The last stop.
A Predicted Prediction
We long suspected we’d dig the lagos regions of either Chile or Argentina. And we have. We figured it’d be our last stop on this trip. And it (likely) will be. It’s fairly far south in South America. And it reminds us of home.
While both regions are amazing and have their pros and cons, we ultimately chose the Argentinean side, partly because, as discussed here, Chile has a few drawbacks. Argentina is less expensive and the Spanish is mas mejor.
We’d also contend that the Argentina side is a notch or three prettier. The lakes are more intimate and vibrant. The forest more intricate and verdant. However, unlike the Chilean side, volcanoes don’t jut from the sides of most of the lakes here. Snow-capped, granite peaks do, however. Seemingly everywhere. It’s like living in a Thomas Cole painting.
The Argentina lagos regions also has a higher concentration of ski resorts. Where we’re staying, Villa (pronounced vee-sha) la Angostura, there are three ski resorts within an hour and a half radius. Four within three hours. This factored heavily into our decision of course. Skiing in the southern hemisphere during the US summer is a bucket list item.
Chips Ahoy, Matey!
For most of my life, I have not trusted folks that consume cold cookies. There’s just something, I don’t know, unnatural about it. Like eating roadkill versus pig roast. I always kinda figured cold cookie eaters also had cold other bodies sleeping the eternal sleep in the chest freezers in their mold-infested basements. Then I discovered Toddy cookies.
We’ve tried three types. Thus far. Clasica: classic chocolate chip. Rellena: chocolate chip impregnated with more chocolate. And Dulce de Leche: chocolate AND dulce de leche (think: creamier caramel) chips. All are fantastic. The perfect combos of sweet, fat, and unpronounceable, cancer-causing additives that undoubtedly create a nicotine-like effect.
I can’t emphasize this enough: Toddys are much better than Chips Ahoy!. Mucho mucho mejor. I also can’t protest this enough: Pepsi, which I later discovered owns Toddy, please do you darn job and bring Toddys to America! The northern part I mean.
The blue here seems out-of-place. Like it should be in the Caribbean not in the southern Andes. It’s quite inviting, though. A siren song of dreamy blue pleasure. Don’t you be tempted by dat song, however. It’s mostly glacier melt in dem waters.
When we toured the Cavernes de Mármol, our guide claimed the effervescent blue was caused by a high concentration of calcium carbonate in the water. Others have told us it’s caused by microscopic ‘rock flour’, a sort of glacier dandruff of sediments caused by erosion. Whatever the cause, the result is awesome.
Our first stop after driving north from deep south Patagonia. First of the three largest pueblos we’d visit in the region. Also the most famous and touristy one. Also also kinda infamous. International authorities captured a nest of Nazis here.
Not sure I’d call Bariloche a pueblo (town), however. It’s a city. Though not quite a bustling one. It reminds us of Coeur D’ Alene (CDA), just as San Martin and Villa la Angostura remind us of Sun Valley and McCall respectively (all lake towns in our home state of Idaho). Bariloche is about the same size as CDA. Same lakefront prominence. And similar buildings, though more of an Austrian Alps vibe here, and similar mountains.
We stayed three nights. Just long enough to walk the streets, see the sites, binge the beers, and get a little freaked-out by the resent surge of thefts on overlanding vehicles. However, I wouldn’t let that latter point dissuade you from visiting here — overlanding vehicles are broadside-of-the-barn targets. Just use caution of course. Bariloche is a lovely, lakeside city with ample access to recreation only a hop, skip, run, bike, or ski away.
San Martin de los Andes
Of all the towns we’ve visited in this region, both on the Chilean and Argentinean sides, San Martin was the best. Modern, clean, walkable, and fetching, laid out in a near perfect grid at the edge of a lake. It’s also the near prefect size (for us, at least): just big enough that you have a decent selection of amenities, just small enough that you don’t have to drive everywhere. Recreation at the end of every street.
In fact, as we’ve ruminated on and romanticized about our ideal, long-term town, San Martin, seemingly, fits the model. Is the model. Here, you can walk your kids to school in the morning, mountain bike during your lunch break, and walk back into town for dinner. All while being surrounded by incredible scenery. So why didn’t we stay?
Good question that you just asked to yourself while typing, Blake. A question that we, from our lakeside campsite, hemmed and hawed over for days. There was, however, just something about Villa la Angostura — the town we stopped in for lunch and gas in route — that kept us hemming and hawing. Nettled the noggins. We needed to see Villa again. It was like a song stuck in our minds, and the only way to rid it was to hear it again. We figured we could always return to San Martin if Villa wasn’t what we thought it was. We never did, though….
Villa la Angostura
Villa la Angostura, which means narrow town in Spanish, is squeezed into a narrow valley between two lakes, a river, and a mountain range. The downtown, though not as organized and handsome as San Martin, yet still one of the more gorgeous towns we’ve seen on this trip, resides in the fat belly of the valley. The rest of the town is spread across the various arms and legs extending into the lakes and rivers.
Because of Villa’s orientation, nature is everywhere. When you’re here, no matter where you are, you’re in the middle of it. A beach down the street. A hiking trail over there. A ski resort five miles away (that runs nearly all year; skiing in the winter, mountain biking the rest of the year). Even at the peak of tourism, December and January, I can’t imagine not being able to find serenity in this troll-shaped town.
Knowing we weren’t staying here for long — though the more we stay, the more we question that assertion — we chose Villa over San Martin for the reason above: nature. The abundance of it. Of course, there’s an opportunity cost to that. We’re renting a house on the opposite side of downtown from the kids’ school, for example (and thus can’t walk). Nevertheless, this is a stunning spot to live a few months. Or years. You’d sooner run out of life before you could run out of nature to see.
A few folks — my greatest (and likely only) fans in other words — have asked if I will continue the blog. Perhaps. Well, probably not. It’s been fun and awesome to write. Share this story with y’all (a Texas word that means “you all”). Memorialize it for my family. But it takes more time than I’d like to admit (hence one reason the posts have been less frequent over the last few months).
I plan to write a couple “Best Of” posts in the next couple months. Then retire from my brief blogging vocation. Thanks everyone for following along. Hope it inspired some ideas for your future travels.