Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Home will always be home, and the view atop Cadillac Mountain on a crystal clear day, when the air is so crisp that one can stand on the granite slabs, overlook Frenchman's Bay and the "porcupines" that protect Bar Harbor, and hear, word for word, the radio conversations between lobsterman about a half-mile away, will always be my most heartfelt favorite in the world. But Bariloche, Argentina, with its cavalry of white peaks standing guard over the massive and forever fresh and blue Lago Nahuel Huapi, is the most beautiful place I've ever seen on earth.
The ride from Puerto Varas to Bariloche was about six hours. The first half was in Chile, and it was pretty to look at. There were lush green valleys walled in by 'Gunks-like cliffs and topped by coned, white volcanoes. Long vines hung off the rock walls and grey-trunk firs towered over the winding road. Then there is the border - two stops separated by a few miles of snowy, barren outcrops, and then there is Argentina.
The lake is huge, massive; it sometimes takes days to cross by boat if the weather is bad. And it is blue, sparkling blue with a hundred coves and inlets all protected by long islands and arching peninsulas that make it impossible to see the entire lake at once, even if standing on top of the tallest peak in the area. I took nearly twenty photos through the bus windows the first hour that I saw the lake. It was awe inspiring at its greatest.
Then it was time to leave. I had a seat on AndesMar on the 2pm bus that would get me to Osorno, Chile at 7pm. Then I had a two-hour wait for my sleeper seat on the overnight Cruz del Sur bus that would leave at 8:45pm for Santiago. And then the AndesMar bus was 90 minutes late arriving in Bariloche, and the man on the bus said we'd arrive by 9pm, and my ticket to Santiago was non-refundable. How did I get myself into this mess? Well, all other buses from Bariloche to Osorno left early in the morning. Because Santiago is a good 12 hours north of Osorno, I wanted to sleep on an overnight bus. Osorno is not much of a town either. I had a heavy rucksack with all my gear, a heavy shoulder bag with my valuables, and an eight-hour wait in a crummy town if I left that early. So I decided to take the only afternoon bus, and because I had a two-hour wait in Osorno for the bus the Santiago, I didn't think for a moment that there would be a problem getting to Osorno, even with customs being a bit of a drag (btw - the bus companies lie about time between Chile and Argentina. Always assume it'll take a couple of hours longer than they advertise).
Thankfully the guy on the AndesMar bus was able to call ahead to Cruz del Sur in Osorno to try to work something out. Cruz del Sur told him they'd try to get me on a later bus, but there was no guarantee. "Great," I thought. "I was going to have to find a hostel late at night, and then spend the next day in Osorno waiting for the next night's fleet of overnight buses to leave." Amused was not the right word to describe my disposition.
I held out hope that we'd actually make it on time. I wanted to believe that customs would be smooth (and it was), but there were other obstacles that I didn't anticipate. For one, we seemed to stop forever in a small town outside Bariloche called Angostura. It's a pretty town that I'd like to visit when I come back through here again, but what seemed as if what should have been a 15-minute wait turned out to be a 30-minute wait. I watched the second hand tick on my watch for a while until I gave up and watched the finish line of the adventure road race that was going on at the same time.
Then we finally took off, and even though we crept through town to avoid the racers and spectators, I was hopeful that this was a planned stop and that traffic ahead would be light. But no sooner did my hopes rise did they plummet back to earth: we had stopped for gas just on the outskirts of town.
It was good that the AndesMar man called Cruz del Sur, because if he hadn't then I would have been in a greater state of anger and frustration. I gave up worrying when we finally left the Chilean border crossing. We were going to be late and all hope depended on Cruz del Sur hooking me up on a later bus. My fingers were crossed.