As the bus neared San Martin de los Andes, a town in the north west of Patagonia, we were blessed with this fat rainbow guiding the way.
Getting off the bus, we were greeted with pouring rain! Taxi!
Thankfully, our apartment was super cosy and reminiscent of an alpine ski lodge.
As the rain eased off and the sun came out (yay!), we donned macs and set off to explore the quaint town. Laid out on a grid system, the wide autumnal tree and rose bush-lined avenues, warm glowing interiors of wooden chalet-style shops and houses welcomed us.
Whilst Lola and Tash were totally happy to be wearing (cheap) furry boots bought in Puerto Madryn, Jake was determined to walk on with his flip flops!
To Lola and Albie, falling leaves and wrapping up warm were a welcome bonus, given we missed out on this season during our travels.
San Martín de los Andes is known as the gateway to the forested Lanín National Park, and lies on the banks of Lake Lácar, one of the park’s many glacial lakes, which has a boat pier and a sandy beach.
Appreciating the fresh cool air, we climbed through a blaze of colours to Mirador Bandurrias. On route and from this viewpoint, we were afforded magnificent views of the town and lake below, and the majestic snow-capped Andes mountains surrounding us. It quite took our breath away; for Lola and Albie, it was the first time they’d seen such an extensive mountainous range. Although we saw mountains in New Zealand, it was summer there so an altogether different vista.
Hiring a car for a couple of days allowed us to explore this beautiful landscape further afield.
Day one car hire, we headed south through the Nahuel Huapi National Park towards Villa La Angostura. Tootling along quiet windy roads, orange trees and snow-capped mountains embraced our journey. At every twist and turn, Lola and Albie requested we get closer to the snow!
Towering forests surprisingly revealed vast crystal clear glacial lakes and the wonderful sound of gushing waterfalls amongst the stillness.
Villa La Angostura lies beside the breathtakingly stunning Nahuel Huapi Lake. Sitting on the jetty, we absorbed the tranquility of the Andean mountains.
Nearby, Los Arrayanes National Park contains centuries-old arrayán trees. Unfortunately we ran out of time to see these, as we didn’t want to drive back in the dark.
Day two of car hire, we decided to head north and explore the Lanín National Park and 3776m high Lanin Volcano. Apparently, the Park boasts diverse wildlife including guanacos and pumas, neither of which we saw, but birds of prey were numerous!
On this drive we were further away from the Andes, so saw less snow-topped mountains and more arid mountains.
However, once we entered the remote Lanin National Park, we had Volcan Lanin in our sights. Wow! The perfect snowy conical shape was mesmerising.
Even though the gravel roads and wooden bridges seemed endless, with no sign of human life, we wanted to keep on driving. Could we get any closer to the volcano?!
Stopping by a clearing, we felt its presence! The seemingly enchanted forest provided a playground for Lola and Albie to build bridges of branch, and play hide and seek under Lanin’s watchful gaze.
A lone church squatted peacefully and invited us to wander around its grounds.
Diego, our host, recommended we pass into Chile, which we hadn’t planned to travel in, to journey back up north, for 2 reasons: firstly, the travel is cheaper and secondly, it’s quicker, with the bonus of learning about another country.
As a result, we excitedly hopped on a 6am bus bound for unplanned adventures in a new country. Pucón, Chile, our tenth country visited in 8 months, here we come!!