Maybe not quite Hawaii, but still warrants a selfie…

Yesterday we took a boat from the pier here in San Martin, which travels for about 30 minutes (very slowly) to a small sand/gravel beach on Lago Lacar.

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In keeping with what we’ve seen so far in the lake district, here are a few observations:

  • Boat rides are rather pricey, especially on a relative basis to other forms of travel. We should probably take taxis instead…
  • Beaches are usually quite empty – except for some random dogs and a few families – until about 2pm.  When the Argentines do arrive, some have an unfortunate habit of feeding the geese (grrrrr), and many come armed with very long selfie sticks (see below) which they use liberally (including for photos with geese).

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  • The rocky lakeside beaches around here are not the cleanest, particularly given the contrast with such lovely natural surroundings. There are generally quite a few cigarette butts, and on the last several beaches, a LOT of goose poop.
  • The girls generally entertain themselves quite well in these settings, digging in the sand, wading in the water, collecting rocks, etc.  However, given the previous point, I have to concentrate hard on reading and suspend concern about them inadvertently collecting goose poop instead of rocks.

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  • A lake outing will always be considered more successful if it ends with ice cream. And if the ice cream cafe happens to have a bouncy house, it’s like nirvana (see La Nina Curiosa’s blog post, which is far more interesting than mine.)

The weather was great, so a pleasant outing overall, though perhaps not my #1 lake district beach experience. (As for the title, Cassidy asked me yesterday when we could go back to Hawaii…)

-La Portavoz

Honking Beach

Yesterday I went on a boat ride to a beach called Playa Quila Quina,

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and then had ice cream in San Martin.

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I had raspberry yogurt ice cream. There was a Thomas-the-Train bouncy house there so after the ice cream we bounced!  It was fun.

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At the beach there were a lot of geese parading around getting food like a man would do to get money.  They were honking really loud.  I did not like the geese!

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-La Nina Curiosa

When Time is NOT of the Essence…

It’s funny how time marches on, even when you have no obligations and little semblance of a schedule. Before we left California, friends asked what we would DO for five whole weeks in San Martin, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. I was frankly a bit worried about how we would pass the time, but I knew that being on the move for more than 3 weeks at a time would be hard on the girls. So we decided to do 3 weeks on the road at the front end of our trip, 5 weeks in one place in the middle, then 3 more weeks on the road at the back end.

Now that we’ve been here in San Martin de los Andes for almost two weeks, what HAVE we done?? Short answer: not a whole heck of a lot!

On weekday mornings, while the girls have Spanish, Noah and I usually go for a run. We have found a pretty good one, about 7 or 8 miles (roundtrip) to a lovely lookout point over Lago Lacar. There are a few steep parts that I have to walk, but definitely a good workout and nice to have a destination.

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You can make it a loop by running back through the leafy resort town.

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On the way back, we often buy a few empanadas to bring home for lunch.  (Sierra and I have a new favorite flavor: the caprese empanada.) One of us may stop at the panaderia for bread and/or the verdularia for fruits and veggies, and every other day the supermercado for other staples. At some point during the day Noah usually gets out cash; there’s a pretty low daily limit, and we basically pay cash for everything here (blog post forthcoming on the cash economy in Argentina). This can take some time, as there is usually a fairly long line for the cajero automatico. The rest of our day is a mix of reading, writing, email, playing with the girls, and food preparation and clean-up. (Noah washes, I dry!).

Noah’s extra project is an online Spanish tutorial – he’s been working really hard at it and making good progress.  My extra project last week was planning the final 3 weeks of our Argentina trip. We now have all flights and hotels booked for our travels in the north of Argentina (in and around Salta, Iguazu Falls, and Buenos Aires). It was a lot of work to do all the research, but it should be pretty amazing. Now that I’ve completed that project, perhaps I’ll progress to project #2: making family photo albums from the last 3 years??

The girls have mostly been doing imaginative play in the house and/or the backyard, though occasionally we convince them to walk to the playground in Plaza Sarmiento in town. It’s a good 15-minute walk, which can be an impediment, but they do have fun once there.

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Yesterday Cassie had an unfortunate face-plant in the dirt at the bottom of the slide; she was fairly easily cheered, however, by a combination of blue Gatorade (which she’d never had before) to rinse with, and then a trip to the creperie across the street.

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We are saving bigger outings for Sat-Mon, when the girls don’t have Spanish. Outings around here mostly involve visiting different lakes, ideally with an option for a short hike somewhere near a decent beach. I was very pleased that we figured out how to take a public bus to Lago Lolog this past Monday; next up will hopefully be Playa Yuco.  I’ll definitely be ready for an excursion tomorrow.  Not surprisingly, I only do well with so much down time…

-La Portavoz

 

Miel (Honey)

Yesterday I went to a crepery.  I got egg, cheese and ham crep. And I got a ice cream nut pear crep.  It was delicious.  I shared it with my family.

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On the way back we found a cute puppy who we called Miel.  Miel means honey. We called her honey because both she and honey are sweet.  She was also the color of honey.  She liked tummy rubs!

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La Nina Curiosa

Far, Far Out in the Water…

Yesterday I went to a beach where the water was shallow reeeally far out.  There I stepped on half-a-yellow-jacket and had a picnic.  When I went out in the water I went so far out I touched a buey.

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The water was cold.  I went in the water with daddy and he swang me around twice. We had PB&J for lunch. And I made a sand castle.

La Nina Curiosa

Parque Nacional Lanin

Yesterday we rented a car and drove into Parque Nacional Lanin. As with most Argentina road trips, more than half of it was on ripio (gravel road). Also similar to previous road trips, we saw very few cars on the road. It’s strange, given that it’s still high season here in lake country and the town of San Martin de los Andes is buzzing with (mostly Argentine) tourists. I guess folks don’t stray too far off the beaten path, and if they do they go with tour groups in vans (?)

I had purchased discounted tickets for an 11am boat departure from Puerto Canoa, on Laguna Huechulafquen (Mapuche word that I still haven’t managed to say correctly!) [Apparently 11 am is so early that they have to entice people with discounts.] Anyway, we left the house at 8:30 am and arrived at the boat dock at 10:30 am. We were the only car in the parking lot, which I knew was not a good sign. Sure enough, the woman in the boat office told us that there would not be enough people for the 11am departure, so the first boat would leave at 1.  At least we still got the discounted fare!

It was actually fine, since there was a nice black sand beach right by the boat dock where the kids could play, and we had provisions for a picnic lunch (peanut butter and jelly, yeah!) With an almost cloudless blue sky, the views of Volcan Lanin from the boat were spectacular.

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We also got to see a ‘river’ of lava that had hardened into rock, and a bonsai forest of really old – very small – trees growing out of the volcanic rock.

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[I’m afraid we’ll have to ask Bob Frey for the scientific explanation of the natural bonsai trees, as I was having trouble following the guide’s explanation in Spanish. She was talking a mile a minute, and I think that was also the moment when I was refereeing a sibling battle…]

After the boat ride we decided to rally to drive to the end of the road in search of a waterfall hike I’d read about. The end of the road was quite a bit farther than anticipated, and at several points we considered aborting altogether. But I’m glad we didn’t (thanks to Noah’s eternal optimism). We finally reached the trailhead for Cascada La Sentilla, and better yet, we could actually see the impressive waterfall from afar as we started the hike.   [This is immensely helpful when embarking on a hot hike with tired kids!]  The photo below doesn’t really do it justice – it was about 25 meters, coming off a cliff.

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Sierra concluded afterward that the hike was “better than she’d expected,” and it was fun to cool off by splashing ourselves periodically with water from the rushing mountain stream.

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The out-and-back hike took a total of an hour, and Noah only had to put Cassidy on his shoulders for the last 5 minutes…success!  I just love the dirty faces 🙂

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-La Portavoz

Life in San Martin de los Andes

We have now been in San Martin for 5 days, and as Cassidy remarked yesterday, “it’s starting to feel like home” (how quickly they adapt).  She has found a few poles to climb, which certainly helps! (Below is the local playground in a nice, shady town square.)

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A few random observations from the last several days:

  • I’ve noted this before, but wow do Argentinian kids stay up late. As Noah and I try to fall asleep at night (around 10:30 pm here) – hours after we’ve tucked in our girls – we hear kids all over this complex laughing, playing, shouting, running, even splashing in the pool next door. I think this place is actually quieter during the day than it is at 10 pm at night!
  • It is quite remarkable to see that all shops and stores here, including rental car agencies and tour agencies, really do shut down for a full 4 hours between 1 and 5 pm. I tried to do errands yesterday afternoon, and it was a complete waste of time. I consoled myself by getting a delicious maracuya sherbert – at least the ice cream store was open…
  • After just over a month in Argentina I finally managed to find peanut butter (manteca de mani) Very exciting. Cassidy has been working hard to catch up on her banana-peanut butter intake, and I am very psyched for PB&J sandwiches!
  • Shopping here is rather European– you can go to a grocery store, but you are much better off going to the panaderia for bread, the verduraria for fruits and veggies, and the carniceria for meat. It’s kind of fun, but only because I am not short on time at the moment.  Of course, I still don’t know where all the good shops are, so I wander around a bit aimlessly…
  • This brings me to the fifth observation: it is invaluable to have a local contact when one is trying to do non-touristy things in a tourist town. And since we don’t want to constantly knock on the door of our duenos here, it’s great to have Lara (the babysitter/Spanish teacher) who has been answering our many random questions, from where to buy bus passes, to where to rent bikes and purchase a frying pan. [She’s working out great so far and seems really motivated to teach the girls – such a big plus for our time here.]
  • We need to become more independently mobile in order to abandon the need for these tourist ‘excursions’ – I did a group trip today up Cerro Colorado, but there is absolutely no need for a guide for a straightforward hike like that one. We are contemplating trying to buy a used bike for the rest of our time here…not sure whether ebay is up and running in San Martin (?)

To wrap this up, I’ll include a few photos from my hike today. It was fabulous to get out of town and really appreciate the lovely scenery. From the top of Cerro Colorado you can see the famous Volcan Lanin, along with a few other snow-capped peaks, including two volcanoes that are actually in Chile.

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I was with an Argentinian family (parents + 16-year old girl) from Plata – they were so sweet, I quite enjoyed chatting with them. They were not exactly regular hikers, however, so the guide took us up the steep trail at a snail’s pace; I don’t think I’ve ever hiked so slow! A fun day nonetheless, and I hope Noah can do this hike solo – at his own pace – in the coming week.

-La Portavoz

 

Visiting Volcanoes on a Vacation!

Today I am at a beach to get on a boat to see a volcano called Volcan Lanin.

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I made a sand town with my sister Cassidy.  It was in Puerto Canoa. It had black sand.  It had black sand because the volcanic rock had grounded in the water.

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I went on an hour hike to see a waterfall after the boat trip.  I felt tired and hungry after the hike.  But the waterfall was worth it.  The waterfall was tall and it sprayed me with water.

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– La Nina Curiosa

What’s more fun: collecting inch worms or journal writing?

We are getting settled in San Martin de los Andes, where we’ll be spending the next 5 weeks. It’s a very picturesque town on the shores of Lago Lacar, still in the lake country of Patagonia. San Martin is about 1/6 the size of Bariloche, so it is mucho mas tranquilo. It is still quite touristy, but upscale touristy vs. tacky, overdeveloped touristy. Most of the buildings in town are newish construction of glossy wood, in a uniform mountain-chic style (think Park City). There are colorful flowers – especially roses – everywhere.

We are staying in a long-term rental at Cabanas Arco Iris on the edge of town (about 8 blocks from the center). The cabana is great – a bit old school, with a very basic kitchen, but super clean and cozy.

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The best part about it is the huge grassy backyard that the five cabins share. There’s a big round table in the shade where we can eat outdoors, a few rickety playground structures that have already provided hours of entertainment,

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and of course, the highlight: a small stream that the kids can wade in. They have already ‘caught’ two caterpillars, five ladybugs, and multiple inch worms in their bug houses built of leaves and sticks.

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The open yard area facilitates meeting other guests, and we’ve chatted with several other families with small kids. Of course most of them are only staying for 3 or 4 nights, so it’s unlikely we’ll have anything more than extremely short-term acquaintances. But still, it mixes things up a bit, both for us and the girls. And since most of the tourists seem to be Argentinian, it’s a great chance to speak Spanish and learn about some of the rest of the country in the process.

Through the owners here, we have connected with a college student named Lara who will come to teach the girls Spanish and play with them for 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. At this point in the trip, after 4 weeks of 24-hour-a-day-togetherness, this is extremely welcome! Lara’s first visit this morning seemed to go well, fingers crossed this continues.

All in all, I’m pleased so far with our choice of where to put down roots for 5 weeks. However, there are a few lingering matters to be sorted. The first is to find a good trail run that we can do from our cabin, as we don’t have a car. This morning we ran up around Lago Lacar, but it was basically running along the shoulder of the road…pretty views, but not ideal.

The second is to figure out how to motivate Sierra to do her schoolwork. With each passing day she is more and more grumpy about writing in her journal – a task I thought she would really enjoy, but which seems to have become a laborious chore. To anyone out there who has ever considered home schooling, all I can say is good luck – better you than me! My very limited experience thus far is making me truly appreciate the importance of a group learning setting to motivate our social Sierra and keep her engaged.

The final matter to be sorted is that of kitchen implements. If I’m going to do any more cooking in this place, we’ll need to invest in a decent frying pan and spatula, as I think we’ve burned almost everything we’ve tried to make so far. Of course the alternative is to scope out the best take-out food options…this is on my list for tomorrow 🙂

-La Portavoz

Settling In

We are in San Martin De Los Andes. We moved in yesterday and are staying for 5 weeks. We are working on unpacking. There are shelves and closets for clothes. There’s a nice big stream in our yard. I am with my mom, dad, and sister. I was tired. I was tired because I had woke up early.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

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-La Nina Curiosa