Bariloche skies are clearer today and it’s warm and sunny, but people walking along the streets are still wearing face masks for protection from volcanic ash. Residents of Ensenada, Chile at the foot of Volcano Calbuco abandoned their village last week after it was covered in soot and roofs collapsed from the weight of volcanic ash. Many of them lost everything. The Chilean government is encouraging evacuation of other villages near the volcano. They fear a potential flood of volcanic mud from a nearby river. Once the mud begins flowing, it can level anything in its path.
I hope there are no more eruptions from Calbuco. The heartbreaking devastation and misery caused by the earthquakes in Nepal covers world natural disasters for now.
Perched on a hillside overlooking Nahuel Huapi Lake, Bariloche is a well located city within Nahuel Huapi National Park. It’s known by many names including the City of Andean Lakes and the Switzerland of Argentina.
I bought a pass for buses that run daily to mountains and lakes in the Park and spent the day admiring the city and learning its layout. There’s an ice skating rink in the middle of town and a series of steep steps connecting each street to the next higher one – a good workout. The boardwalk along Nahuel Huapi Lake is glorious but the ash in the sky makes taking clear photos difficult.
Nahuel Huapi National Park covers 2,700 sq. miles in the Andes Mountains and is the oldest Park in Argentina. Its Mapuche name means “Island of the Tiger”. The Park has lush forests, islands, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, and 20 lakes! There are three Andean natural environments in the Park – high rain forest, Patagonian forest, and Patagonian steppe. Altitudes range from 2,000 to 12,000 ft. above sea level.
Nahuel Huapi National Park is a wildlife sanctuary and home to the rarely seen Huillin (river otter), southern Andean huemuls, small pudus (deer), foxes, cougars, guanacos, the endangered Austral spotted wildcat, and maras (rabbits). Birds in the park include woodpeckers, parakeets, parrots, geese, ducks, swans, cormorants, Chilean pigeons, the green backed firecrown hummingbird, and Andean condors.
Like other areas of Patagonia, Bariloche is a haven for sports and outdoor activities, no matter what time of year. The streets are lined with sports shops featuring equipment and clothing. Some activities enjoyed include:
- Trekking and Hiking – 300+ miles of marked trails
- Horseback Riding
- Hang Gliding
- Mountaineering and Camping
- Fly Fishing
- Water Sports – scuba diving, kayaking, sailing, rafting, and windsurfing
The trees in the area are unique. Before this visit I’d never seen Patagonian cypress, coihue, arrayane, and amancayes. The local cypress trees are large, long-lived plants and some reach 1,500 years of age. Places on my must see list include Victoria Island, Port Blest, Huemul Island, and The Road of the Seven Lakes.
Hoping Calbuco doesn’t erupt again so I can visit these and other attractions before leaving for Buenos Aires next Thursday.