Ruta de los Siete Lagos and San Martin de los Andes, December 27-31

The Ruta de los Siete Lagos -- Seven Lakes Route, for you gringos -- is a famous road in these parts. We enjoyed the scenery (photo 1, for example), taking advantage of our self-containment to spend a night along the way, but we wished there were more hiking trails. (In general, marked hiking trails are fairly sparse in both Argentina and Chile, particularly considering the fabulous geography. Clearly these aren't nations of avid hikers.) We took one short hike to a very nice waterfall (photo 2), moving at an uncharacteristically rapid pace thanks to swarms of gigantic biting horseflies. ("Tábanos" are to summer in the Lake District as mosquitoes are to summer in Alaska; we're fortunate to have dealt with them only a couple of times so far.)

The Ruta de los Siete Lagos terminates at the popular and attractive town of San Martin de los Andes (photo 3). We settled into a campground on the edge of town and stayed a few days. There were plenty of activities  to keep us busy:
  • A boat trip on the lake.
  • Some seriously hilly bike rides. (Photo 4 looks attractive, but it isn't typical of the terrain or road surface.)  Emily calls some of our rides "taking our bikes for a walk," though we continually remind ourselves there's a downhill for every up. If we'd known how much bike-riding we'd be doing, particularly on rough tracks, perhaps Alex and Jennifer would have splurged a little more on their bicycle purchases. (The kids' bikes brought from home are doing great.) Jennifer's bike is perpetually allergic to first gear, and one of Alex's pedals just fell off, but with frequent use of our repair tools we should make it through the last 2½ weeks.

  • Emily and Jennifer's fourth horse-ride (photo 5, obviously). That meets our target for South America, although nothing prevents us from another ride, should the opportunity present itself.

  • Whitewater rafting (photo 6, sorry no cameras during the rafting itself). As we set off on the all-day excursion, the rafting guide described the trip as "gastronomic" -- we did spend about as much time river-side barbecuing and enjoying fresh tortas fritas at a local farmhouse as we spent on the class 3 rapids.

  • Just hanging around the busy, touristy town.
Immediately after posting the last travelog, which mentioned how few motorhomes we'd seen, they started appearing in droves. Well, maybe not droves, but once we arrived in the tourist hub of San Martin, on the cusp of the highest season, motorhome sightings became a regular occurrence. Overall, the rather lively camping scene is quite a change from earlier in our trip, when frequently we'd have large campgrounds entirely to ourselves.

Until a few days ago, we'd lucked into an amazingly long stretch of very good weather. For weeks, just about every day was blue skies with pleasant temperatures in the mid to high 70's. The last few days have seen some clouds, wind, and occasional light rain, but it's clearing up already. Overall, northern Patagonia doesn't get as much of the famed changeable weather as plagues the more southerly areas. We've also had an amazingly long stretch of good health -- not even one mild illness since arriving in South America -- until recently a cold passed through the family. It's possible the cold was due to a bit of contact with visitors from the North American winter. (Colds/flu are just one aspect of winter we don't mind mostly skipping out on this year.)

Next: San Martin is touristy, but we haven't seen anything yet. We're off to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina's unrivaled summer holiday hotspot. The crowds may drive us out fairly quickly, but we've heard the chocolate can't be missed.

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