Bariloche skies are clearer today and it’s warm and sunny, but people walking along the streets continue to wear face masks for protection from volcanic ash. Residents of Ensenada at the foot of the volcano abandoned their village last week after it was covered in thick soot and roofs collapsed from the weight of volcanic ash. Many of them lost everything. The Chilean government is now encouraging evacuation of other villages near Calbuco. They fear a potential flood of volcanic mud detected in a nearby river. Once it begins flowing, volcanic mud and debris can level anything in its path.
I hope there are no more eruptions from Volcano Calbuco. The heartbreaking devastation and misery caused by the earthquakes in Nepal is enough to cover the world’s natural disasters for the time being.
Perched on a hillside overlooking Nahuel Huapi Lake, Bariloche is a well located city inside the borders of Nahuel Huapi National Park. It’s known by many names including the City of Andean Lakes and the Switzerland of Argentina.
I spent the day admiring the city and learning the layout. There’s an ice skating rink in the middle of town and a series of steep terraced steps connecting each street to the next higher one – a good workout. The boardwalk along Nahuel Huapi Lake is glorious. Bought a pass for tourist buses that run daily and get you to interesting mountains and lakes in the Park.
Nahuel Huapi National Park covers 2,700 sq. miles and is the oldest Park in Argentina. Its Mapuche name means “Island of the Tiger”. The Park has lush deep forests, islands, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, and 20 lakes! Its three Andean natural environments – High Andean rain forest, Patagonian forest, and Patagonian Steppe – have altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 12,000 ft. above sea level.
Nahuel Huapi National Park is also a wildlife sanctuary and home to the rarely seen Huillin (river otter), southern Andean huemul and 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 enjoying just about any outdoor activity you desire, no matter what time of year. The streets are lined with sports shops featuring a vast amount of equipment and clothing. 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 are unique. Before this visit I’d never seen Patagonian cypress, coihue, arrayane, and amancayes. Patagonian cypress trees are large, long-lived plants. Some reach 1,500 years of age. Some of the places on my must see list include Victoria Island, Port Blest, Huemul Island, and The Road of the Seven Lakes. Hoping Calbuco doesn’t erupt again so I can visit these and more incredible places before next Thursday when I leave for Buenos Aires.