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Day 6 Route 40 to San Carlos de Bariloche

Our last day in Welsh Patagonia before heading across the border into Chile (thank goodness we came and left before the terrible earthquakes to hit there in March – which rattled a few buildings in Esquel, I am told).

Jeremy allowed us a short lie-in and we left the town on yet another beautiful day, heading up Argentina's infamous route 40 for the 300 kilometre drive to Bariloche. Route 40 follows the Andes for 5,000 kilometres from the top of Argentina on the Bolivian border all the way down to Tierra del Fuego. It is certainly one of the most scenic roads in the World, but also one of the craziest, with many parts of it unpaved and with few towns and petrol stations. If you can drive its entire length without any mishaps, you deserve a medal!

We only sampled a relatively short section, but that was dramatic enough! Plenty of potholes, a condor or two watching us as we passed through the desert section, police road blocks in the alpine section (looking for sheep smugglers, Jeremy told us, but we didn't believe him!) and views, views and more views when we reached the Lake District.

We stopped at the Leleque estancia, a vast ranch of almost half a million acres owned by the Italian Benetton family (and managed by an Argentinean of Scottish descent named Ronald MacDonald), where there is a museum of the indigenous peoples of the region. As well as showing the history of the nomadic Tehuelche people (who were such good friends of the Welsh), it also explained in some detail the contribution the Welsh made to the exploration and settlement of Welsh Patagonia. There was even a recording of the Welsh hymn Y Bob Yn S'yn Fyddlon (Rachie) as part of one of the displays!

We passed through beautiful and high mountain valleys with fresh fruit, honey and jam available from every farmhouse and eventually landed in El Bolson in time for lunch. El Bolson is the fine fruit capital of Patagonia and a centre of beer making. It also is home to Jauja, the makers of the finest ice cream in Patagonia. We had lunch outside in the sunshine and, I must say, the ice cream lived up to its reputation! After a tour of the huge craft market (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), we curled up through the mountains into a an area dominated by dramatic lakes until we reached the Arelauquen Golf and Country Club, our home for the night. We spent so much time stopping to see the views that we had no time left to pop up Bariloche's famous Cerro Campanario chair lift, from the top of which, according to National Geographic Magazine, the vistas of the mountains, lakes and volcanoes around Bariloche constitute the seventh best view in the World!

Jeremy had one more treat in store for us – dinner at Cassis, voted the best gourmet restaurant in Argentina for two years' running.

We sat on the balcony sipping Argentinean champagne watching the sun go down over Lago Gutiérrez. Ernesto, our host, gave us a tour of the wine cellar and we ordered Patagonian wine to drink with our meal. And what a meal! Cassis definitely deserves its awards.

A perfect end to our first trip to Patagonia.

It will definitely not be our last.


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Welsh Education in Patagonia



El Bolsón, one of the magical indian sculptures

Route 40, Lago Mascardi, on the way to Bariloche

Route 40, more glorious lakes in the Bariloche lake district

Bariloche, Old Man's Beard growing by Lake Gutierrez

Bariloche, the view from the cablecar

Bariloche, the view from Cassis

Bariloche, Jeremy, Cristina, me and Jonathan toasting a wonderful trip at Cassis

Bariloche, Patagonian lamb strudel at Cassis

Bariloche, me and Jonathan on our last evening in Welsh Patagonia at Cassis



Esquel - Chubut - Patagonia - Argentina - Email: info@welshpatagonia.com

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