Day 78: Route of the 7 Lakes

Published: June 27th 2013
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We awoke 'early' at the crack of dawn...well, about 8am which seems early when it is still pitch black outside. We quickly had breakie and got a taxi into town to collect our hire car. Unfortunately, we were informed yesterday that there were no automatic transmission vehicles available for hire anywhere in Bariloche which is annoying considering that I don't really know how to drive a manual. So Rach unwillingly volunteered to be my driver for the day.

After getting all the paperwork done in the 'office', we had a short walk to find our car. On the way, we passed all sorts of vehicles ranging from brand new ones to rust buckets and we were holding our breath as to what sort of vehicle our 400 pesos would get us. Thankfully, it was a nice little VW Polo which would buzz us around the country-side quite nicely.

We jumped in, pulled out the map and looked for a way to navigate out of town and onto the open road towards the Route of the Seven Lakes. One thing Bariloche does lack is street signs, they literally don't exist. So I pointed Rach in the direction of the rising sun, knowing that we had to start by going East to get around the big lake Nahuel Huapi. Rach was a little nervy to begin with behind the wheel, having to think completely in reverse with the gear stick sitting on the wrong side and having to drive on the wrong side of the road. After some encouraging words from her calm navigator, she soon gained confidence behind the wheel.

We got to a lookout at Dina Huapi, looking back over Lake Nahuel Huapi and the waking city of Bariloche. With the sun rising, the water was unusually steaming, with a bizarre haze going out across the water. We continued onwards, and kept telling ourselves how lucky we were to have such an amazing day to go touring. The sky was completely blue, not a cloud in sight! We turned onto Route 40 and headed along the northern shores of the same lake.

We made it a small village called Va La Angostura around 11am, after about 1.5 hours of driving. Perfect time for a coffee and treat we thought. Rach pulled our little white buzz-bomb up, and we wandered up the quaint little main street and found a nice looking coffee shop. We ordered coffees and a rasberry and caramel crepe which was sensational!! The dolce de leche (caramel??) was so sickly sweet but amazingly good; we could literally feel our teeth disintegrating as we ate!

The famous Route of the Seven Lakes 'officially' commences at Va La Angostura and travels north along route 40. As we ventured along, the scenery took our breath away. The snow covered peaks dwarfed us as we journeyed through the valley, passing by Lake Correntoso and Espejo. There were numerous lookout spots to pull the car over and we decided to try out our first jump shots for the day; one of which is now Rach's new cover photo on Facebook.

Unfortunately, after about half an hour, our lovely paved highway turned into a gravel road and we bumped and vibrated along after that; Rach expertly trying to negotiate past the endless potholes. Here's hoping our suspension doesn't pack it in or we get a puncture out here in the middle of nowhere!

We kept driving along, Rach hoping that we'd come across a lake that would get her the perfect reflection photo. We passed by Lake Villarino which had a spectacular viewing spot above the lake. We got some cracking photos overlooking the scenery, and I even managed to successfully use the camera's 10-second self-timer function. Well after a fair few attempts; with me carefully balancing the camera on the roof of the Polo, then running around and taking up position on a rock next to Rach.

A bit further on, we pulled over to have a look at Cascada Vulinanco; a waterfall that looked pretty spectacular with the naked eye however with the white snow caked on either side of the waterfall, and white mountains behind it, it was awfully difficult for the camera to do it justice.

We quickly stopped at lake number 5 (or is was it 6...I can't quite remember!!); Lake Herrnoso and thought we'd better stop for another photo. Thankfully, the road had now returned to nice sturdy sealed bitumen and we made pretty good time the rest of the journey towards San Martin de los Andes. We snaked our way towards the town, stopping at another lookout where we were joined by a convey of goats who decided to come down out of the mountains, cross the road and then graze right by the car park. We continued towards San Martin, the road in which hugs the cliffs overlooking Lake Lacar. We were getting pretty hungry and decided that we would stop here on the way back.

We drove down into the town and found a sign pointed us in the direction of 'Centro'. We found a park and walked towards the closest restaurant we could find, a pizzeria. The pizza was pretty ordinary however filled a spot given it was already about 3pm. Knowing we wouldn't want to be driving along mountain roads in the dark, we returned to the car for the trip back, deciding we'd take a slightly different route south back to Bariloche.

We headed back along the road overlooking Lake Lacar, and stopped at a fantastic lookout which had the perfect ledge to perfect some handstands and jump shots. It was literally postcard perfect scenery, the sun gleaming down; the water as blue as blue can get and this little lone sailing yacht meandering across the water. It just looked so tranquil; what a perfect spot to try a fly-kick jump shot!! We even managed to set the self-timer and after about 3 attempts, timed our jumps perfectly and snapped a tandem jump which made our photo of the day.

We reached the turnoff a few km's out of town, deciding on route 63 which cuts of the 7 lakes and goes up and over Paso Del Cordoba back to the main highway to Bariloche. Unfortunately, this 60km of road was all gravel. 5 mins along, we came across Lake Meliquina and Rach finally got the photo she was waiting all day for; a reflection photo. The lake was so still that it looked like a giant mirror; and on turning our photos upside down you cannot tell what's water and what is real mountain! We had a bit of fun with the camera here, trying out panoramas in which Rach would pose off to the side, then as I began to span the camera across the lake, Rach would race behind me to appear on the other side of the panorama photo. The result are these hilarious panaramas where we both appear twice in the photo!! We checked the time and fading light and decided playtime was over, we need to get to the other side of this windy gravel road before it gets dark.

The landscape quickly changed and our road began to ascend. No more lakes however these bizaare rock formations that reminded us of Capadocia in Turkey; however they were covered in light layers of snow. Our gravel road really began to turn upwards as we approached Paso del Cordoba, the highest point on this road. It was really snowy up here, and the road was quite icy and dangerous so Rach carefully negotiated our little front-wheel drive car to make sure we didn't slide off the mountain. We reached a lookout right on the Cordoba pass, looking back down the valley where we'd come from. The setting sun and snowy mountains made a lovely selfy. We jumped back in the car and heading down the other side of the mountain. This part of the gravel road just wasn't icy, it was snowy! The road hadn't been gritted or plowed which made for a careful, nervous decent. We made it down fine and then charged our way forward trying to get to the main highway before nightfall. We kept going over these tiny little wooden bridges, the planks of which had seen better days and thankfully we weren't carrying a heavy load as they looked like they could collapse at any moment.

We made it back to the main highway around 6.30pm, the sun had gone down however was still light enough and we were thankful to be back on the main-drag towards home. We did the last 60-odd kms in just over an hour and made it back to Bariloche around 8pm. We filled up the car and were surprised that we'd used about half a tank of petrol, not bad considering we'd spent the whole day cruising. We dropped off our car and exhausted and hungry we opted for the easiest form of dinners...Maccas. There was another factor in this decision (and not just because it was across the road from the car hire place). The 'Snow Party' was in full swing, and the entire main street of Bariloche was crowded with people out to celebrate the opening of the ski season.

After dinner, we sneakily visited Rapa Nui for an icecream treat, Rach having a passionfruit kiwi combination and me a caramel and white chocolate one. We were both stuffed and thankful to be in the back of a taxi shortly after for our trip back out to our hotel. We quickly skyped my mum as it was the 24th June back home for her birthday – it was good to chat to them 'in the caravan' and here about their adventures...(here's hoping you've beaten your bloody cold by the time you read this!!)

Additional photos below
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27th June 2013

Wow what stunning photos! They're amazing! Very impressed that you drive Rach...esp in such tricky conditions with all that snow...go girl! X
27th June 2013

Ps. Rapa Nui looks like my kinda shop! And the raspberry and caramel crepe looked delicious! Not long to go now...less than a week. X
27th June 2013

I think the Panaramic photo would look good on your lounge room wall. All the scenery on your drive is really beautiful. You did a great job driving Rach especially on that road with all that snow. Mum would have been freaking out if she was there. ( you should have given Ben some driving lessons with the manual car while you had the chance !!!!!! )

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