Saturday, April 29, 2006

San Martin de los Andes, Argentina (1 day)

San Martin de los Andes is a small town all built of timber in the Argentinian Lakes District. To get there is via a 2 hour dirt road called the ´7 Lakes Drive´ and is touted as a drive through lakes, mountains, the best landscapes of the area. We bought our bus tickets a day before and were a half hour early for our journey. We sat in front of all the buses waiting for ours to arrive, but no sign. Close to our 11:30am departure time, got nervous and started asking buses with different destinations if they were ours, but no. 10 or 15 minutes after the departure time, went to the office to ask what was up and they looked at us and said ´c´est fue!´ Apparently we missed our bus because it was a different company´s bus, not our Via-Bariloche-looking bus... Pay another 25 pesos for the next one that is to leave at 7:30pm. When finally we are on it, we are given gorgeous views of Bariloche, Lago Nahuel Huapi, and outline of peaks of Cerro Catedral in setting sun. However, then it is promptly dark and we miss the entire 2 hour ´7 lakes drive´and are teased with moon-lit lakes and mountain silhouettes for the whole drive. Unbelievably frustrating!

En route, pass Villa la Angustura, a gorgeous little ski village, also all made of timber. Want to return to this town one day. Upon arrival in San Martin, we are greated by the owner of the hostel who drives us there. Met two great guys from Quebec in hostel, Jeremy and Justin, who we will again meet on our travels. The second night, prepare dinner in the hostel kitchen with them, a yummy curry, and get to know one another over bottle of wine. In this hostel we also run into the fabulous french couple Nadia and Romain, our friends from our experience at the Puyuhuapi Spa Lodge together.

Travelling around South America, certain names recur over and over and over again in the named plazas and streets of the towns. Avenida 9 de Julio, Avenida 20 de Mayo, Avenida General O´Higgins, Avenida Mendez...In Argentina, it seems as though every single town, whether it be the huge Buenos Aires or the tiny Los Antiguos, always pay homage to San Martin. Either the main street is called Avenida San Martin, or at their center is Plaza San Martin, which consists of some kind of plaza square with a representation of Mr. San Martin in the middle. Sometimes he is riding his horse, sometimes he is simply standing in glory in the center. So when we arrived in the town of San Martin de los Andes itself, we expected a Plaza San Martin. Of course we found it right away. So who is this famous Jose de San Martin? Known as Argentina´s ´Liberator´ and the ´Knight of the Andes´, he is credited with freeing South America from Spanish rule. Argentinians are crazy about him. The town of San Martin is very cute. We spent most of our day here catching up on some internet, and people watching as loads of locals move up and down the main street.


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