03/01/2008 85 °F
The Cruce de Lagos is a route through the Andes from Puerto Montt, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina by way of several mountain lakes connected by backcountry roads. We elected to take two days to make the crossing, spending a day and night at Peulla, a resort hotel built 80 years ago. The first crossing, at Lago Todos de los Santos, provides spectacular views of mountains and volcanoes, of which there are over 2,000 in Chile.
These mountains were formed by glaciers that created long narrow lakes and valleys with steep sides. Peulla and Todos de los Santos are under 2,000 feet in elevation, so the temperature is warm and we are unusually lucky to have no rain. Amy the gaucha rides the horses again and the rest of us take a long kayak paddle up the Rio Negro where we see absolutely no other humans. It is difficult to believe that places like this still exist.
As we enter Argentina, we climb higher into the mountains and the lakes become glacial - the water is the color of melted glacial ice. The landscape becomes more dramatic as the valleys and gorges become steeper and narrower. The forests have trees with shapes, textures and colors unlike those of North America.
On the eastern side of the Andes, we enter the huge Nahuel Huapi National Park and sail across the lake of the same name to reach Bariloche, Argentina´s destination for mountain recreation. We hike and then continue on to the smaller town of San Martin de los Andes where the pace is much slower and we discover Quila Quina National Park and its more deserted beaches. Accessible by boat from the town (one of two boats on a lake that is the length of Lake Tahoe), we have found a mountain paradise.