Argentinian Lake District

30th Nov. 2016

Saint Bernard posingAfter the amazing views on the bus yesterday, we cannot wait to get out and explore. We can see how the place got its name as the Lake District but would add ‘with Alpine overtones’ based on the structure of the buildings which remind us of ski holidays in the Alps. The Saint Bernard dogs with the Swiss brandy barrels around their necks are ready to be photographed with any willing tourists of which there are many.

Standing to attentionA trip to the tourist office is very productive in getting a plan together. How many times a day do they repeat their spiel on the area? Armed with maps and bus timetables we head for a coffee to make a plan. As we sat overlooking the lake, we are distracted by the intoxicating view and then we hear a military band playing in the main square, so of course we have to go and investigate.

Flat calm beautiful lake

Moai and Dave

Even though the town is built for tourists with streets full of chocolate shops, souvenir shops as well as restaurants, there is much to explore in the centre of town. Firstly, we must get a closer look at the flat calm lake surrounded by mountains. The strategically placed rocks on the shore make for interesting photographs. The mini Easter Island moai are a bit over the top and we presume the gap in the middle is left intentionally so the photo just has to be done. In the morning sunshine, we could sit here all day admiring the view and soaking up the rays but there are things to do and places to be.

Clock strikes noonWalking along the shore, we come across Plaza Italia with Romulus and Remus but have to dodge the sprinklers watering the grass to get close. This is next to the cathedral, which is quite modern, built of local stone, tranquil but not that ornate inside. Our main objectives are yet more cash, as we can only withdraw about £100 at a time and that does not last long paying for meals and activities in cash. Also to get a SUBE card to tap on and pay the bus fares electronically on the trips planned over the next few days.

Empanadas cookingAll done, just in time to return to the main square and see the clock chime noon and four figures appear through the opening door on the clock face. Not spectacular after the likes of Bruges. Close to our apartment we have seen a shop that cooks empanadas to order and that sounds good for lunch. Good call, although the picante is not that (spicy) hot but definitely tasty enough.

Los Coihues main streetAfter lunch we try out the local buses and head for Los Coihues on Lago Gutierrez about half an hour away. The bus is standing room only with a few more squeezed in for good measure. I envisaged a beach for swimming and a row of restaurants along the front, but I was way off the mark. The road was a dirt track, the beach was pebbly but gentle slopping so good for families and not a restaurant, shop or café in sight.

Much to learn from dinasaur pooWhat we did find was a little museum and boy did that make up for the one we did not get to near Neuquen. It looked like a private house with the front three rooms jammed full of a million artefacts of minerals, crystals, fossils, stuffed birds and animals dinosaur bones and loads of petrified stuff. There was so much crammed in that I said to Dave I bet when we are done the owner (a palaeontologist who put together the collection) will say “did we see such and such” and we would say “no”. Sure enough, after he told us about his work with Oxford University he asked if we had seen the dinosaur excrement and we had to say no. He pointed out a huge petrified pile of poo!

What a big boneWe felt very inadequate not knowing what one tenth of the display items were, but we just enjoyed looking at them all. The petrified dinosaur femur was as big as me. We had seen a petrified forest in Namibia and here were many trees and bones all turned to stone but keeping their shape, texture and grain. We were so glad we came to this little village in the middle of nowhere and were privileged to see these preserved remains.

Even the workshop is crammed fullAs we sat that evening having a pie in a gastropub serving craft beer we reflected on how much we had crammed in today to have yet another great experience. Then as we looked out of the window we say the sky was amazing shades of pink and orange. Rushing to finish our meal we head to the lake shore, but were too late – the colours had gone. Just not enough hours in a day!

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