It's been awhile since our last entry. Ww did make it to El Bolson, a little town about an hour and a half from Bariloche. Unfortunately, we hit the start of our first bad weather that day. It was raining the whole time, so the view of the mountains and lakes was limited. This probably also influenced how much we liked the town. It was definitely not the same caliber as San Martin de Los Andes. It seemed more disorganized and not as well maintained. We toured the town, but did not do any hiking (nobody really wanted to leave the car!!). The artisan craft fair that El Volson is known for still happened, as scheduled, but it just wasn't the same in the rain. We did stop at Saurios, an ice cream place that is arguably one of the best in Argentina. This place has more than eighth kinds of dulche de leche ice cream alone!! Still, it wasn't a Killian family favorite, which is saying a lot from these ice cream lovers!! We probably should have waited to make the trip on a nicer day, but we really just wanted to get out. Maybe next time. . .
The weather really surprised us the next day when we witnessed a full fledge snowstorm! The kids loved it, although we were shocked. As a result, all of the mountains are capped in white, now. It is so pretty! We did not expect a white holiday season this year! A pleasant surprise. What is even more pleasant, is the weather turned back to sunny and warm immediately. 75 degrees, clear and with amazingly little wind! Heaven! even Lago Nahuel Huapi had calm water today- a first!
We took advantage of the clear weather yesterday by heading to El Tronador, the highest peak in this area. El Tronador stands for thunder mountain, a name the first peoples gave the mountain for the sound they heard when huge chunks of ice would break off the glaciers. There are five glaciers on the Argentinian side of Tronador, alone. The mountain is very impressive. Prior to visiting it, we detoured to a waterfall called Las Alerces, named after the special trees in the area that grow only in Argentina and Chile. The waterfall is on the Rio Manso, a huge and wide river that is said to have incredible fishing. Lance was having a hard time seeing it and not fishing it!
These areas are accessible only by rocky, dirt road. Miles of it. All told, we probably spent 4 hours on dusty, one-lane dirt roads that day. (keep in mind we are packed in like sardines in our little rental!) Needless to say, Lance has officially mastered Argentine driving. By that we mean he can do the following with confidence and gusto: 1) pass another car on a somewhat blind corner at pretty high speed 2) play "chicken" with both cars, pedestrians, and the kamikaze Argentine bus drivers (in class by themselves)- and WIN! 3) come up on the rear bumper of some unsuspecting tourist in a Hertz rental car, tail the car, and eventually get the person to pull over so we can pass 4) for the most part, avoid catching air on the "no-see-um" speed bumps along the main highways 5) and this is the greatest accomplishment of all! Get out of our driveway without stalling for a few days in a row. The whole family is very proud of how well Papa Killian has immersed in the culture here!!!
During this tour to Tronador, it was so amazing to see cattle and horses grazing freely all over the land. We had to stop a few time for cows and horses that were in the road, none of which were the least bit concerned with us. The animals are just as beautiful as the landscape here. The girls cannot wait to get to our next stop at an Estancia (ranch) for more horseback riding. We have passed many gauhchos (the Argentine wranglers), as well as National Guardsmen, riding through the areas on horseback.
Thatcher has continued to go with the flow here. The other night at dinner, he made a statement that is our most favorite yet. We were sitting inn a restaurant at dinner and out of nowhere he says, "I love sin gas!". (In Bariloche, we drink only bottled water, despite being surrounded by these beautiful lakes! The locals agree that there is no restriction on sewage at this point. . . Enough on that for now, but there are many hygene issues that South America is facing.) Anyhow, the kids do not like bubbly water- agua con gas. They prefer it without gas or "sin" gas. We all just burst out laughing. The best part is that we were trying out the local Mexican restuarant that night. Too funny!
The best is that another night, Thatcher was really thirsty and the waiter was not coming to our table, so he got up and found the waiter himself. He immediately asked the waiter for "sin gas"! The poor waiter didn't speak any English, but figured out what Thatcher was wanting. He came over with a bottle of water and a huge grin on his face, laughing. The good news is that all of the kids are comfortable speaking in Spanish now and are not afraid to order or talk with other people in Spanish. We sort of forced this issue by telling them if they wanted sweets, they needed to remember the correct words and to order for themselves. Poor Skylar has been carrying around a "cheat sheet" in her pocket with words like "postre" (dessert) written on it! At least they are motivated!!!
Navidad (or Christmas) is much more mellow here than in the States, but the stores and homes have finally put up trees and decorations. I swear I had a sighting of Papa Noel (Santa Claus), the other day on the street in Bariloche! The kids love this! Lance bought our family our own Argentine christmas decoration a few days ago- a Mamuschka Doll- one of those carved, painted wooden dolls that has several dolls all stacked inside, each one smaller than the next. We all love her! She also happens to have the same name as our very favorite chocolate store here, so she is extra-special!
It's late, so we better sign-off, but we are thinking of you all and missing you so much!!
Mexican restaurant that night for dinner. It was all too funny.