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Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Pleasures of San Martin

Today we got up at 8am in the pitch dark because Argentina is 1 hour ahead of Chile and we are in the very west of the country, so the daylight is out of synch.

By the time we had had a continental breakfast and packed we had missed the bus down to the lake which is about 3 kms away, so Christine stayed reading while I took off to try to photograph the mountains, without my jacket and cold weather gear, before the cloud and rain set in. While trying to run there in haste before we caught the next bus, I twice fell over, grazing my elbow and scattering the camera batteries far and wide. I then managed to hitch a ride down just as the mountains became covered in cloud.

Panoramas of Lago Naguel Huapi at Villa la Angostura (click to enlarge)

However I courted the moodiness of lady luck and sauntered around the bay and managed to get het to reveal the skyline for a brief period. I then got tricked by the next green bus disappearing up a side road and when I tried to follow, it looped back so that I had to run a block breathlessly chasing it before the driver saw my out of the corner of his eye and let me on.

Potholes made the going snail-paced for half the journey

We then caught the bus to San Martin de los Andes and spent a two and a half hour drive in the rain. sleet and then snow driving over an unsurfaced pothole littered road which will eventually be upgraded to a highway, weaving over small mountain passes between a string of small lakes and down ravines eventually arriving at San Martin in freezing rain wondering why we would spend two days here.

Rain, sleet, then snow

However we found there was a booth at the bus station selling tickets back to Pucon in Chile and decided since the weather couldn't be much worse to put off the journey till Saturday anyway and booked our tickets for then on a wing and a prayer that the pass will be open.

Chic San Martin with autumn leaves, washout rains and clouds

We then wandered through town in the rain dragging our luggage on the rickety trolley to find it is a charming town full of chic shops reminiscent of Boulder Colorado, dressed with deciduous trees in full autumn swing, and the Puma Hostel is really sweet with a heated double room with private bathroom that will be a dream for two nights. And the wine here is untaxed so a bottle of merlot cost only 5.99 pesos, or about US $1.50. There was even an Argentinian guy here who has lived in Mt. Eden!

Comfort at Puma

So we have a rest day tomorrow, hoping the weather may improve. Meanwhile I managed to produce some great panoramas of the mountains this morning and of smog-ridden Santiago from the Cerro San Cristobal mountain.

We also finally mastered the Spanish-speaking ATMs, which came down to the idiotically simple issue of recognizing cuenta corriente was the correct button if your card would only withdraw funds from your current account rather than a credit card.

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