San Martin de los Andes sits at the north side of the Seven Lakes route, about 160km north of Bariloche. The road from Bariloche to here is winding, offering brilliant views of the lakes all of which are a different shade of blue.
San Martin is a small village (about 6 blocks wide and 30 deep) nestled between steep mountains crowded with skiers in the winter and trekkers and mountain bikers in the summer. It is to Argentina what Meribel is to Switzerland; ZenTea a brilliant organic cafe offers vegan and vegetarian dishes, Almacen could easily be found in the narrow streets of St Germain and all the clothes stores offer the latest Spyder, Patagonia and North Face gear. The pavements are adorned with rose bushes and there is no single piece of trash. Anywhere. Every time we roll into town over the course of the two days we stay here there are people walking, running and cycling up and down the road that loops around the lake.
We treat ourselves to a camping site; this means electricity, hot water and security for Gellan. The site overlooks the lake so every morning whilst I do Insanity, Andy takes a cup of coffee and his notebook and sits at the edge of the terrace admiring the views. For the most part the site is empty, though on the second night when we come back from a day of mountain biking (again, just Andy) we find the site packed with people. There’s about 50 of us and whilst for the most part everyone’s quiet around 10pm there’s a cacophony of music playing from various cars. Shakira’s latest single and a revised version of the Macarena set to regeton (yes people. It’s back) are the most popular tunes. Amidst the chaos and the noise we remain undeterred. A tasty hot dinner, a movie in what is now called Cinema Gellan and by midnight we are falling asleep looking at the star filled sky through the tent window.
Andy tells me the riding here is not exceptional. The trails on the bike park are “so-so”, the rental bike is “a kids bike” and there is no protective gear on offer.
As our third day in San Martin starts we explore options to kayak in the lake, or trek to the top of an ear by mountain… all are dismissed in favour of heading north and wild camping for a couple of days. Alone, without Shakira, freshly ground cappuccinos and unlimited wifi.