Why Neuquén?

28th Nov. 2016

Dave talks to a localAs we sit at a small table on a sidewalk drinking local beer and eating dinner, the couple on the next table ask us where we are from, immediately followed by why are we in Neuquén? An interesting question as it is a sprawling city miles from anywhere and not known for tourism. I reply we left Mendoza yesterday and are heading for San Carlos de Bariloche tomorrow. Did that really answer the question?

Watch the wildlifeWe struggled with our itinerary in Argentina as it is a large country with the main attractions so far apart that the easiest way to get between them is fly. But I did not want to be spending most of our time in soulless airports. Once the destinations were decided, the transport was considered. A bus from Mendoza to Bariloche is possible but a journey of 19 hours in one stretch did not appeal.

Col Manuel Jose Olascoaga memorialWe therefore decided to break the journey at Neuquén a transport hub in this part of the country and famed for dinosaur excavations with an enormous skeleton on display at a local museum. We arrived to find today was a Monday and a Bank Holiday, which is doubly bad news for finding museums open. Also the museum I wanted to visit was too far from town to make a sensible trip to visit.

Yet another statueWe therefore followed our usual approach and got a map from the tourist information office to see what town had to offer. Our hotel is not far from the park and Ave. Argentina, the main street which leads to a viewpoint overlooking the area. You guessed it, that is where we head. After all the walking yesterday and lack of sleep it seemed a long way away, but the walk was interspersed with stops at the usual array of monuments, dedicated to familiar names like San Martin as well as people we had never heard of like Manuel Jose Olascoaga, who was the governor here for a while.

Capturing the viewThis area is so flat that it was surprising there was any sort of hill here and from the top the view spread for miles in every direction, including over a golf course. The landscape is mainly green, kept moist with the local river passing through. Being a Bank Holiday the paths were full of joggers and cyclists enjoying the sunshine.

Are you sure this is the path?True to our usual level of madness, we headed off down a track to make a circular walk but the path soon disappeared and became a scramble and we passed the point where it is shorter to keep going, rather than admit defeat and retrace our steps. Eventually we found our way to the road and headed back into town and everywhere seems shut, even all the restaurants are closed and there are few people are out and about.

Rail station in the middle of townWe had hoped to poke our noses into the Belles Artes museum but there was no sign of that being open any time soon. At least the rail station in the middle of town is completely in the open with no fences so we can wander around and cross the tracks to get our photos. It does not look like trains come through often or fast, so it is quite safe.

Falklands MemorialA surprise is an expansive Malvinas (Falklands) Memorial with a model of the islands painted in the white and blue of Argentina. It was built in 2006 as a memorial to the 649 Argentinians who died in the conflict and has the flags of Argentina, Neuquén and the Falkland Islands flying over it. Why there is such a memorial in Neuquén we never found out. We know of the memorial in Buenos Aires from our last visit there.

Drumming up cash from the trafficOne thing that we are not used to is the entertainers who busk for money when traffic lights are red. There is just enough to do in town to keep us busy and still have time to chill out and catch up on blog writing as well as formulating plans for when we return home in about ten days time. We have a short list of houses to view and are now close enough to being home to book appointments to see them. Exciting!! At times it is difficult to focus on the remaining time travelling when there is so much to do when we get home. Just a case of focussing on the present and continue enjoying every minute of our travels exploring the amazing world we live in.

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