will undoubtedly see a series of red flags and shrines in the side of the road.  What are they? Well, good thing you asked, since Denise knew the story and shared with us as we descended from the Andes back into Villa la Angostura.  The shrines are built by the followers of "Gauchito Gil," who "believe in the Gauchito."  Legend has it that during the Paraguayan war of the nineteenth century, a gaucho-soldier by name of Gil (perhaps Gilberto?), who had fought valiantly and honorably grew tired of the war and decided to leave the front, heading back home to his wife and children.  His commander had him arrested and charged with desertion.  He planned to have him executed and made an example of, but rumor had it the General would pardon him, given his reputation and his desire to go back to his family.  Unswayed by the rumors, the commander went ahead with the execution, and just as the Gauchito Gil was dying word came from the General to stay the execution.  It was too late.  Gauchito Gil's last dying words were directed to his commander/executioner, telling him to leave the war and go back to his family, since they were in some sort of danger.  He was urged to "believe in the Gauchito."  The commander did, heading back home and saving his family.  Since then, people who "believe in the Gauchito" have been known to have good fortune, and in return they built the altars for him in the side of the road.  Denise also shared the story of the "Difunta Correa" with us, but we'll retell that one some other time.
On our way back to Bariloche we took the "Ruta de Circumbalación" around the center of the city, to avoid traffic.  This road was built a few years back to lessen the amount of heavy traffic in the already congested urban streets.  Although most visitors to Bariloche never stray this far south into the city, about 2/3 of Bariloche's people leave around here, a lot of them below the poverty line or in squalor.  This is "the other Bariloche."
We swung by an Empanada place in Villa los Coihues, and ate them at home while watching "The Proposal."
Life goes on after futbol after all....
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