After Anna and Cody left we felt their void. We were in a bit of a funk. We had spent so much time planning what we would do when they visited, we realized we did not really have any idea what we were going to do now that they left. I opened up the guide books and tried to figure out what was next.
We were in a campground in Bariloche and we had it to ourselves for the day of January 2nd. On January 3rd something strange happened. People started pouring into Bariloche by the bus load. I am not exaggerating, bus after bus of people. It was bonkers. Summer holidays had begun and overnight it seemed like everyone in Argentina suddenly decided to go to the lake district. As a bus of 60 boy scouts emptied out into our campground we decided it was time to get the hell out of Dodge!
At least the crowds made our decision easier, we were going to head back to Chile at the smallest border crossing we could find. I read about a border crossing at a pass called Hua Hum, where as soon as you crossed over into Chile you had to get on a car ferry for two hours and cross a giant lake. It sounded like a fun border so we packed up and decided to start driving back up to San Martin de los Andes (our third time on the Rute de los Siete Lagos) where the road to Chile turned off.
However, before we left Bariloche we wanted to take the ski lift up to the top of South Americas most famous ski resort to check out the views at Cerro Catedral.
It is hard to get a feel for ski resorts in the summer, everything gets so much prettier covered in snow. The ski lift ticket to the top of the mountain was expensive and I am not sure if it was worth it for us since we had been doing so much hiking and seeing some fairly spectacular views. Not that I regret it, it was a fun afternoon, just a bit expensive at around $40 US. However, I think for people who don’t hike, this is a great opportunity to see the stunning vistas across the Argentinian lakes and over into the Andes.
On our way towards Chile we decided to head back to one of our favorite free camp spots. As we drove in I saw a Tiger truck camper and told Sam excitedly that I thought it might be Heather and Scott!!!! We have been following Heather and Scott for years, even well before this trip, and I have been chatting with Heather online. We had no idea they were going to be here and I was so happy to finally meet them. We both set up camp down by the lake, Heather made us an amazing soup and we all drank wine and talked non-stop until well past midnight. They were just as great as I thought they would be and we had a lot in common with them. It is amazing how many truly like-minded people we have met on this trip and I hope that we stay friends with many of them long after this adventure is over.
The night before we crossed into Chile we had to cook all our veggies. Earlier that day I bought a proper Argentinian asado (grill) in San Martin. I think this might be the only grill in Argentina that will see more veggies than meat. It is awesome, I wish we bought one earlier!
The border crossing Hua Hum was indeed tiny, the Argentinian side took us less than five minutes. However, on the Chilean side we had our most thorough search of the trip for food on this super small border (it is so random, you just never know what to expect). I had to throw away some spices (anything that looked like whole seeds) and some nuts that were unsalted. Apparently salted nuts are ok? They were super nice about it, and coming from California I understand the importance of containing agricultural pests. What I thought was funny was that the only thing our border guard got upset about was the fact that we had two bottles of Argentinian wine. I thought there might be a restriction on alcohol I did not know about. Then she said this in a passionate voice:
“I have no idea why you are bringing that wine into our country! Have you tasted Chilean wine? Argentinian wine is not good, it is too strong. No flavor. You don’t need to bring wine into Chile!”
I told her I was just using it for cooking and she calmed down. Chileans are so reserved, I was surprised and charmed by her passion for her country’s wine. And while I agree that Chile makes some amazing wines, Argentina is no slacker, but I was not about to tell her that =).
We drove around the Chilean side of the lakes and it looked very similar to the Argentinian side, maybe with a few more volcanos. It also felt a bit more developed since the area we were in was not national park. We drove around for hours trying to figure out what to do and finally settled on a camp spot on one of the many lakes.
As we sat on the lake trying to figure out what we wanted to do next, Sam and I both agreed we had enough of lakes (after five weeks) and were ready for something else, so instead of spending a week in the Chilean lake district, we decided to start heading south. However, as we were driving, I was reading our Chile guide-book (we use the Rough Guides) and I read about the tiny lake town of Frutillar on Lago Llanquihue and decided we had one final stop before we left the Chilean lakes.
Frutillar is divided into two parts, Frutillar Bajo and Frutillar Alto where up until the 1980’s the German/Chilean population lived around the lake (Bajo) and the mestizo population lived above it (alto), prohibited from using the beaches. You can see the legacy of the German settlers here and the town has a charming feel of a Bavarian resort town. However, the one thing that reminded me that we were not in Germany was the giant perfect dome of Volcan Osorno that loomed in the distance across the lake.
From here we head south and onto another ferry to the rugged and beautiful island of Chiloe.