Every once in a while I travel without the kids. When I do, I try to add in activities that I wouldn’t really be able to do if the kids were there. This was the case last year when I headed to Florence with a friend for a week, renting Vespas and mountain bikes. And it was definitely the case this year, when I traveled to Argentina for a conference and decided to see how many things I could fit into four days (really two full days and two half days). It turns out the answer is: a lot.
I signed up for a multi-sport adventure through Andestrack Patagonia based in San Martín de los Andes. We would be hiking, which I loved in Chilean Patagonia with my kids earlier this year, but we would also be kayaking, rafting and mountain biking. Not sure what else we could have fit in? It turned out to be a perfect few days, and one of my favorite adventure excursions ever. The details:
Day One – San Martín de los Andes – Mountain Biking
It’s not exactly easy to get to San Martín de los Andes from California, but it’s definitely worth the journey. I flew from Los Angeles to Miami and then on to Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires I cleared passport control and customs at the international airport (EZE) and took a bus across the city to the domestic airport (AEP). I then flew two hours southwest to San Martín, close to the Chilean border.
At the airport I met up with an Andestrack rep and the nine others who had also signed up for this adventure and we traveled 20 minutes to town. We checked in to Casa de Eugenia, a cute B&B just three blocks from the main street and one block from Lake Lácar. And then, wasting no time at all, we were off. We took a shuttle up the mountain from town where Andestrack had mountain bikes waiting for us, already perfectly sized based on our information we had provided. Then we rode down to town…the long way, a mix of single track and wider trails/roads, with some walking and stream-crossing en route. It was easy for the experienced mountain bikers in the group but I found it slightly challenging given that I had never ridden single track before. We got to town just in time for sunset, had some downtime at the B&B and then walked to dinner at La Nueva Barra just a block away. Had to go for the wild boar – one of my favorites, and unfortunately not something I see on menus very often in California.
Day Two – Lanín National Park – Hiking and Rafting
On our second day we drove roughly an hour and a half north of San Martín to Lanín National Park, near the base of Lanín Volcano. We started with a walk through a forest of monkey-puzzle trees – technically araucaria araucana, a unique, very hard, very slow-growing tree that’s native to Chile and western Argentina. We then hiked up to the Lago Tromen overlook. This was an adventure! Officially it’s an easy 1km hike. But officially it’s only able to be hiked November to April. We were there in mid-October, and there was still a lot of snow on the trail – when we could locate the trail at all. Nevertheless we climbed – and sunk into the snow – and climbed, aided by bamboo that makes an excellent support when you need it. When we made it to the overlook it was stunning – definitely worth the hike. We brought out our sack lunches, dined, and then hiked back down, which was far easier.
We then drove over to the Rio Chimehuin and its Class III rapids for an hour and a half of rafting. The water was cold but stunningly clear, and the frequent views of the Lanín Volcano made this a really fun afternoon.
After driving back to town, Andestrack hosted an excellent barbecue at Casa de Eugenia, with several very good wines. A fun evening.
Day Three – Lanín National Park – Cycling and Kayaking
This was a full day! We started by driving a little over an hour from San Martín to Lanín National Park where we got back onto our mountain bikes. Not much off-road biking this time though. We rode 17km on the main park road to Lake Machonico, at which point we hopped off, shed some layers, and got into kayaks. We then kayaked across a section of Lake Machonico and up the Rio Hermoso to the smaller Lago Pichi Machonico. Lunch was waiting for us on a small beach – pork sandwiches with guacamole. So good! Then we kayaked back to Lake Machonico, got back onto our bikes and continued towards San Martín.
The ride had some long uphill sections as well as a lot of descents. I don’t have cycling legs so it was definitely challenging, but I was never tempted to quit and get into the support van. We rode for another 25km or so to the Mapuche village of Pil Pil, where we met with the Mapuche spiritual leader while his wife fried up amazing puffed bread (similar to sopapillas), and he told us about indigenous life in Argentina. We also explored the village/farm a little. I LOVED the addition of this cultural element – something that I wasn’t expecting on an adventure trip – and my legs loved the hour-long break before we rode the final 5km back to Casa de Eugenia.
Dinner was at Piedra Buena Cervecería a few blocks from the B&B. Good burgers and beer. I was surprised how many kids were out with their parents at 11pm. We’ve never eaten that late anywhere in the world with our kids!
Day Four – San Martín de los Andes – Hiking
On our last day we had a few hours before leaving for the airport. Several people in our group went on a mountain bike ride, but my legs were worn out from the previous day so instead I headed out with a friend to walk/hike from the B&B up towards Mirador Bandurrias, an overlook with views of Lake Lácar. I loved the 45-minute forested hike to the overlook. I’m actually not sure if we made it to the main overlook, but we were happy with the view. And while we were there, probably two dozen sheep rambled right past us. Such a perfect end to the trip!*
Andestrack Patagonia put this trip together as kind of a media preview into what they do. Their standard trips are typically longer and focus either on mountain biking or hiking, but they’re flexible at designing any kind of adventurous trip that people want. Highly, highly recommended. In four days not a single thing went wrong, and we all loved Diego and Julien, our guides. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. And Casa de Eugenia was a great place to stay.
*Note: if you climb up to Mirador Bandurrias, I can’t guarantee the sheep sighting! No idea where they came from or where they were heading.