We have now taken up lodging in Bariloche. We moved to a very nice ‘cabaña’ that is close to Ceci’s family: bathroom, bedroom, kitchen-living-dining area. The compact kitchen area allows us to make some of our meals without having to go to restaurants.
A major natural event has drastically affected the tourist industry here. In June, there was a huge volcanic eruption in Chile less than 100 km NW of Bariloche. Here are some pictures of the volcano and the lightning that was generated during the eruption. They used snow plows to remove ash from the streets back in June. The city is still experiencing effects of the eruption.
When the wind is from the NW, the skies are obscured by volcanic ash. As the winds change, the ash comes and goes. We took an excursion by boat yesterday. It was clear as we departed.
We navigated to the end of the SW arm of Lake Nahuel Huapi. On the return trip, the wind had shifted. The sky was obscured by volcanic ash.
Peaks on distant mountains show a mantel of white – the first guess is snow. But locals are quick to point out that the winter snow melted very quickly this spring. Ash is darker than snow and absorbs more heat, melting the snow more quickly. Now what we are seeing on the peaks is a layer of volcanic ash.
The airport in Bariloche has been closed since June. The ash in the air can severely damage the turbine engines. The ash content in the air cannot be predicted so air service here no longer exists. This has drastically reduced the number of tourists here – although one would never guess that by walking or driving the streets of the central city. But there are vacancy (Hay Lugar) signs on all of the hotels, hostels and cabinas along the strip.
For two days this week, we joined up with friends, shared a rental car and did some activities that are more difficult by bus. On Tuesday, we drove out to Llao Llao and hiked through a small forest of arrayan trees along one of the lakes near Bariloche. We drove to Colonia Suiza, several km from Bariloche. This is where Quique (Eric Banio) and Ceci are having their wedding celebration.
On Wednesday we arranged for an excursion on one of the smaller boats – only 14 passengers. We motored to the end of the SE arm of Nahuel Huapi, climbed off the boat and hiked to a beautiful waterfall. We all stripped down to our bathing suits and went for a dip under one of the cascades.
We were served a wonderful lunch on the return trip and arrived back to port in the afternoon.
We had been staying with good friends of Quique. But this was more than 18 km from town and the bus only runs a couple times a day. It would be very difficult to get around. Antonio and Nora helped find a nice ‘cabaña’ very close to them where we have moved in.
Today, Thursday, we are slowing down. We haven’t had much time to unwind from the exhausting trip from Minnesota. A travel recap: We departed Minneapolis on Friday, 30 Dec. We took a city bus to the Greyhound depot downtown for a 7:00am departure for Chicago. We spent the night in Ceci and Banio (Quique)’s apartment then dragged our gear on a Chicago transit train to O’Hare to catch a flight to Buenos Aires with a stop in Maimi. We ‘celebrated’ the arrival of 2012 at 30,000 feet with a glass of champagne passed out by the cabin crew. The pilot interrupted the in-flight movie to count down the last ten seconds to midnight. We toasted the new year and resumed the movie.
The plane arrived on time in BA and were to be met by another friend of Quique – but he didn’t make it. We got ourselves to the huge main bus station in BA, found our bus line and checked in. We were able to upgrade our bus service AND get a bus two hours earlier. The scheduled arrival in Bariloche was 20 hours – but took only 18 hours. It was actually a pleasant ride! We called from the terminal and Ceci and Antonio arrived to collect us and our gear. It took three days of travel to get from Minneapolis to Bariloche.