Friday, February 1, 2008

Argentina: Lakes District

Stumbling off the boat, we lugged our bags to the bus station and hopped aboard a Bariloche-bound bus to explore Argentina´s Lake District. Nothing like a good 8-hour bus ride after a 4-day ferry ride. So much for getting in shape in Torres del Paine. Doh! But within 24-hours we had our packs (loaded down with pasta, oatmeal, and hot cocoa powder) on again, and we set off for a 4-day jaunt in Nahuel Huape National Park. We met a charming Aussie on the bus to the trailhead, and we ended up becoming traveling partners for the next 5 days. Much fun. Despite the fact that Ben convinced us to hoof it up the mountain, as opposed to taking the chairlift like the Lonely Planet suggested, he was excellent company. And he had a backpack full of chocolate. Nice!

We told ourselves that we were going to do this trip in a bit of luxurious style, staying in the mountain huts instead of packing a tent. We envisioned all sorts of camaraderie with our fellow refugio-mates, where we´d all play guitar and sing and then slip quietly into comfy warm beds. What we´d forgotten, however, is that mountain huts are called refuges (and not hotels or inns or bed-and-breakfasts) for a reason. Pack 20 stinky hikers into a stuffy room with dirty mattresses, and you have a recipe for snoring, sweating, and unbelievable stench. Glamorous, no? There´s a reason we try and avoid youth hostel dorms, and it´s not just because we´re too old and married. Eric killed a giant wolf spider within inches of his head the first night. Sweet dreams.

But the settings were divine. And the hiking was outrageously beautiful (and kinda hard!). And because it was so hot out, you could actually swim in the lakes, which was fantastic. Or sometimes just dip your head in, if you were feeling a tad wimpy and cold. And we did hear a little guitar and charanga (an instrument of the Andes with a lovely twangy sound) one afternoon. And our Aussie friend Ben brought a flute, which was great. And while we got somewhat used to the snoring every night, we never got used to the blood-sucking bite and insanity-inducing buzz of the tabones, a vicious type of horsefly. We call this lakeside video The flight of the Tabone.

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