xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' World Toddler: A Breathtaking, Treacherous Drive through Patagonia, and Sydney Makes a Friend



Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Breathtaking, Treacherous Drive through Patagonia, and Sydney Makes a Friend

A three hour plane ride south from Buenos Aires landed us in San Carlos de Bariloche, the Breckenridge-esque center of the Argentine ski region.

On our second day in Bariloche, we decided to rent a car to explore Argentina’s Seven Lakes Region, the vast network of mountains and lakes that make up the Andes' southeastern foothills. Inside the car rental office, a poster advertised new, shiny white automobiles that looked perfect for trekking through the Patagonia mountainside.  After paying the $50 rental fee and signing a contract, the company owner walked us to the parking lot and showed us our car options: 2 small Toyota sedans, one in scratched up red, and one in dust-covered white, neither of which looked particularly capable of mountain climbing. Disappointed, we went with the white, which was at least a different color than our own car, and loaded in our lunchbox of road snacks.  As we pulled out of the lot, the rental owner watching, Nolan tried to get a feel for the clutch- stalling, going, stalling, until finally we were out of sight of our spectator.  

Our destination was Lake Traful, one of the 7 Lakes Region’s most beautiful (in my opinion) and, it would turn out, isolated lakes.  The road north from Bariloche to Lake Traful climbs up and down the rolling mountains, as opposed to through and around them.  As we approached each new mountain top, we enjoyed sweeping views of a surprisingly arid landscape, with funky forms carved into the mountainsides.  Now autumn in southern Argentina, all of the deciduous trees are leafless and the grass is a light brown. The only spots of green are the squat bushes that speckle the mountainsides.  

Eventually, we found our sign pointing to Lake Traful, 30km.  The sign pointed to a road made of dirt and rocks, most of which were appropriately sized to provide a suitable surface for passing cars.  But others, many others, were large enough to rip open a tire on a low-lying, beat up sedan such as ours.  We paused before making the turn, unsure whether it was a one way street.  With street signs on both sides of the road, we decided it was in fact a two way street, just an uncomfortably narrow one.  And so we ventured on.  In the back seat, Sydney started humming to hear her voice shake.  

Between the dust and rocks that our little car spit up, we took in incredible views of apparently boundless farms and rolling mountains.  

Creeping along the rocky road at about 25km per hour, we figured we would make it to our destination, one of Villa Traful’s three restaurants, in about an hour.  But then we hit some road obstacles:

About two hours later, after maneuvering past roaming cattle and other intimidating obstacles in the road, we arrived at our quaint restaurant, overlooking the gorgeous Lake Traful.  After a lunch of pollo a la plancha (grilled chicken), we found the entrance to our planned hike.  Riding on Nolan’s back, Sydney pointed out every bird and kicked at Nolan’s rib cage whenever she wanted the ride to speed up.  At the top of the steep hike, we enjoyed an incredible view of the lake, mountains, and a waterfall.  We followed some young, honeymooning Argentines back down the hill, where, completely covered in dirt, we loaded back into our sedan for our trek home.

We drove the southern perimeter of the lake in the opposite direction of which we came.  After 30km, our gravel road finally met up with Ruta 40, Argentina’s Route 66, which takes drivers from the far north all the way to the southern tip of the country.  With pavement final under our wheels, we took deep breaths, patted our car on the dashboard for not breaking down 20 km away from civilization.  Interestingly, now on the other side of a mountain range, the landscape changed dramatically.  Here, closer to the Andes, the lake region is lush and green.  Cattle and sheep leisurely munched grass on either side of the road, and tall Lorax-style trees decorated the mountains.  We were astonished by this incredible change in landscape in such a short distance.  

Two hours later, we parked the car back in the lot.  Nolan’s hands still reverberating from the bumpy road, he promised to teach me to drive stick shift so, in the future, he would not have to do all of the treacherous driving (that adventure coming soon).  As we unpacked the car, Sydney walked over to the rental company’s dog, and made a new friend:

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