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 falling after Volcano Calbuco erupted. Ensenada Chile at the foot of the volcano was covered in soot and roofs collapsed from the weight of volcanic ash. Residents abandoned their village last week. Many lost everything.
The Chilean government fears a potential flood of volcanic mud from a nearby river and is encouraging evacuation of other villages near the volcano. 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 well located 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 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 steps connecting each street to the next higher one. The Nahuel Huapi Lake boardwalk is glorious, but the ash in the sky makes taking 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. Sports shops featuring equipment and clothing line the streets. 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, arrayanes, and amancayes. The local cypress trees are large, long-lived plants with some reaching 1,500 years of age. Places on my must see list include Victoria Island, Port Blest, Huemul Island, and Seven Lakes Road.
Despite the volcano drama, I’ve enjoyed the time in Bariloche. Hoping Calbuco doesn’t erupt again so I can visit more attractions before leaving for Buenos Aires.