Note: you can click on any of the photos for a larger view (ctrl click for new tab).
Wednesday (11th) started with a trip to the natural food market for Ceci, Antonio (her father) and Judy. Judy and Ceci found a place that sells cereals and peanuts in bulk and Antonio bought the meat for an asado that he would prepare in the evening.
We still had not finalized the next stage of our trip – a tour of southern Argentina, the high southern latitudes. We are working with an agent to make the travel arrangements, mostly by bus to Punta Aranes, Chile, then we will take a cruise ship around Cape Horn to Ushuia back in Argentina.
By early afternoon, we got as far in the arrangements as we could and took off on the bus to km 16 and Cerro Campanario. It is a small mountain along the main road to Llao Llao and sports a magnificent look vista from the top. It has an aerosilla (chair lift) to the top but I remembered from last time I was here that I had found a trail to the top so we decided to look for it again. What we found was a maze of paths all leading more or less upward so we headed up.
It was a steep climb, but we took our time and were rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery I have seen in all my travels. There is a multi-level lookout platform at the top with spectacular views in every direction. We looked and took pictures in most directions. We met an Irish couple that had been traveling the continent for a couple of months and would be for 7 months total. We exchanged cameras for group pictures.
We spent about 45 minutes on the top, then started down and discovered a better trail that led all the way back to the road. We caught the bus back to our canaña and got ready to walk to Antonio’s for his asado.
The asado was really good. Antonio carefully grilled a selection of meats: morcilla, chorizo, short ribs, beef fillet and butterflied chicken. All of this was brought out a couple of meats at a time with the last meat course being the chicken. A potato salad, carrot and beet salads and Argentina red wine rounded out the meal.
On Thursday, Quique took the day off and he and Ceci went with us for a hike and climb. We boarded the #20 bus to Llao Llao and walked the road to the trailhead to Cerro Llao Llao and started the climb.
Ceci was a valuable guide. Her degree is biology from the university in Bariloche. Much of her botanical study was the flora in this region. There were frequent stops for explanations of unusual plants such as the llao llao, an edible fungus that causes large growths like burls on trees.
Throughout the region, there are large expanses of a local bamboo that are are all dead. This bamboo has an interesting life cycle. They only bloom every 40-60 years. When they bloom, they reproduce (stir up the gene pool) and die. The bloom for the majority of the bamboo took place last year.
The seeds that were produced dropped to the forest floor. Some germinated this year, many were eaten by rodents which typically causes a spike in rodent population. This year, the ash helped keep the rodents at bay. Another phenomenon is if the seeds are very dry (there is a drought) the rodents stuff themselves. The moisture in their gut causes the seeds to swell and may kill the animal.
As we continued up the mountain, the views became more spectacular! We were looking out over national park wilderness and the beautiful lakes nestled in the rugged mountains. Many of the trees that stood out from their neighbors showed distinct signs of being shaped by the winds – branches only on the leeward side.
We thought that the view from Campanario the previous day was incredible. We found the views from Llao Llao to be even more magnificent. There was little evidence of human activity from here.
From the heights, we could see what looked like streaks of volcanic ash floating and drifting into shore.
On our way down the mountain, we diverted to a beautiful beach (seen from above in the photo). The shore was strewn with pumice stones, many bigger than large lima beans.
At the top, we met a young foursome: an Aussie, a Kiwi and two from UK. We chatted and hiked down together. On the way up, we had stopped at a raspberry patch and picked and ate a bunch. On the way down, we stopped again, picked and ate, but also gathered a bunch in Tupperware and zip lock bags to take back for breakfast and to add more flavor to our yogurt.
Reluctantly, we exited the raspberry patch and hiked to the trail head and the road, then to the bus stop at Llao Llao to catch the bus back to our cabaña – but not without a problem. Our rechargeable bus card didn’t have enough left for our bus fare. Fortunately, Quique and Ceci had enough on theirs to include us. It would have been a long walk of about 20 km on top of the 12-15 km we had already walked. The bus does not take cash! We didn’t realize that when coming from centro, we need to tell the driver where we expect to get off. If you don’t, you are charged to the end of the line – much more than we thought we were paying for the rides. We now know!