Comfortably settled on a van, we spent the day traveling around a changing scene with different green hues towards Lakes Huechulafquen and Paimún.
We rose very early in the morning and were picked up at the inn to go on a tour around Lakes Huechulafquen and Paimún, inside the territory of Lanín National Park.
As we took National Route 234, and in spite of being summertime, the cold morning temperature was harsh on our skins. We traveled 40 kilometers to reach the Argentinian capital of trout: Junín de los Andes
. We made a stop at the main square to visit the Handicrafts Market, where the members of the Mapuche
community display and sell their work.
Shortly afterwards, we visited the parish church called 'Our Lady of the Snow
'. A modern building, it features simple ornamentation with pure lines. It was specially designed to integrate Christian faith and the Mapuche
beliefs. The large transparent windows let the light in and offer a special kind of warmth. The guided tour let us understand the sense of such mixture. Besides, worship is paid to blessed Laura Vicuña, who lived in the city and died at the age of 13.
We left the city behind and went back to National Route 234 up to its intersection with gravel Provincial Route 61, which runs parallel to the Chimehuín River. We were heading west, towards the Chilean border.
A few kilometers ahead, we came across the C.E.A.N (Centro de Ecología Aplicada del Neuquén)
, which stands for 'Neuquén's Applied Ecology Center'. Research works on vegetable species and the relation between native and introduced animals are carried out at this venue.
A short tour around the facilities let us observe how fry become trout in the large pools as a result of a task that lets the population of salmonidae in regional rivers and lakes remain stable.
We kept on traveling through the open scene. We crossed 22 kilometers of steppe heading for the famous 'Huechu', as popularly known in the area. As we reached the mouth of the Chimehuín River, we got off to stretch our legs and listen to the guide. 'We are now at the most important spot for fly-fishermen in Patagonia, according to experts'.
Then the 'lake at the end' appeared before us. That is the meaning of the word 'Huechulafquen'. This large mass of rough waters lies in the land where the imposing Lanín Volcano rules with its 3,776 meters of height.
'Are we there yet?' 'No. We still need to cover 30 kilometers around the lake' was the guide's answer to our impatient question. Eventually, we got to Puerto Canoa and went on a short hike along an interpretation trail called 'The Woods', where we saw the local flora: lengas, ñires and monkey puzzle trees of different ages.
The white silhouette of the José Julián Catamaran led us to the pier, where we learned that it goes on lake tours around the Huechulafquen and Epulafquen. A third lake, the Paimún, joins the former through a narrow passage and invites watercrafts to sail its quiet waters surrounded by hills and thick woods inhabited by red deer, foxes, wild boar, hares and otters.
We reached our destination and we had so much to discover that we did not believe it was possible to see it all in one afternoon. After a ride around that green area full of life, we settled down under a tree to taste some delicious mate and regain strength.
The orange sunset also showed a gray mist hanging amidst the mysterious mountains. It had been worth getting up early after all! We promised to return to that intense site in order to spend some more time there.
Duration: All day
How to get here: If you are located in San Martín de los Andes should take National Route 40 northbound. After 42 km. you will pass through the town of Junín de los Andes. You should continue along the route to the area where the military zone mountain regiment and before crossing the bridge over the river Chimehuín must turn left onto Provincial Route 61 west. Take this route and do 22 km (10km asphalt, gravel 12km) Chimehuín bordering the river to the mouth of Lake Huechulafquen where the entry of Lanin National Park. At this point you will have the first view of the Lanin volcano and begin to enjoy the diverse landscapes that form the Andean Patagonian forest. Finally you must travel 30 km to Puerto Canoa, enjoying beautiful scenery framed by hills, mature trees populated vegetation (Pehuenes, Coihues etc.) and the Mapuche communities that are stationed there, offering places whose natural beauty will surprise you.
Any inquiry are available.
Bear in mind: Prior arrangements must be made with the travel agency. Sometimes, there is an option to have lunch at one of the most emblematic restaurants in the City of Junín de los Andes. Some other times, travelers may enjoy lunch during the ride, whether at some restaurant or enjoying their own lunch boxes.
It is advisable to carry everything necessary to prepare mate. At the end of the tour, the locals offer tortas fritas for sale.
What to Buy:
Right opposite the main square at Junín de los Andes there is a Handicrafts Market where authentic Mapuche objects are sold.