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February 17, 2012 – Livin’ It. Lovin’ It. Los Rapidos.

February 20, 2012

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We woke up to our last breakfast at the El Desafio estancia. In contrast to the hot and dry conditions of the previous days, a torrential downpour began as we waited for our transportation to arrive. We loaded our packs and we headed into Bariloche (province of Rio Negro) for a brief stop and internet access. Bariloche started as a small Swiss-German town and has grown into a large town in excess of 100,000 people the economy of which depends largely on tourism. It is the self-proclaimed Chocolate Capital of Argentina. In town, we foraged for snacks, drank some good coffee, and tried the famous chocolate of the town. An hour later we were back at the vans, ready to continue our journey. Our drive from Bariloche took us from dry steppe habitat into the temperate rainforest. Upon our arrival at Los Rapidos, a campground within the bounds of Nahuel Huapi National Park, we dropped our stuff in our communal bunkhouse and went for a short rainy hike, glad for the opportunity to wash the ash off our clothes. Walking down to lake, seeing great grebes, and having no ash underfoot was a good introduction to our new environment. The trees were a different species of Nothofagus than what we had seen at El Desafio (N. dombeyi or in local parlance the Coihue), the only evergreen Southern Beech species in Argentina. Their tall stature created a cathedral effect overhead. The undergrowth of the forest at Los Rapidos was also different from the sparse vegetation growing beneath the lenga trees at El Desafio; here, the understory was much thicker and composed largely of “bamboo” in the genus Chusquea . After dinner, the weather cleared, so we sat outside enjoying mate (pronounced mat-eh), a traditional Argentine tea, that tastes somewhat bitter. We also played cards and Bananagrams and looked forward to the next day which — weather permitting– could include a trip to a glacier!

Los Liolaemus Locos

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