Snaps from around Villa la Angostura

“It used to be all green here” one of the Argentinian guys said. I was hitchhiking with Antonella to Villa la Angostura and as soon we had checked in to our hostel we were invited on a little trek in the surrounding areas by some of the other guests there. After going a bit of up, and then a bit more up and down and up and down in a forest, the trees cleared up and we reached the end of the valley. The mountains were rising in front of us, it was sand everywhere, with some green tufts sticking up here and there, and a river snaking around the sandbanks. As a green valley it must have been beautiful, but it was hard to imagine what it used to look like.

“It was a bright and sunny day, and then suddenly it got completely dark, and you couldn’t even see the sun anymore”. The guy leading us on was from Mendoza but he had spent plenty of time in the area, and he had been there in June 2011, when a volcano erupted in Chile and deposited tons of ashes over Argentina, and especially Villa la Angostura. The town had been covered in about a meter of ashes, people had had to wear face masks to protect their lungs from the fine sand, cars were buried, nobody could drive anywhere, and the ash kept on falling for months after. The guy in the camión we rode with to town had talked about the same with Antonella, but as my Spanish is far from perfect, and a rapid conversation between two Argentinians is really hard to understand,  I had only caught on to the one meter part, thinking they were talking about snow or something.

I hadn’t really noticed anything about the ashes before I learned about it, but as Antonella and I made our way back (the boys were heading to the top of the mountain, but it was getting late, and we didn’t want to risk having to walk down in the dark) the signs were more evident. The soil in the forest was sandy, the sidewalks at the outskirts of town were raised more than normal and in general it just seemed to be plenty of sand around, but they have definitely made a great effort of cleaning up the city again, making it once again into that little Swiss inspired  tourist town.