Traversia Paso el León: to refugio el Arco (GPT21)

26 February 2018
Paso El Leon Huella

It’s peak season in Bariloche. What once was a destination for the adventurous traveller, is now a party destination for the young and a luxurious destination for the little less young.

This is my fourth visit to the town and my previous visit wasn’t memorable. I believe I’m a bit too old for scruffy bunk beds in a cellar, rancid bathrooms and too drunken and too noisy roommates.

My last hike, the Ruta de 5 Lagunas, was stunning and even though I’d planned a short multi-day trip back to Chile, I’ve decided that I’m done hiking in Patagonia.

Too bad for me it’s peak season in Bariloche!

After I’ve found myself a mwah hostel for a mwah price I head to the bus officina in the centre of town. The ticket seller tells me that the next bus with one! spot available leaves in three days.

So, I take the bus to the bus station with a variety of bus enterprises. Again, the next available bus leaves in three days. ‘Be quick if you want to buy a ticket they’re going fast!’

I’m too tired to make a decision and return to town. On my way back I realize that hiking is as fast as waiting for the bus. Just before closing time I head to the grocery store to buy resupplies for my next Andes Crossing, this time back to Chile. The next morning I head to the bus office. There I’m told to be thankful with my 14:00 bus ticket to Río Villegas and from the bus stop near Río Villegas, 35 kilometers of uninteresting ripio awaits

Anything is better than spending three days waiting in Bariloche

That afternoon just after leaving Río Villegas by foot a car stops and offers me ride ‘it’s only six kilometers’, the driver apologizes. I’m happy with every kilometer, six kilometers equals to one long hour of road walking.

After the first ride my luck is over. There are quite a few cars passing by, but unfortunately most cars are full. About an hour later a car stops, the couple are on their way to a bridge about one kilometer away, but they drive a few extra kilometers just for me. How friendly!

Not much later finally a car, heading all the way to the campsite at the end of the road (and the end of Argentina), stops. The driver says that Bariloche has changed a lot. It’s now known as a party destination for the young and rich from Buenos Aires.

The campsite turns out to be a pleasant surprise; there’s is a beautiful beach, a clear green river and at the restaurant I spent my last Argentinian pesos on a meal and a drink.

The next morning it’s a 10k. hike to the border. ‘This year there are far fewer tourists than last year’, says the border guard. ‘They started working with camping permits and reservations at the popular La Junta’.

Leaving Argentina by this self-service gate.

At the river there’s a short wait for the boat: the bridge was destroyed a few years ago.

Cargo for the ‘ferry’ over the river.

And after answering the questions flawlessly in Spanish, the Carabineros stamp my passport and I’m officially back in Chile again.

Paso el León

For a long time this trail was heavily used by Arrieros the bring their cattle to the abattoir in Cochamó at the Chilean Coast. The route is still used by a lot of men on horses. Today, almost all of them smell and/or appear drunk. I decide to stay away from them.

Lately it’s been dry and warm making it less muddy and easy to walk and on the extra muddy and steep parts there are all kinds of constructions build, not for hikers but for the horsemen and their cattle.

This Andes Crossing is more organized than the northern Paso de Vuriloche; here are more campsites and the Pobladores sell bread, eggs and more to hikers.

If it turns out that today’s goal, the ‘camping’ at Lago Vidal, is situated near the house of one of the drunken men I met a few times earlier today – I’m not impressed by the guy. Just to be safe and for a better night’s sleep I sneak past the house and I camp somewhere out of sight.

The next morning the day starts with a many-kilometer-hike along Lago Vidal. It’s a boring hike through a dark and damp rainforest on a muddy trail. It’s possible to skip this hike and take a boat to the other side of the lake. To arrange for this I would have needed to ask yesterday’s guy to seek radio contact with his neighbor on the northern side of the lake and wasn’t really up to this.

After reaching the other side of the lake, a few rivers crossing and a damp climb I reach a next lake. This one’s smaller and at the sandy beach an Argentine is camping. He speaks English and we have lunch together.

That afternoon I resume my way to refugio el Arco. After a few hours of muddy trails and dark trenches, river crossings and slippery structures I reach el refugio and the nearby camping with ******star-views!

Traversia Paso el León – Cochamó

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Traversia Paso el León

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