On our second full day in Bariloche, we awoke to sunshine and cottony clouds, a stark contrast to the start of the previous day. After a light breakfast consisting of a pot of Cabrales coffee and a few pastries, we walked about ten minutes down the road from our cabin to Lago Moreno.
The expansive Lago Moreno is split into an east and a west branch with a small bridge [photo] spanning the shallow waters at the dividing point. A number of homes dot the lakeshore, and I must admit that it wasn't difficult to imagine myself living in one of them, spending all of my days enjoying the majestic views of the lakes and the Andes.
For the afternoon, we had scheduled an excursion to Bosque de Arrayanes and Isla Victoria. We returned to Puerto Pañuelo, near the Hotel Llao Llao and Capilla San Eduardo, to board the historic Modesta Victoria for our first excursion on Lago Nahuel Huapi.
After cruising along for about an hour, we arrived at our first stop. The Bosque de Arrayanes manages to maintain an air of serenity despite the hundreds of visitors it receives daily. Although arrayán trees, a species of myrtle, exist in other locations, this forest on the tip of the Quetrihué Peninsula is believed to be the only place in the world where you can find such a large concentration of these trees in one spot.
The arrayán trees' dappled, cinnamon-colored bark feels surprisingly cool to the touch, and their tiny leaves are only visible if you crane your neck to view the treetops. Their twisted trunks have a sculptural quality about them, with gnarled branches that seemed to reach out to us as we wandered past on the boardwalk path that winds through the forest.
The allure of travel lies in making connections to undiscovered places, to unfamiliar cultures, and most of all, to new friends. One of the most humorous and enjoyable moments of our entire trip came when we struck up a conversation with a group traveling together from the province of Córdoba. The cordobeses were a hoot! They were bowled over when they found out that Vince loves to drink mate, and they immediately proffered their mate to him in friendship. Vince was slightly hesitant at first, but with a bit of coaxing, he was soon sharing mate [photo] with our newfound amigos.
[Vince sampling his first Fernet con Pepsi with our friends from Córdoba]
Next, they asked Vince if he'd ever sampled Fernet, a spirit that is popular throughout Argentina but even more so in Córdoba. As soon as they discovered that Vince was a Fernet virgin, Fede (sitting to Vince's left in the photo) headed to the bar on board the ship to order up a Fernet with Coke. Returning with drink in hand, Fede declared this drink to be an inferior version since it was made with Pepsi, but it would do under the circumstances. Vince took a swig and gave the beverage a thumbs up. I also took a sip, as I had somehow managed to go all this time without ever trying Fernet, but I was less enthusiastic about the herbal-tasting concoction. After a brief time chatting, laughing and merrymaking with this bunch, we felt like we'd known them our whole lives, and we now have a standing invitation to visit Córdoba at any time.
The minutes flew past as we made conversation with the cordobeses, and we soon docked at Puerto Anchorena on Isla Victoria, the largest island within Lago Nahuel Huapi. When given the option, we decided to head to Playa del Toro – a quiet, pebble-strewn beach – on our own instead of going along with the hordes on the guided tour through the heart of the forest. Strolling along the path skirting the lake, we took in views of Lago Nahuel Huapi, the late afternoon sun glistening off its deep blue waters.
Estimated to be some 700 years old, Tehuelche cave paintings [photos] are also visible near Playa del Toro. The simple figures painted on these rocky walls demonstrate the close relationship that existed in the past between the daily life of the indigenous people, the environment and the sacred world.
We'd just finished checking out the cave paintings and were about to return to the port when we spotted an alien spacecraft!
Ok, so it's not really a flying saucer. It's actually a lenticular cloud, a type of cloud that forms at high altitudes when moisture-laden air travels over a mountain. A few minutes later a second cloud formed, and we considered the possibility that our vacation might be cut short by an extraterrestrial invasion. You can bet we hightailed it out of there and back to the boat pronto.
Next up: Cascada de los Alerces and Cerro Tronador