There was a miscommunication aboard the Cau Cau ferry in Argentina’s spectacular Lake District last weekend. The result? A priceless image of me, a cracker and a sharp-beaked bird in communion together now exists for all to see (and mock, obviously).
Of course, it was all thanks to my damn feeble Spanish language skills.
The trip started as most do, uneventfully. Ayaz and I had arrived in the sparkling Lake District in Argentina’s northwest Patagonia region awed by the spectacular setting. Glittering lakes the size of small seas lie scattered across a landscape made craggy and mountainous by the looming Andes. Though I’m here in the region’s summer season, and the world around me is quite emerald green at the moment, the setting turns snow-capped and -covered come winter.
We stationed ourselves in the town of Bariloche, a minor hub of 100K+ that offers ample tours and excursions to explore the region’s natural beauty and attractions. While it’s location and surrounding landscape is stellar, part of Bariloche’s charm lies in its likeness to a Swiss or German Alpine village, complete with chocolate shops galore (including the divine and ever-crowded Mamushka), and shopkeepers and waitresses donning Fraulein costumes. Oh, and a St. Bernard wearing a barrel around his neck posing for tourist pictures (this was actually quite sad and infuriating — the dog’s owner treated him like crud and the beast looked miserable and NO I would never have taken a photo with him).
Anyhoo, we found ourselves renting a decently large apartment with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking pointed roofs, dramatic mountains and the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake. Exploring the town itself was a quick to-do; there are 2 main streets filled with shops, including an abundance of outdoor outfitters, and a large and scenic plaza.
Meals were of the meaty variety, as Argentine meals tend to be, but the bife de lomo steak (paired with a hefty pile of papas fritas, an ensalada mixta and a bottle of Malbec) at El Boliche de Alberto was so divine, it’s worth mentioning.
But back to the boat. And the bird. Did I mention the bird was a fake? A massive, photoshopped fraud? Ok, I’ll get to that.
The natural attractions surrounding Bariloche are ample, and we chose to start exploring with a trip to the top of Cerro Companario, a mountain peak that offers unforgettable 360-degree views around the Lake District. We bought a ticket for the chairlift (because heck, I wanted to take photos, not break my back hiking) to the top of the peak where we were greeted by the otherworldly landscape.
Seeing these gleaming lakes only stoked my urge to get up close-and-personal with the water, which meant one thing: a boat tour.
A number of tour outfitters operate boat trips from the nearby port of Llao Llao, and we chose to go with one of the larger companies, Cau Cau. This day-long tour took us across Nahuel Huapi Lake to Victoria Island, a positively enchanting escape filled with easy to moderate hiking trails that accessed panoramic views, a pretty little puerto unfortunately named Gross Port, shocking turquoise waters, and sparkling little Del Toro Beach.
The tour itself was actually really informative, and while it was largely in Spanish, one of the guides knew we spoke English and periodically translated the things we couldn’t understand. Since it’s high season, the tour was pretty packed, but we managed to bypass the maddening crowds by bolting off the boat and onto trails in an artful escape just prior to the hordes, and managed to enjoy completely tranquil hikes with not a soul around.
After 2 ½ hours on Victoria Island, the ferry departs for Arrayanes Forest, filled with 300-year-old arrayanes trees, whose peeling bark is the very color of cinnamon.
But you’re probably still wondering about that bird, no?
While aboard the boat, the ferry’s friendly photographer motioned for me and Ayaz to pose at the boat’s bow, with the stunning scenery of mountains and glistening lake water behind us. Very sweet.
Without warning, she pushed Ayaz aside, handed me a cracker and pushed my arm in the air, rapidly explaining something to me in Spanish. I assumed that if I held the cracker, one of the enormous seagulls circling near the boat would come and snatch it out of my hand.
As one who seems genetically pre-determined to be pooped on by birds, this was not an idea I found particularly attractive. Hence, my flinchy-looking face. No bird appeared, thank heavens, the photo was snapped, and well, that appeared to be that.
Fast forward to the final leg of the ferry ride, when I went below deck to claim my photo. There were the adorable (yeah, I’ll say it) pictures of my and Ayaz and then, before my eyes, the action shot of the century — or, at least, 2014.
There I stood in the photo, eyes askance, arm proudly held high, scenery of a lifetime behind my back, white cracker extended toward the sky and then, the surprise — the mother of all seagulls, with his pointy beak open…just so, swooping down from the heavens, right above my head. A photoshopped masterpiece.
Purchasing the photo cost $8. I demurred. Ayaz insisted.
“This,” he declared, “will be the best $8 we’ve ever spent.”
And so it very well may be.