The long drive to the lake – Lake Alumin

Our first trip together and we were both really looking forward to it. I spent the week preparing minidiscs filled with great music for the long drives around the provinces of southeastern Argentina.

On Friday evening, Max came home from work to fetch me and we were off. We were sitting in the very front of the very top of the double decker bus so we had a terrific view for the 15 hour ride. Funny thing that within the first few minutes of our journey, we ended up discussing all the `unpleasants` getting them out of the way. We needed to have a `talk` to clear the muddled air of all the residue built up from the smog of the big city. Once all those cards were out of the way, we were smooth sailing for the rest of the week.

We somehow found a way to snuggle into one seat and watch the stars through the big picture windows before drifting into a light sleep. We arrived into Neuquen and were met by Max`s cousin, Andres. We only stopped long enough to eat a quick meal then were off again for another 5 hour drive to the lake. I played DJ while the boys caught up on the family news, intermittently pointing out landmarks to me.

It was a bit strange to me that everyone had to get out of the car while at the gas station. They will not fill you up unless the car is empty…of people I mean. We stopped shortly in Zapala where the uncle and another cousin joined us.

I learned that Neuquen is almost a mirror of my home province of Alberta. It is the southern hemisphere version complete with a strong oil and gas industry as well as dinosaur fossils galore. The lakes, mountains and terrain differ slightly but the general idea is the same. Like an inkblot except where we have prairies of wheat and canola, here is a vast desert with not sand but dirt, rocks and weed tufts. Where we have cows and elk, they have sheep and horses.

Once we were in the mountains, the views became more stunning introducing me to Patagonia. We drove in and around the steep windey dirt roads occasionally passing a sheepherder trudging by on his trusty steed. We would wave as we would pass by this flash from the past who would in turn give us a respectful smile and nod. It is obvious these people are steeped in tradition and culture, each deep weather hardened line on their face holding a story. The climate is quite extreme here in the Andes and I can only imagine how strong and tough these people must be, yet with such a calm and gentle air around them.

I gazed out over the rolling mountains which seemed to be red, brown, green and even pink I noticed that there is really no life here except for some horses and sheep. We finally reached Lago Aluminé but as the sun had set I could only get a faint idea of its splendor.

Max knows how crazy I am about fishing so first things first, we headed out in the boat for an evening fish. We didn’t catch anything that day or the next but we had fun basking in the sun and speeding around in the boat. Because they don’t really speak English, I was forced to practice my Spanish in order to get to know Max’s extended family. We visited sipping Argentinian wine by the toasty fireplace. After 20 hours in vehicles, we hit the hay early and slept like logs.

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