Friday, January 18, 2008

Day 15

Day 15  January 18, 2008


     Gustavo Bruni drove up in a Land Rover promptly at 9am.  He owns an Adventure Tour company that specializes in river rafting, mountain biking and trecking in the Andes.  He is strong, athletic and handsome, a father of three, who lives the outdoor life.  He does not speak English.  We spent about 12 hours in the mountains, in a Sahara like desert called Les Lunes, and driving down the Rio Atuena, driving and hiking, having lunch at a mountain lake resort and practicing our Spanish verb conjugations. He was disappointed we did not want to go river rafting or rock climbing, but stopped frequently so we could take  fantastic photos of river rafters, geologic formations and a grand canyon aptly named the Valle Grande.  Along the way we saw four hydroelectric plants that had been miraculously engineered into the sheer cliff walls of the canyon.  The Argentines are self sufficient in energy, having a large quantity of oil and natural gas, but also generating hydro power and selling it all over South America. 

      We also stopped at a new 9 hole golf course and walked through the first couple of holes on our way to the Bodega de Golf.  This is our first experience of a golf course being built into an existing vineyard.  The idea is a great one, as the wine was very good and the club house is beautiful.  Build it and the golf playing wine drinkers will come.  But on the way to the winery, walking across the driving range, I saw a snake.  Wow, did Gail jump.  Not just any snake.  A coral snake.  It was beautiful and only about three feet away.  I took about four photos before it disappeared into a hole.  Later I showed the photos to Gustavo and he said, it may be a "false coral".  We then showed the photos to the hostess of the winery and she said it was a real coral snake.  (One of the most deadly in the world.)  It brings a new meaning to a "golf hazard."

     For lunch we had another Parilla, which really means an unending procession of roasted meats.  Not just roasted, but roasted over an open, wood fire.  The meats are beef, chorizo sausage, ribs and sometimes pork and chicken.  Each restaurant has their own special presentation, but the waiter keeps coming back with more meat until you say "No Mas."  It was delicious and the view of the lake and the water skiers enchanting.  It reminded us of Lake Chelan before all the houses were built.  Given the economic boom here, it will not take long to look a lot like Chelan.

     Back at the hotel in San Rafael we checked emails and Gail went to the pool.  We have 5 hours to kill as at 11 pm we take the all night (10 hour ride) bus to Neuquen.  This is the city of pears, cherries and apples about 1000 kilometers south of this desert climate.  It is supposed to be greener and very beautiful.  It will be difficult to improve as we really love this town.  We have not been on a 10 hour bus ride ever, so it will be an adventure.

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