The Magical Mystery Tour of Bosque Arrayanes
Sitting on the doorstep of Bariloche is a vast expanse of shimmering blue that gives a title to the splendour of the surrounding National Park. Nahuel Huapi is the largest of the great twenty lakes of the Argentinian Lake District, spanning two countries and a cruise weaving across the waters and through the Andes will reveal a number of hidden treasures.
|Spreading across 705,000 hectares, Nauel Huapi National Park is almost three times the size of Luxembourg and its preservation began with a donation of land from Francisco Pascacio Moreno (known as Perito, which is the Argentinian for explorer) in 1903. Originally named Parque Nacional del Sur, it took on its modern day title in 1934 and shelters an incredibly valuable ecological nucleus.
One of the jewels of Argentina, the spectacular vista ranges from the seemingly never-ending lakes and rivers carved from ancient glaciers to the majestic mountains and inviting valleys. The deep basin of Lake Nahuel Huapi eventually empties in to the Atlantic via the waterways of Limay, Neuquen and Negro, but it is the sights en-route that capture your imagination.
|Under the shadow of the looming Hotel Llao Llao is the lakeside harbour of Puerto Pañuelo (bus ride from Bariloche takes 40 minutes) where boats depart daily for the 11km journey to Victoria Island.
As the boat steams through the peaceful waves, lapping up the residual foam, the glowing colours light up our journey from the beautiful blue of the lake to the grand green of the trees on the coastline that eventually lead to the snow-capped peaks of the surrounding mountain range. With this as a backdrop, it is no wonder that seagulls follow the trawler – either they believe it will lead them to more stunning scenery or it is the bread that was being thrown from the deck.
Our voyage takes us deep into the National Park, arriving at Victoria Island, which was in ancient times home to Indian communities who have left their mark in the form of cave paintings. Alighting at Puerto Anchorena we are directed to a leafy trail that leads us through a jungle like atmosphere.
The island was severely deforested for timber until the 1920s when the Argentinian agricultural minister decided to create an experimental tree nursery. In an attempt to revive the habitat, numerous exotic species were planted with larger than life sequoias and perfect pines standing straight to reach the sky. Here, the giant flapping leaves and branches of sequoias, thujas and eucalyptus join hands to provide protection from the frequent avalanche of rain.
|Just across the shoreline at Puerto Quetrihué on the south of the peninsula is the next stop on our grand voyage, where awaiting us is the Arrayanes National Park. It was formerly part of its neighbour Nahuel Huapi until 1971 when it was created in order to preserve the unique wood that is its main inhabitant.
With the myrtle forest being home to specimens up to 15 metres in height and between 500 and 650 years old, you feel part of a model village down at ground level. Interestingly, immersed in the thick landscape of the trees is a beautiful small wooden house. It is this along with the population of deer living in the vicinity, known as Pudú-Pudú, that were said to have inspired Walt Disney in creating Bambi.
The hypnotic lull of nature transported us to land of magic, mystery and intrigue where I could almost imagine a sense of joy at being stranded and able to explore this paradise. So we set about discovering the beautiful natural scenery by heading deeper into the forest with cracks of heavenly light seeping through the branches as the trail led to hidden lakes and secluded beaches.
The bright white sand almost blinds you from the panoramic covered forested slopes of the triangular valleys, whilst the stray boulders and hammock shaped trees provide the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the scene.
As we were not privy to a tropical storm on this occasion, the only sound that was drowning out the tweeting and chirping of the content birds was the rumble of running waterfalls fresh from the mountain side. This inspiring piece of Argentinian nature echoed on the journey back to Bariloche and has kept me company ever since.
Travelling from the UK will more than likely involve a couple of changes, firstly either in Madrid, New York or Brazil, depending on the carrier you use. You should then make your way to Buenos Aires bifore flying onwards to Bariloche. It is advised to check with travel agencies before booking flights as sometimes they have offers, but the main airlines to look out for are Iberia, LAN, Aerolineas, Delta, America Airlines and TAM.
Being an international tourist centre all-year round, you just need to choose your activity and then the season will choose itself. The summer trekking days are long, warm and sunny with cool nights whilst autumn is a rainer season but spectacular shades of gold, rust and brown can be seen during the fall. The winter season (from June to September) brings with it stunning snowfall and a plethora of sports from snowboarding to skiing and snow polo.
The highlights of Nahuel Huapi National Park range from tours of the glacial lake bearing the same name, whilst the forests offer hikers and birdwatchers a colourful spectacle from spring onwards. From the ski resort of Bariloche to camping zones and lodges, there is enough accommodation to help you discover the 300 miles of marked trails either by bike or foot, or relax with day of fishing.
Trips admiring the wonders of the lakes, mountains and forests of Southern Argentina and Patagonia are one of many offered by Say Hueque - Buenos Aires based travel company.