Today it’s raining. People normally associate rain on travels as an unfortunate thing. But not here in Bariloche.
This Argentinian mountain town near the border of Chile is a touristy town, popular among Argentinian families. Its popularity is understandable, set as the town is upon a beautiful lake, Lago Nahuel Huapi, with a mountainous backdrop (which can only be seen without the persistent low-lying clouds).
Bariloche is situated in Argentina’s second oldest national park, the Nahuel Huapi National Park. This park is characterized by deep turquoise lakes, jagged peaks, some glaciers, and a few extinct volcanoes. People come here in summer to trek and in winter to ski.
Yet even in summer, the temperatures since my arrival seem to hover around a chilly 15 degrees Celsius. On the day of my arrival, I was told that what I thought was sand being blown into my eyes was actually ash from the Chilean Puyehue volcano which erupted last year in June.
Considering the beauty of the place, one would at first think it’s a shame to be spending it cooped up indoors at a hostel.
But here’s the plus side:
Everyone is cooped up indoors. And if anything will bring strangers together, it’s being stuck inside on a rainy day.
Travellers are almost relieved at the chance to have a bit of guilt-free downtime, whether it’s to plan further travels, catch up on reading, or finally reply to those emails.
But when the rain clears up, it’s worthwhile checking out some of Nahual Huapi National Park’s beauties.
Yesterday I took a tour almost to the border of Chile. Despite the low-lying clouds there is no doubt this landscape is magical. It is abound with lakes of the deepest green – a result of a huge melange of glacial and rock minerals. The mountains ascend steeply above the lakes.
At the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), the scenery was so spectacular I could only stop and stare (and perhaps utter an obscenity or two disbelief). Here there are no lakes, just a shallow freezing river with quick rapids.
But the backdrop of rocky cliffs stole my attention. On the day I visited, the cliffs disappeared into the clouds above, which made the several thin waterfalls seem to originate from the sky. In a moment of good fortune the clouds parted to reveal glacial mountain tops as the source of the falls.
We also visited the Black Glacier, so called simply because of the grubby nature of the huge mass of ice cascading down a rocky ravine.
The glacier itself didn’t seem so impressive once some of my tour companions likened it to the slush on the streets of Montreal and London after a generous dump of snow. But the best of the view was when the glacier emerged upon a grey lake replete with icebergs.
Aside from the scenery, the best thing to come out of the day was the people I met, including a delightfully polite old English gentleman, and two rather less polite Quebecois firefighters (the first interaction I had with them was when one of them tried to toss me off a cliff).
Alas I didn’t hold our initial encounter against them (…much), and ended up joining them for some good Argentine Quilmes beer afterwards. Today they leave, which is always when travelling sucks, but as I said: rainy day plus enforced shelter-seeking equals new acquaintances met. The good times keep on rolling…
Where else the good times role in South America
There are plenty of spots of natural beauty in South America. Check out a few of them here: