Lake Nahuel Huapi and Puerto Blest

The bad weather broke and we had the most beautiful day today. Ann and I got up early to go down to the lake to catch the early morning sunrise on the Andes. We first watched the Earth’s shadow moves across the globe followed by a soft pink glow and finally the sunlight itself hitting the peaks with birds diving in and out of the emerging sunlight.

We got in about an hour of shooting before heading back to the hotel, breakfast and our excursion for the day. Coming back from Lake Nahuel Huapi, we walked through town to the Centro Civico where the police were showing up for their morning shifts.

I must admit to being rather surprised at the amount of graffiti around town. Nothing seems to be safe from statues to the cathedral in town to the police station itself and some of the graffiti is downright concerning.

Back at the hotel, we caught breakfast, downloaded camera memory cards to Powerbooks and got ready for the bus ride to Puerto Pa�uelo where we picked up a boat named the Condor (perhaps in reference to one Butch Cassidy caught here in Bariloche back in 1905 after robbing a bank in Patagonia) to cross the waters of Lake Nahuel Huapi and up the Blest arm to its end. Along the way we were escorted by a loose group of kelp gulls (Larus dominicanus).

We passed by the grave of Francisco Pascacio Moreno, an Argentine explorer and scientist where the boat paused in respect. We then continued on to Puerto Blest and managed to get in lots of peeps photos on the way.

The region looks very much like the South Island of New Zealand or Norwegian fjords and it has a climate and vegetation very much like that of Tierra del Fuego. Fortunately, upon reaching the end of the Blest arm, we were able to go for a short hike up to see Frias lagoon which was followed by some of us going for a hike around the rim of the lake to meet up with all of the others who took the boat across the arm where we had lunch at the Hotel Puerto Blest, built in 1904.

It was a lovely hike up to the lagoon and then around the lake to Puerto Blest, albeit a bit muddy, but I got to spend some time with one of the faculty members that we are trying to recruit, David Williams. Because I was out of town giving a talk at a conference when David’s first visit to the Moran Eye Center came up, this was a nice opportunity to get to know him a little bit outside of the scientific discipline.

We eventually made it around to the Hotel Puerto Blest where we were to have lunch followed by singing, dancing, drinking and eating and I got some of the first shots of one type of caracara, the Chimango caracara. There are several species of caracara here, and unfortunately, most of my time on this trip will be spent in meetings and not photographing them.

In addition to the bird life, we had a culpeo show up for the BBQ as well. Culpeos are small South American foxes that have been quite successful here. This one would show up, hang out on the periphery and wait for someone to throw it a piece of meat whereupon it would disappear, possibly to feed its pups and then return about ten minutes later.

The aforementioned BBQ itself was a traditional grill of sorts with chorizo sausages (tasty), blood sausages (I’ll pass, thanks), and lamb. The Malbec wines were tasty, the music was very good and the dancing was a riot. The other always pleasing and surprising thing about events such as this is that you get to see other talented aspects of colleagues. Nick is a great singer, Ruben is a talented pianist and *some* of my colleagues can really dance.

After the party, people slowly made their way down to the Condor where the boat crew was waiting to take our tired bones back to Puerto Pañuelo while we lazed about on deck and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Also, I promised Robyn that I’d get him a picture of the Bugfish in the Andes, so Robyn…… Here it is courtesy of Ann Torrence:

As we travelled along, some of us fed the gulls with crackers while others (Ann, Pachi and I) photographed the acrobatics as the gulls matched speed and approach to take a tasty cracker snack from eager tourists while we passed in front of the volcano Tronador. We also spent some time watching the cabins by the side of the lake wondering just what it would take to purchase a vacation home down here to escape the winters in the Northern hemisphere.

Upon leaving the boat, we bundled back into our busses for the trip back to the hotel past the luxurious Llao llao resort, churches and other people recreating on this beautiful day.

We got back to the hotel around 7:00 and after an appropriate amount of rest went out in search of foodstuffs. Dinner was had at a delightful little Mexican restaurant not too far away from the hotel called Dias de Zapata. Salsas were mighty tasty, but interestingly even the “spicy” salsas here are fairly mild. That said, the guacamole was most acceptable and the flat steak (literally pounded flat) was despite its thin dimensions, amazingly good. Again, the grass fed beef here in Argentina is a completely different flavor than the beef we typically get in America fed by corn based feed.

At dinner despite our fatigue from the day, Ann and I agreed to meet the next morning for another go at capturing the morning light hitting the Andes. So, it was an early (1:00am) night back at the hotel to grab some sleep prior to another morning of shooting.

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