Argentina & Chile,

7th March - 28th March 2010

[3 - Bariloche & Refugio Frey]


  Empanades from Argentina!

Waking up to an insect-splattered windscreen on the approach to Bariloche, we could have sworn we were near Laingsburg in South Africa!  Just visible in the background lies a volcano, which could be any one of a number scattered across the landscape on the border between Chile and Argentina


The overnight trip from Buenos Aires saw us travel across the pampas and arrive in Bariloche.


Kelson dives into the cool waters of Lake Nahuel Huapi at Petunia Campsite - I was soon to follow.




Downtown Bariloche and town square, below Avenida San Martin, its main road.


Wednesday 10th March

Luxury reclining bus seats made it possible to enjoy some shut-eye overnight. We woke to the sight of a semi-desert landscape of dry scrub similar to that found in the Karoo region in South Africa, albeit through an insect-splattered windscreen. The resemblance caused Harald to remark: "Hey, Ralph, when do we get to Laingsburg" (a town in the Karoo)? On the approach to Bariloche, the countryside acquired a more interesting and hillier topography, as the Limay River, an important river in the north-western Argentine Patagonia, came into view. It is born at the eastern end of the Nahuel Huapi Lake at Bariloche and flows in a meandering path path for about 380 km, collecting the waters of several tributaries, before meeting the Neuquen River, where they become the mighty Rio Negro. The waters of the Limay are used to generate hydroelectricity at the five dams built on its course. Soon we reached San Carlos de Bariloche and the pristine waters of its lakes, with the peaks of the Andes forming a backdrop. Bariloche is famous for skiing but also known for sight-seeing, water sports, trekking and climbing.


Sunset on Lake Nahuel Huapi at Petunia Campsite.


Dinner at Cosa de Tanos, across the road from Petunia (L-R) Andre, Sibylle, Harald, Ralph , Kelson & Xandra; Harald's eyes light up.


Group photo at our Petunia carretas, before our departure on the Lynch-frey Trek; Cool as a cucumber, amigo Kelson.


Transferred by mini-bus to the Petunia campsite, we settled in to our carretas, resembling wagons sans the wheels, each heated and kitted with four mattresses. Kelson led the way to the shores of this beautiful lake, so named in the language of the Mapuche and translated as "Island of the Jaguar (Puma)". He dived off the jetty into its icy cool waters, a number of us joining him in turn. Taking the bus into town from the 13½ km point, we went off to shop for the following day's hike, to be our first on the trip. Kelson was up to his mischief again. Just as we got into Bariloche, coining the words in reference to our group from a flyer handed out to passers-by on the streets of BsAs to advertise strip-clubs, he proclaimed: "Ok, chicas calientes, we're getting off now", drawing an amused look from a young girl on the bus who grasped his humour fully

Kelson, Ralph and I headed off on our own and discovered Cocodrilo, a corner bar/café, just across from the arches of Bariloche town square on Avenida Mitre and down from Avenida San Martin, the main road through the town. Here we enjoyed a beer and empanades, a stuffed pastry, much like the English pie, our first of many in the coming weeks. The place (being Wi-Fi friendly) also suited Ralph and Kelson, who soon became totally engrossed in surfing the Internet and updating their respective Facebook blogs. The town centre has the appearance of an alpine town, with many buildings made of stone and wood, particularly those on the town square. We returned to the campsite for yet another swim and a round of beers, before rounding of the evening with a pasta dinner at Cosa de Tanos, a superb restaurant run by a charming, effervescent Bohemian hostess, Cora. We were in good humour and the wine and the jokes flowed in equal measure.


This is where it all starts......

Setting out from Villa Catedral on the overnight Lynch-Frey Trek, pre-cursor to the longer Senda los Hitos Trail.




Thursday 11th March

This was a slow start to the day. We sorted out the gear to take on the Lynch-Frey walk, Kelson and Elena keen for us to regard it as a warm-up to the longer forthcoming walks and take along the same items as we would later. Around 11h00 we caught a bus to Bariloche and a connection to Villa Catedral, the ski resort about 19 km from Bariloche. From here we set out for Refugio Frey (not to be confused with Refugio Lynch, which lies on the summit of Cerro Catedral), where we would camp overnight. The heat was evident but for the first hour or so, the pace was steady and the terrain mildly undulating, so we made good time before lunch, as we passed Lago Gutiérrez. We did not know what was in store for us. We entered dense forest of lenga trees, crossing several streams and bridges, as the path began to climb steadily. With still 600 metres in altitude to go, I began to falter, brought on mainly by the fact that my rucksack, which I'd had for a number of years and which might now be regarded as dated technology, wasn't actually adjusted correctly, as it transpired later. This resulted in my taking unnecessary strain on my shoulders.
Elena takes a break! Kelson crossing a bridge en route.



Lynch-Frey starts off at Villa Catedral, winding its way past Lago Gutiérrez and through a forest of lenga trees.

The last stretch to the Refugio was tough, yet I survived with the constant encouragement of Kelson. Adjustments to my pack had to be carried out as a matter of urgency. Refugio Frey is located at 1700 metres on the edge of Lake Tonček as if nestled in an amphitheatre once scoured by glaciers. The snow-capped, serrated spires of the surrounding mountains, devoid of any plant life, formed an imposing backdrop, pointing upwards towards the blue sky. To the left, granite rock hung overhead. Arriving within an hour of sunset, we quickly pitched our tents wherever a vacant, level spot could be found in the surrounding bush next to the lake, then took a dip in the icy waters, with just enough time to prepare dinner on the gas cooker. Andre taunted Ralph and I after tasting the pasta we had cooked, suggesting that it was beyond rescue. Well, cordon bleu it certainly wasn't yet food it was, which managed to fill a void in the stomach nonetheless. Kelson demonstrated his prowess at cooking, adding all sorts of ingredients he had brought with him, yet failed to convince Ralph as to the merits of couscous, which he had prepared when they had both been on some previous hike.


What we hadn't prepared ourselves for was the final ascent to 1700 metres at Refugio Frey, neither the beauty nor the demanding climb.



Lake Tonček and Refugio Frey as dusk approaches.


Patagonia, Argentina & Chile

[Intro-Pre Trip] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [GPS Tracks]

Other Tour Group photos (Picasa):  [1 - Kelson & Elena]  [2 - Ralph]  [3 - Harald]

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