El Bolson in Argentina is a town known to travelers as a place for hiking, outdoor activities and a place to chill out. We decided to go south 120kms from Bariloche for this reason, and we were not disappointed.
We found one of the best hostels in Argentina to serve as our base. It is called “La Casona de Odile”. It has all the little touches that you are looking for when travelling- good rooms, hot showers, potable water, a great kitchen, really cool living room spaces with a fireplace to chill out in, good wifi, homemade breads/jams for breakfast, and a beautiful garden setting by a river. One of the special perks was that they made gluten free bread for me each day. Oh, and of course a dog and a cat.
We were privileged to be there with a great group of fellow travelers and we also met many expats who have chosen to move to the area. We shared meals, stories and good conversations. The weather did not co-operate for many hiking opportunities, but with a setting like this we were happy to chill out and take a break. It was a great location for Mike to work from.
Jeff, Keira and I did get hike to a local waterfall, we visited an Indian looking rock face, Keira baked with another Aussie girl Tammy and went to the market twice. (Nice craftwork, great chocolates, empanadas and locally brewed beers.) We had discovered a broken exhaust pipe on the way to El Bolson. We found a workshop that did an excellent job at welding it together. They even fed us and changed money for us while we waited. We were reluctant to leave El Bolson.
The drive north through the Lakes District of Argentina was beautiful. We took a back road that took us through Villa Traful, a small village on a lake. The weather was a little overcast and windy, a perfect day for driving. As we drove we began to notice a vibration in the front end of the car and some difficulty with changing through the gears. We discovered a nail in our front tire, which Mike quickly repaired.
We found a campsite by a river to wild camp just outside Junin de Los Andes. The next day we continued through National Parque Lanin to complete the border crossing to Chile once again. We had amazing views of Volcan Lanin, and we got to see “monkey puzzle trees”. They are tall trees with bark that looks like puzzle pieces, and spiky branches that resemble monkey tails. Keira and I had researched them some months before, so we were excited to finally get to see them.
After crossing the border we headed for Rio Blanco thermal springs, following a recommendation from Carina and Kaj. We camped right by the springs. We skipped dinner and headed straight into the water. It was a perfect place, and we had it all to ourselves. Natural pools boarded by rocks leading into a river in a quiet valley. We soaked for about 3 hours looking at the star filled sky above. The next morning we soaked once more for a few hours before heading on the road again.
Villarica was the next stop for coffees, money and Internet access. Then it was on to Pucon.
The vibration in the car had increased and now we had a noise to accompany it.
A month before in Pumelin National Park on the northern part of the Carretera Austral, we had briefly met a couple called Truus and Hans. (Truus is Dutch and Hans is German) They had provided us with their information and had requested that we visit them near Pucon.
Arriving at their property we felt immediately at home. We were greeted by Kaj, Carina, Hans and Truus, and 2 donkeys (Pancho and Mansita), 2 lamas (Dalai and Mapu) and their dogs (Delhi and Copita).
Hans and Truus have lived interesting lives and have travelled extensively. Hans is a famous mountaineer, having climbed mountains all around the world. They have worked for volunteer organizations, and sailed a boat around the world, that Hans and made himself. We shared stories, meals, helped out around the property and enjoyed the tranquil surroundings. Keira had an amazing experience, feeding the animals, riding Mansita, snuggling with Dalai, a very affectionate Lama and playing with Delhi. She helped with gardening tasks and other chores around the farm.
Now being hot springs junkies, we visited another hot springs whilst in the Pucon area, Termas Los Pozones. Great but not our favorite.
With Hans and Truus assistance we accessed their local mechanic, who found the problem with the car and completed repairs. We had broken 3 of 4 pieces of the universal joint of the front drive shaft and the final piece was just holding on. Probably the result of our ditch encounters 1-month prior. We were very pleased to have Priscilla in working order again.
Hans and Truus’s property is actually below the Villarica volcano, that erupted a month ago. It continues to smoke and it glows at night as the lava of the crater reflects on the smoke. This can all be seen from the kitchen window and from other places on the property.
One morning we woke at our regular time, but it was still pitch black outside. We triple checked the time before heading to the main house for breakfast. It was 9am. It was only when we got close by the house and a light turned on that we realized ash was falling from the sky. The ash was coming from the Volcano Calbuco eruption, some 200 kms away. We had passed through this area 2 weeks before.
The ash continued to fall throughout the day, with some light seeping through at ~11.30 am. It was so bizarre.
The following day there were 2 inches of ash covering everything. In the town of Pucon, everyone was wearing masks for protection from the ash. We spent the day cleaning up. Keira and I watered the leaves of all the plants to remove the layer of ash so they could breathe again. You could literally see them revive and we thought we heard them singing “ahhh”. The bees were also happy, as they could now reach the flowers. The deck required 3 washes and the grass was watered so the ash could be assimilated into the soil. Ash continued to hang in the sky, and a light sprinkling continues to fall 3 days later.
We watched the news of the eruption, seeing the ripple effects spread throughout the world, as a volcano erupted in Costa Rica and an earthquake devastated Nepal and the Himalayas.
We experienced 2 mild earth tremors during the night. This experience brought it home as to how destructive a volcano and the fallout from volcanoes can be.
We originally thought we would stay 2 nights with Hans and Truus, but we ended up staying for 5 nights. We were all very reluctant and really sad to leave.
There are times in your life that certain people are meant to cross paths and I believe we were meant to meet Hans and Truus.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: tire puncture repair kit
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- meeting and spending time with Hans and Truus ; Keira- riding Mansita and feeding the animals; Riss- staying at the farm and in El Bolson
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-dealing with the after effects of the volcanic ash; Keira- leaving the farm; Riss- leaving the farm
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- empanadas at El Bolson market/completos (huge hot dogs with avocado, tomato and mayonnaise- common in Chile), Keira- having pancakes for dinner/chocolate fondue; Riss- chocolate covered cherry ripe like chocolates in El Bolson
BEST CAMPING SPOT: staying in the cabana at the farm/hostel La Casona de Odile in El Bolson
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.