The first time I saw the Patagonian mountains and lakes was in 1971. My parents decided to give up the beaches and the sea coast and drive down 1.600 km (1,000 mi.) to Lake Huechulafquen in the northern Patagonian province of Neuquén. We camped there for nearly three weeks and on our boat we trolled the lake fishing trout and enjoying the scenery. I still remember the apprehension that the incredibly beautiful cone of Lanín volcano caused. It was right beside us, all 3.776 m (12,380 ft.) of it.
We camped again in '72 and '73 at Lake Correntoso, and between '74 and '77 we lodged at Eddy Duport's bungalows in Puerto Moreno, Bariloche, on Lake Nahuel Huapi. Then we moved in to our log cabin at Villa Campanario, Bariloche.
With my father, we fished on many lakes, on a daily basis, riding in the family boat at dawn, noon and dusk, trolling along shady coasts, deep waters by sheer cliffs and shallow bays with sandy beaches.
We saw red deer swimming in the lake, we caught big (5 kg - 10 lb.) rainbow and brown trout, we saw the eery shapes of submerged trees and puma tracks on lonely beaches.
We heard the woodpeckers in the forests, saw condors flying overhead. We were visited by boars and puma at our camping sites.
We rode through tough waves swept up by the incredibly strong Patagonian winds. We fished under persistent drizzle or under a sharp bright sun on a calm, mirror like lake.
We saw crystal clear lakes and others whose water had a green milky tint due to the glaciers that drained into them...
But not even once did we see any strange lake creatures.
I recall old Eddy Duport telling us incredible stories about Bariloche in the 1940's and 50's, his adventurous life that had brought him from Vaud in Switzerland to Bariloche.
I heard about the lake's 1960 tsunami during the earthquake at Concepción, Chile, that washed away Bariloche's port, I heard how his small boat building shed burnt down; about his pioneer days in the forest by Mount Tronador...
But not once did he mention lake creatures.
I have been at my family's log cabin many summers and winters, I have trekked the forest trails, visited countless lakes (Espejo, Correntoso, Lacar, Lolog, Paimún, Epulafquen, Machónico, Falkner, Villarino, Traful, Frias, Schmöl, Frey, Mascardi, Gutierrez, Jakob, Hermoso, Puelo, Rivadavia, Menéndez, Futalafquen, Epuyén, Buenos Aires and Argentino...) and even though I have seen icebergs floating on some of them...
I never saw any strange creatures.
So perhaps I have not been lucky. Or I am too skeptical and explain everything in a rational manner, or maybe the creatures are not seen very frequently as there are few of them.
Who knows. But I am sure of one thing; that the magic of Patagonia has cast a spell on me that will not wear away even if I live one hundred years.
Copyright © 2007 by Austin Whittall
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©