17 September 2015

Argentina - llao llao Peninsula, Bariloche

Driving into Bariloche, Argentina
Our drive begins in Villa La Angostura where we are staying. The route to Bariloche is stunningly beautiful, first with the lake and glorious, snowy mountain peaks. Later on, the landscape becomes quite dry and desert like with the odd sighting of some horses and sheep. As one nears Bariloche the lake comes back into view. Today it was very choppy with little white waves.
There are many Police check points in Argentina - to date we have never been stopped but today we were stopped at 3 different points before reaching Bariloche!  As usual nobody speaks English and they all insist on jabbering away even when we say we do not understand! It is a requirement to drive with lights on at all times here.
With much sign language and the odd Spanish word, James understood to produce his driving licence, passport and car hire papers. At least he knew what to show on the next 2 occasions!  The cops all smile and wave you on so it appears to be a licence check only.
Nearing Bariloche there were a number of traffic lights - what is interesting for us is the time countdown displayed next to light. 40 secs on both red and green.

Protesters at Llao Llao Hotel
Our focus drive was the Chico circuit on the Llao Llao Peninsula. 
Our first bit of action was at the well-known Llao Llao Hotel where there was a very noisy demonstration taking place. With drums, whistles and a lorry hooter blasting away it was extremely noisy and could be heard way down below in the road. The cops were standing back quietly, just monitoring the situation. It appears that the workers are demanding their increase now rather than in May 2016. It seems the complaint is that they earn 20% less in the hotels in Bariloche compared to equivalent 4 or 5 Star hotels in Buenos Aires.
This hotel is very impressive and has beautiful views over the water. Unfortunately too pricey for us mere mortals!

The road then starts winding through thick forest. Suddenly we saw a huge bird flying above the car. Just around the bend there was a parking spot with pictures of this bird. It turns out that we were extremely lucky to see a Andean Condor, a member of the vulture family. They feed on dead animals. The males weigh from 11 to 15 ks and the females from 8 to 11 ks. The Andean Condor is 2nd only to the Wandering Albatross in wing span. These magnificent birds mate for life and will only look for a new partner if partner dies. A great and exciting sighting! This magnificent birds are endangered.
The views continue to be mind-blowing with many photo stop opportunities. A couple from Chile very kindly offered to take a photo of us both at one of our stops.
Our next detour was via a very weird wooden bridge as we headed to the Swiss Colony about 3 km off the main road. This very cute village, in the middle if nowhere, even has a school! This village was established in the late 19th century when Felix and Maria Goye settled there.
It's an ideal spot to spend a night or two as there are hikes and also Canopy tours close by. The original Swiss culture is evident.

We chose to have a light lunch in one of the restaurants, El Portal. This village brews their own artesanal beer and we were offered Diuka in either white, black or red! That was Greek to us so we relied on the recommendation and chose the Red. It was pretty good. This restaurant charges a Cover Charge so the 2 tiny pizzas and 2 beers came to 300 pesos!
What on earth the cover charge us for I have no clue and did not feel like asking for an explanation in Spanish!

Behind another restaurant there were the cutest rabbits, huge sheep, some fowls and a notice asking the public not to disturb the "dikkops"  We had these birds at Villa Piren as well so I must find out the Spanish name.
We carried on this Circuit Chico to another stunning view point where there is a glassed in restaurant. Overlooking the lake and mountains this is just so beautiful. One can see the back of the Llao Llao Hotel from this vantage point.
Unfortunately we did not get to go up the chairlift at the base of Mt. Campanario as this must offer panoramic views from 1050 metres.
All in all a great drive and highly recommended.

© Judelle Drake

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