The stars aligned for us in September and finally allowed us to be able to make our first, long family vacation while on our Chilean adventure. And of course, as with all adventures thus far, this lovely vacation was full of both magnificent beauty and love as well as chaos and“loco-ness” (warning: do NOT learn Spanish from me!) Aaaahhhhh….claro que si!
Because of the Independence Day celebration here in Chile on September 18th, all employees had Thursday the 18th and Friday the 19th off of work, making for a nice, long weekend and a perfect reason to set off on an adventure! Destination: San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.
Bariloche, as it is also called, is nestled magically in the foothills of the Andes, on the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake. It is very well known for its skiing, trekking, fishing and mountaineering, and given its incredible landscape and beauty, is also commonly known as the Switzerland of South America.
But of course, as luck would have it, the Argentinian border employees were planning on going on strike that same Thursday that we were planning to depart. Probably knowing the country needed the 30% of Chileans that were statistically predicted to be planning to travel to Argentina during the holiday. And so Wednesday morning the 17th around 10 a.m. a phone call took place that went a little something like this….more or less….
Me: Hey hon! What’s up?
Tom: Well, I’ve got some interesting news…..it looks like the border will in fact be closed tomorrow, and only open for a few more hours today so if we want to do this I’m going to need you to get the kids and the car packed up and drive (the one hour) to my plant to pick me up as soon as you can…
Me: Ummmmmmm……..what????? You are kidding, right?
Tom: Nope—you know the strikes around here….can you do it?!
Me: Are you *$*%*@#@*$#$$# kidding me?!!!!! 3 kids and me, none of whom have bathed, or been packed…..$%&$%@#%@# me!
(at least this is what I thought in my head, but I think my response was more like…)
Of course my sweet love. I will have the bags packed perfectly within 10 minutes, the kids bathed, shiny and smiling within 10 more, I will have myself looking beautiful, as usual, and we will arrive with coffee and homemade goodies to your office within 1 ½ hours, with a full tank of gas and merrily singing 100 bottles of Wine on the Wall…
(okay, maybe not, but it was probably more like….)
Ohhhhh shucks….(ok… maybe shit)…Okay, we have been wanting to go to Bariloche FOREVER so I’ll get ‘er done as fast as I can! CLICK. (note to self….bring 100 bottles of Wine…)
And so I did. We FLEW…and thankfully I’m blessed with Rosa who was here that day and helped amazingly. And God Bless our kids, for they really helped out that day TOO (and we all know it could have easily gone otherwise)…and so we were in the car probably within 1 ½ hours on our way to Lanco to pick Papa up.
From Lanco, we drove to Pucon to meet up with one of Tom’s colleagues, Arturo, and his wife, who were also joining us on the trip. The plan was to head over the mountains north of Bariloche and stay the night in San Martin de los Andes, another little ski village, and head to Bariloche Thursday. This path was extremely rugged….dirt road up through the mountain the entire way, with a lake literally resting in a perfect circle formation at the top of the mountain, looking almost like it might have been the top of a volcano filled in with water. And forests, of one of my favorite trees in Chile, the Araucaria tree, ran along each side of the road. Once again, we found ourselves in an area almost completely untouched by man, totally different from anything you’d see in the United States, and gorgeous beyond words.
And then again, as we have found with many things as we learn to navigate a new country and continent, the “tranquila” nature of our trip could only last so long without some sort of hiccup. As it turned out, it was a Godsend that Arturo and his wife were with us, not only because they are great to spend time with, but also because Arturo literally saved our trip from being canceled once again at the border.
I’m not exactly sure why, but it has been fairly common for us to run into some incorrect information on websites…you know, little things, like phone numbers, addresses, requirements for entering Argentina….
And so we made it through through the Chilean border office first, drove the 10 or 15 minutes to the Argentinian entry point and got in line...not a short one, I might add. Our situation is tricky in and of itself because we are United States citizens but also Visa card holding residents of Chile. Tom had confirmed online and through other resources that Americans only needed to pay the $160 entry fee if they flew into Argentina, but that by driving in, it was not necessary. Of course, the patrol in the Argentinian office had something different to say. Despite Tom and Arturo showing them what it says on their own website about this, they declared that no, you need to pay, and you need to go back to the Chilean office to do it, and that closes in 20 minutes….so in other words, Buena Suerte (Good luck….Gringo).
But, our papa maravilloso accomplished it! And side note, it’s no easy feat keeping 3 kids occupied during all this, but as I had them outside running around in a big yard, I am not sure that I’ll ever forget the site of Tom and Arturo Dukes of Hazzarding it up the road, back to the border patrol, dust flying behind them, racing against the clock to get us in.
And in we got! Oooooooffff!
And so, roughly one hour later (in the dark so not much to report), we were in San Martin. We stayed at an adorable little hotel, ordered in a Pizza and crashed.
Thursday we bummed around San Martin, taking in some shops, food and some of the beautiful views. It was a cold day, and so what does one crave when exploring on a cold day but a warm cup of java, of course! BUT, the one thing that I cannot believe does not exist down here are carry-out coffee shops. In San Martin, after much searching we finally found one man willing to sell such a hot commodity to us. What he called cappuccino was in fact black coffee with a dash of milk and sugar, yet cost as much as a Starbucks coffee would…..I can only assume he must have seen the desperation in our eyes (-: I understand San Martin to have a gorgeous ski resort and we’d love to return when we have more time to check that out.
Later that afternoon we drove to Bariloche. Let me just say, if you are able to make the trip to Bariloche or San Martin, make this drive! It is exquisite! The entire drive runs through snow capped mountains along miles of massive, beautiful lakes and rivers.
A little over an hour later, we arrived in Bariloche. And WOW. I have to say, without hesitation, that Bariloche is one of the most, if not the most, beautiful places I have ever been. Photographs cannot even begin to do justice to what you see and feel when you are there. It is truly God’s masterpiece. On the outskirts you find yourself in what appears to be desert conditions, rugged terrain with little vegetation, large rock formations, and jagged mountains. Then, as you drive along you hit turquoise colored lakes and rivers, vibrant green trees and bushes that are larger than our house (seriously-you feel like you are in Jurassic Park), and the most magnificent of trees. The trees, oh the trees….one of my most favorite features of South America are the trees. I have never seen more beautiful or unique trees in my life. It’s like you are on a different planet, or in a scene out of Avatar.
And then finally you enter the Bariloche area…surrounded by snowcapped Andes, blue waters and lush, green forests. The city itself was surprisingly urban, seeming rather European, with numerous chocolate factories and parillas (grill restaurants) throughout. We drove on through to our hotel, which was nested outside of town on the lake. We had a 2 story cabin, with a kitchen, dining table and balcony overlooking the lake and mountains, a large, stone wood burning fireplace, and down below and indoor/outdoor heated pool. Heaven on Earth.
While in Bariloche, we hiked a lot…which quite honestly is the easiest thing to do with kids, but also sooooo enjoyable! And I am so proud to watch how confident and strong they have become in their hiking abilities.
We dined at one of the Parillas, which was AMAZING. Argentinian cuisine has taken a very special place in my heart….serving the most delicious cuts of grilled meat, warm, freshly made breads, a dipping sauce called Chimichurri (which might be the best dipping sauce I’ve ever had-recipe below) and of course mouth watering wines.
We also had lunch another day at the Llao Llao Resort, which is considered one of the Leading Hotels in the World. I’m actually not sure that I’ve ever seen a hotel situated in a more beautiful location.
But of course, our time with 3 kids in a “fancy” place can only last so long, (with photo below revealing a glimpse into our lives) and so back out we went for some more hiking/driving (a.k.a. Energy burning!).
During the evenings, all of us also thoroughly enjoyed the indoor/outdoor pool. During those moments, with just our family, the kids happily swimming and Tom and I relaxing in the hot water with the cold air surrounding us, overlooking the Andes…well….Life. Was. Perfect. Okay, but in all seriousness because I’m telling the WHOLE story here, life was perfect UNTIL little Mr. Greyson decided to get a case of the runs-which in turn triggered his gag reflux to vomit….thankfully outside the pool—-so out we go!!! We made it a whopping 24 hours before a “kid mess!” It was a Vomit & Views kinda night! (-:
And alas, while it may have not been great for work purposes, to my pure delight the border remained closed on Sunday (when we were supposed to return) and so we were forced to stay in another cute little resort town about an hour outside of Bariloche. Villa La Angostura. It very much reminded me of a ski village in Colorado. Super cute. Super fun shopping. Beautiful views. We stayed in an adorable little cabin, lit a fire because it was still pretty cold outside and too rainy for hiking, and RELAXED.
We took a different route back to Valdivia, traveling through Osorno, which I understand to be the main pass between Chile and Argentina. While driving, it began snowing in the sunlight, and so along our path we literally had a rainbow crossing over the road half the trip. Upon entering the top of the mountain, the snow capped trees were BREATHTAKING. I’m not sure if it was from the exhaustion, but I definitely had tears in my eyes because of the beauty that surrounded us during this drive. PERFECTION.
And so, how blessed are we to be within such a short distance of such a beautiful place! I think one aspect of knowing there is an end date to our time here is that it compels us to try to take full advantage of all the opportunities for exploration…getting in as much as possible before our expire date. And I can only hope that even if it is simply by virtue of this blog and our photos and stories, that the kids will be able to carry these adventures in their hearts forever as well.