Patagonia: San Martin de los Andes

We left El Bolson saying, “peace out, hippies” as we boarded our bus for the seven hour journey north to San Martin de los Andes. We both woke up that day with colds, which I blame on our dirty airbnb apt and I’m pretty sure I also had a mild fever. With that said, the bus was comfortable and our seats were on the upper level so we had great views of the Andes and lots of blue mountain lakes.

I slept most of the way (as I do), but Harry poked me awake when a national guard and his drug-sniffing dog got on board. It was pretty crazy to see a twenty-something guy being escorted off the bus. Everyone was murmuring, wondering what would happen to him. Twenty minutes later he got back on board with a shit-eating grin and the bus continued on. It was obviously his lucky day.

San Martin de los Andes

IMG_6190San Martin is a truly lovely and picturesque mountain town sitting at the foot of the Andes on the beautiful Lake Lacar. Argentinians from all over flock to San Martin for outdoor activities like snow skiing, hiking and water sports. We were going to stay for three days but ended up doubling our time there since being sick slowed us way down. We needed time to rest before we could venture out and explore.


Oxen and Geese 

One sunny afternoon we hiked up a dry and dusty trail for a bird’s-eye view of San Martin and Lake Lacar. The trail wound its way through land of the Mapuche, one of the aboriginal people of Patagonia. We were almost to the top when heard a chainsaw, and as we got closer we heard a man yelling. We weren’t sure what was going on but it soon became clear. There was a Mapuche man cutting timber and he had two large oxen loaded up with a huge log. The trio was wedged into the mountainside above us on a steep hill preparing to advance onto the narrow trail. They were about to come our way so we took off running, seriously worried that we might get trampled.

We made it to safety, totally out of breath, when we saw a couple of hikers coming down the mountain. Using broken Spanish and lots of hand gestures we tried to explain the danger that loomed just a short way down the trail. Looking completely confused the woman asked if we spoke English. Ha! We retold the story using English and went on our way.

A short time later we reached the top of the trail. We heard some boys whooping and hollering and saw a dust storm ahead. What now, we wondered? We were still feeling edgy from the oxen incident. All of a sudden a gaggle of panicked geese ran our way, desperately trying to escape from the boys who were chasing them. Our hearts were racing and I about died laughing at Harry as he screamed and jumped out of the way.

IMG_6134IMG_6135We had enough excitement for the day, don’t you think? {spoiler alert: keep reading} We found the vista and hunkered down on some big rocks to take in the beauty that surrounded us.


On the way back down the mountain we saw a pile of logs and remarked that the man and his oxen had been busy. We kept our eyes and ears open, hoping to see them in action. Sure enough, we heard him yelling and saw dust rising down the path. We were a little apprehensive about hiking down but the man yelled out for us to pass by. The trio was about to embark back up the trail with another log.


We were amazed to witness the antiquated logging technique that used oxen, yolks and chains. This was practically a scene right out of “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When they laboriously started moving up the path I turned around to take a picture. Just then the log slipped and careened down on top of the black ox’s back leg, causing both oxen to bellow and stomp. The man was the Oxen Whisperer as he calmed them down and coaxed them into motion back up the trail.


 Tara’s Family

A highlight of our time in San Martin was connecting with my friend Tara’s family. Her brother Ron and his Argentinian wife Vanessa have lived in both San Martin and Montana for over 15 years. They own and operate Chocolate Lab Expeditions, a fly fishing company. Their two beautiful kids are bilingual. Tara’s parents happened to be in town visiting so they had us over for dinner. We laughed as we exchanged funny stories about life in Argentina. Such a great night!


Patagonia: El Bolson + Lago Puelo National Park *Harry’s Birthday*

El Bolson is Argentina’s happy little hippy community. It’s also the country’s hops capital where 75% of its hops are grown. Nestled in the mountains at the foothills of the Andes, folks come to visit and get drawn into the beautiful location and slower pace of life. Harry’s been dreaming about El Bolson since he first read about it months ago, so what better place for us to spend his birthday weekend than in El Bolson?

Luckily the bus ride from Esquel north to El Bolson was only two short hours so we arrived midday with a spring in our step, ready to explore. The best part (and the only good part) of our airbnb stay was having Aldo pick us up at the bus station to give us a ride to our new home. We definitely won’t be nominating his bachelor pad rental for Best in Show.



What a cute little town, indeed. El Bolson is the Eugene, Oregon of Argentina. We went to the artisan market on Saturday and Sunday and enjoyed walking around, people watching. There were families and stray dogs and wafting scents of you-know-what at every turn. Lots of smiling faces, the prerequisite drum circle and plenty of fresh fruit juices (which is a rarity in Argentina). We had some really good food and Harry enjoyed a locally brewed beer (again, a rarity).


 Lago Puelo National Park 

We spent Harry’s birthday (March 21st) at Lago Puelo, a beautiful mountain lake only a half hour bus ride outside town. After sunning ourselves on the beach for a while we felt a hankering for adventure so we set off with our shoes in hand to cross the first of many shallow rivers flowing into the lake.


We quickly realized that walking on wet stones with bare feet was more painful and slippery than exciting, so we ended up just keeping our hiking shoes on and getting wet. This tactic made more sense in that we moved quicker and we looked more hard core (not that anyone was looking). After following a dirt trail for a short while we decided to create our own path with our own rules. Rule #1: when there’s a fence, climb over it. Rule #2: when there’s a river, walk through it. Rule #3: when there’s private property, ignore it. Rule #4: when it’s your birthday, do as you wish.


We eventually found ourselves back at the national park entrance feeling elated, pretty sneaky and very soggy. Off-roading in Patagonia, yes!

Harry’s Birthday 

Look, a birthday cake! No, I didn’t make it, and no, I didn’t buy it. But I did take a secret photo of it and showed it to Harry at just the right moment. He thought it was a pretty thoughtful gesture. And the beer? Well, this guy likes his beer and drinking a chilled artisan brew in Argentina’s hippy town made him pretty darn happy. Cheers to many more birthdays and beers, Harry!


Patagonia: Los Alerces National Park *Clouds*

Esquel is only an hour away from Los Alerces National Park via the local bus. We left at 8:00 one morning excited to spend a full day exploring the park. The park straddles the Andes and the western portion, which resides in Chile, is actually a rainforest. However in Argentina the park is dry, especially after a hot and nearly rain-free summer.

Bamboo Groves

We chose to do an eight mile round trip hike up the mountainside through a Cypress forest with a goal of seeing Lake Futalaufquen from the top. We walked through the hot, arid forest kicking up dust with every step. We were surprised to find that the trail wove through huge sections of bamboo groves. In Oregon I’m used to seeing bamboo sprouting vibrant green leaves all year round, so to be surrounded by towering dried-out stalks with brittle, feathery leaves was a really unique experience.

A. SignIMG_5931IMG_5937IMG_5941

The View From Up Top


It was so hot and dry on the mountain that we were actually surprised when the trail crossed a river with running water. The red flowers offered a pretty pop of color to the otherwise brown and beige landscape.


Lake Futalaufquen, Clouds + a Cat

After the long hike we recharged by the lake and were delighted by the spectacular cloud formations above. Later we walked four miles on a path along the edge of the lake to another beach area. We happily indulged in a few treats from a little tienda at the end of the trail and relaxed on the shore with our new pal. I named him Cloudy.


When the bus returned to pick us up at 8:00 PM we were tired and happy. What a great day in Los Alerces National Park, Patagonia!