Villa Traful and the benefits of spontaneity

We left BA on a rainy Sunday afternoon armed with copious amounts of podcasts, road snacks and an overwhelming sense of relief to be back on the road. The task at hand? Make it to Bariloche, 1500 km south west of BA through the infamous Pampas region. We need to be there by Monday as on Tuesday our replacement cards arrive by FedEx at a hostel, courtesy of my brother.

It took us two days of long 8 hour drives to the sound of Dan Carlin’s voice discussing the history of the Persian Empire from the Assyrians, to Cyrus the Great, to Darius and eventually Alexander the Great to finally reach Neuquen, the first major town since we left BA.


On the way we stopped to check out some “dinosaur footprints”. Naturally we were skeptical but seeing these in their natural setting, by an azure lake was impressive.

Dino prints in the mud of the lake shore

100km outside of Bariloche, as I am dreaming of good coffee, salivating at the prospect of a good wine bar and above all excited to not spend 8hours straight in the car, Andy suggests a de tour.

“Let’s turn left here. 35k to Villa Traful, I think I read a few lines in a book about it”

What exactly was read is not explained.

A reluctant “fine” from me and off we go. Down one of the bumpiest dirt tracks we have come across.

10k in and we spot some vast, vertical walls prime for climbing.

Off the plains. Switching horizontal for vertical

15k in we get a first glimpse of the lake. It’s a deep blue colour, with pine trees growing right on the shore and waters so clear you can see each and every pebble from the road.

Last light fishing. Patagonian classic


25k in we spot the first camping site, it’s packed. 30k in and we now have a full view of this tiny alpine village with about 100 wood houses, a clutch of hotels and cabanas and young families and pensioners taking long strolls in the dedicated walking paths around the lake. It reminds me of Kellerman’s resort in Dirty Dancing. At the tourist information desk we are pointed to the only cash point in town and told of a beach 3km outside of town where we can set up a wild camp. Looks like we have a plan.

An evening at our camp spot.


Only the cash point does not accept our one remaining card. Mad scramble around the car, pockets are searched, bags are turned upside down. 600 ARD. That’s about £30 and we want to spend about two days here. We have enough food for dinner and breakfast and like mature, intelligent adults decide to postpone the problem to the next day.

Beach Tres Marias is everything we could have hoped for. Quiet, only a handful of other campers around, right by the lake offering ample shade. A run, some P90x to the amusement of our neighbours, dinner and movie in bed.

The next day we discover that the local supermarket accepts cards. Two day stay plan is therefore back on track, we stock up and decide to spend a day by the beach, reading, meditating and doing as little as possible. Andy builds us a dining room. We move from our little spot only to gather wood for our fire.

On Saturday morning, after coffee, bread, cake and chocolate (it’s my cheat day from diet) Andy suggests trekking to see some waterfalls.

“Maximum two hours” he says.

“I’d like to get to exercise propoerly for 20minutes or so if possible”, he says. “Run for the start of the trail?”

By now, we’ve been through this a couple of times. I’ve walked and run beside Andy long enough to know that his gate is about twice as mine. Most importantly, I should have realised that seeing as we were going to be running on a track that leads to a waterfall, we would be running UP. But now, high on chocolate and carbs I failed to see the signs. So of we went running up a very steep track, overtaking other bewildered trekkers who I am sure are now telling their friends stories about the two gringos that were running up the mountain at noon in the middle of the summer.

Half an hour in and we are still running. But that point I have (finally) put two and two together and have done the math. But I think of the chocolate and the bread and I keep running up stairs. Thankfully, when we get to the first waterfall, we realise that it pales in comparison to some others we’ve seen during our trip. We decide to skip the second one and run back down to the car where I finally get an edge on Andy courtesy of my fully functioning and un-injured knees.

At the lake, I dive straight into the freezing cold water and take in the surroundings for the last time. A quick bite, a glass of wine and by 3pm we are back in Gellan, heading to Bariloche while I catch myself thinking “thank god for detours”.

In a previous life I was a water creature. Hopefully a mermaid rather than a coral reef snake; but definitely a water animal
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