17-Nov-2004 -- During a holiday in Chile and Argentina, I found myself in San Carlos de Bariloche with a "day at leisure". The Degree Confluence Project website indicated an unvisited confluence approximately 30 kilometres northeast, so I decided to give it a try.
Before setting off, I attempted to obtain a decent map of the area. Although an exhaustive search of the town's bookshops, tourist information centres and municipal library did turn up all manner of extremely good detailed topographic maps of the area to the west of Bariloche--Nahuel Huapi National Park, the town's big tourist drawcard--I could find virtually nothing of any value covering the area to the east. On an otherwise featureless map, the closest identifiable landmark, which I judged to be a fair distance south of the confluence, was Perito Moreno, a railway crossing on highway 23. (This guy Perito Moreno must have been pretty influential in Argentinean history, because he has all manner of things, from city streets to glaciers, named after him.)
Enquiries about public transport to Perito Moreno also bore very little fruit: just one scheduled bus per day, which left late in the afternoon. I did ascertain, however, that there was a commuter bus that went to Dina Huapi, where highway 23 joins highway 237 at the eastern end of Nahuel Huapi Lake, about half way to the confluence.
So, at 10:45 a.m. on a glorious sunny spring day, I set off on commuter bus number 71, hoping for the best. Forty minutes later I was in Dina Huapi, the confluence still 15 kilometres northeast. The bus driver confirmed that there was no more public transport from this point on, so I began the long 16-kilomtre walk east to Perito Moreno along the dusty deserted gravel road that constituted highway 23.
After walking roughly three kilometres, three gauchos came by in a truck and offered me a ride. I had to clamber up and over the tall side of the truck then try to find a semi-comfortable position amongst all the farming paraphernalia inside, but it sure beat walking!
In 15 minutes we were at Perito Moreno, the confluence now just 6.57 kilometres north. I clambered back down and thanked them profusely for the lift ("Muchas gracias!"), exhausting almost my entire Spanish vocabulary in the process. The driver then revealed that he spoke English, asking me what I was planning to do. I explained the object of my expedition, which he readily understood, and suggested that I follow the railway line around to a stream that I could then follow northwards towards the confluence.
It was now 12:20 p.m. The truck disappeared in a cloud of dust, and I set off on foot along the railway line. The track ran alongside a pretty lagoon on my right, which, according to a barely legible weather-beaten sign, was called "Laguna Los Juncos". It was home to a good variety of bird life, including several beautiful black-necked swans.
In order to follow the stream northwards, it was necessary to enter fenced off private property. I could see a farmhouse a few hundred metres beyond the gate, and decided to go and ask the owners for permission. But as I drew nearer to the house, it became quite apparent that the owners were not at home, and obviously hadn't been for quite some time! With the property evidently abandoned, I took this as de facto permission to enter, and proceeded on my way.
Following the stream was quite easy, as there was a disused vehicle track that ran alongside it, although several stream crossings were required en route, one of which necessitated removing my shoes and socks and wading across. The direction of flow was northwards, towards the Limay River, the main outflow of Nahuel Huapi Lake.
At 2:15 p.m. I arrived at a small unoccupied house, the confluence now 1.15 kilometres northeast, seemingly behind a mountain. I continued downstream--now on a walking trail, the disused vehicle track having ended at the empty house--hoping to discover a way around the mountain. However, half an hour later, with the confluence now 1.22 kilometres ESE, it became obvious that it wasn't behind the mountain at all, but on it! There was no option but to start climbing.
It was a long climb, gaining almost half a kilometre in elevation, but not too difficult, as the vegetation varied from relatively sparse to practically nonexistent, thus not hindering progress. This made a pleasant change from Chinese confluences, where I often find myself fighting through dense foliage on steep slopes. As I continued upwards more and more of the surrounding landscape revealed itself, and the view became increasingly impressive.
After an hour of climbing, I finally reached the confluence, almost at the crest of the mountain. Had I had more time, I would have continued to the top and explored the possibility of an alternate route down the southern face of the mountain, but it was already getting quite late, and I still didn't know how I was going to get back to Bariloche, so I just photographed the view in various directions: northwest, south and east, as well as the native vegetation of the general confluence area itself, then started my descent back the way I'd come.
The 12-kilometre walk back upstream to Perito Moreno was uneventful. I arrived at 7:45 p.m. feeling pretty exhausted, and decided to try calling for a taxi. However Perito Moreno consists of just a single house, and when I located the occupant, a middle-aged lady, she informed me that she had no telephone. Hitchhiking looked to be my only remaining option.
At that precise moment, a utility came along, and I frantically ran out to the road in an attempt to flag it down. The driver stopped, said he was going all the way to Bariloche, and very kindly offered me a lift, dropping me off at 8:25 p.m. right across the street from my hotel.