Day 15: Through the mountain chain, and the routes of Neuquén.

The bus to Argentina leaves at 6.30 in the morning from Rodoviaria Station, and that’s why we’ll be forever thankful to the night watchman of the guesthouse, for preparing a breakfast for us at 5 am. All the tables were already setted up, but he brought us some hot drink and toast bread, and then called a taxi to pick us up at 5.30.

In 20 minutes we arrive to the station, and now all what’s left is wait for the dawn, in the cold morning.

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Smoke on the Villarrica volcano

We leave in time, in a bus almost empty, and during the trip people of different nationalities start to get in.

12.30 pm we’re passing through Junín de Los Andes (how many times did we do this travel already?), watching through the window the Feria Blanca (and almost smelling the empanadas!), and there most people on the bus get down. Apparently if you want to combine with another bus and go to Bariloche, this is the place for it.

13.30 we finally arrive at San Martín (7 hours of journey). To intensificate even more the touristic ineffciency on this (my) side of the mountain chain, I had sent an email to the Neuquén tourism office, to ask about how we could go from San Martín de Los Andes to Villa Pehuenia. On the bright side, they asked very fast. On the not very bright side, they told me that none of the bus companies make that travel, and that the only way of going to Villa Pehuenia was going to Zapala first.

Once at the terminal, we start asking around about the same thing, and in one of the bus offices they tell us to go and knock on the door of Expreso Los Andes, which has the Campana Dos buses, and ask there. I do that (there was no way of knowing that behind that door on the outside of the terminal, there was a bus office), and they confirm me that indeed, there’s a bus that goes to Pehuenia everyday at 17.15, arriving at 22 (I don’t know if that changes with the seasons). We buy the tickets -cash only-, and we go to eat and rest from the recent travel, before we start the next one.

Near to the terminal we see a food place, on top of some shops, Deli, a buffet kind of restaurant, where you are in charge of picking up your own plates, cutlery and drinks. The food is fine, the toilets are great, and the view of Lacar Lake is awesome. Many days waiting to eat milanesas again. For some things, there’s no place like home 😉

Meanwhile, we try to arrange the stay in Villa Pehuenia, so arrive at 10 pm with no worries. First, we call Don Cirilo camping, where there’s only availability to camp. Then, we try the Complejo Lagrimitas, closer to town, but they won’t tell us the fares until we are there, and the simple cabins are very expensive. So they’re not very useful, and we decide to stay at Don Cirilo, even if setting up the tent at night is not the more comfortable thing to do.

For a snack we go to Austria coffee shop, right below from where we lunch. A milkshake of dulce de leche, and a huge ice cream cone.

17.15 we leave. The landscape does everything it can to prevent you from boring, what you see through the window is just amazing: trees growing up everywhere, on different altitudes, hills and mountains mixing, animals walking by, rivers or lakes appearing from the sudden to complete the scene.
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Even with all that effort from the landscape (and it’s growing dark so it’s even more beautiful, with all the colors in the sky), we’re starting to feel anxious to arrive. The curves on the route are almost as impressive as the views, and we think that the chilean drivers would love to defy them.

peh1-2It’s closed night, and after a stop in Aluminé’s terminal, we keep going, watching people get down in the middle of nowhere (nowhere to me, at least). I really don’t know how they know where to get down, and where to walk! There’re no trails, nor lights… it’s just overwhelming for me.

We ask the driver to leave us in the entrance of Don Cirilo Camping, that luckily is located on the side of the road (I imagine walking up the hill, feeling animals get near), and very well iluminated.
After a quick reception by Liliana, where she gives us all the indications, we go and set up the tent. For this hour, it was a huge success, fast and easy, and the place looks good. The best of all: it isn’t a cold night. Not bad for our first sleep in Villa Pehuenia.

 

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