South America Drive

San Martin today, part 3

After finishing our drive from Uruguay to Colombia (2015), we decided to return to San Martin de los Andes in Argentina for the ski season. We had fallen in love with this area in 2013.

This scene was so familiar . . . herds of animals being shepherded by “gauchos,” men on horse back. Gotta love it. DSC00952


You would never know there were mountains in the background.




It was the fall season when we arrived back in San Martin. Last time, it had been winter. We expected to see green hills. Unfortunately, everything was covered with a thick layer of ash. Calbuco, a volcano in Chile, had begun erupting a short time before our arrival. Our landlords in Salta (northern Argentina) forewarned us. Since we had never been around erupting volcanos and ash, we did not know what to expect.


This is what you would have seen.

This is what you would have seen.

A few years earlier (2011), a different volcano called Puyehue had erupted nearby in Chile. Both times, the Chileans were lucky: the winds pushed most of the ash across the border and dumped it in Argentina on the other side of the Andes.

Bariloche is a few hours south of San Martin. Back in 2011, Bariloche got the worst of it. San Martin actually got very little. We hoped for the same this time (sorry Norie), but it was just the opposite.

The canopy was filled with ash.

The canopy was filled with ash.

About a 1/2 hour from San Martin we lost visibility. The air was thick with ash. A few inches were already on the ground AND . . . the volcano was still erupting.

We pulled into the driveway of our new home late in the day. So now, it is getting darker due to the sun setting and the ash in the air. Adding to that, it is pouring rain. We were tired, stressed from the drive, and still needed to unload. The garage door would not open. The owner had locked us out of the garage (long story), so we had to unload all our stuff in the ashy rain. Within minutes we looked like we had been mud wrestling. Fun, fun!

Our home with snow . . . later in the season.

Our home with snow . . . later in the season.

Our first weeks here were gritty. The ash was super fine and came in through the tiniest gaps. It came in through the doors and windows, and the fireplace. It came in with the dogs each time we let them out. Walking barefoot, you could feel it with every step.

The winds gusted off and on, so clouds of ash were continually floating in the air. When we went for walks (getting our legs in shape for skiing), each step created a puff of ash. On windier days, we passed on our walks, the ash bothered our eyes and we didn’t want to inhale it. We did consider wearing our ski goggles and construction masks (we picked up a few).

After a few days, the volcano stopped erupting. Of course, we never knew if it would start again. There is no set pattern. We would go a couple days without anything, then the volcano started again. Finally, it did stop. Scientists are still saying it could begin again at any time. This particular volcano was totally unexpected . . . no forewarning, no rumbles, no wispy steam, nothing. No one was watching it so it caught everyone by surprise.

We wondered how all the ash in the air would effect skiing.

Tomorrow, final post on San Martin de los Andes.

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