Tag Archives: volunteer Argentina

Adios Mapuches, hola Bariloche

We said our farewells to the Mapuche community that we have gotten to know and love through voluntourism, and to the wonderful staff of Tipiliuke (luxury volunteer travel par excellence!) and to our fellow guests  and Kevin drove us the 30 minutes to town for our bus to Villa la Angostura. Every second store seemed to be a chocolate shop, from the Swiss and Austrian influence, Kevin tells us.

It is a gorgeous coach ride alongside seven lakes to Villa la Angostura, where our accommodation was looking over the lake, some  distance form town which was not on the lake at all as I had thought. We discovered we were too late for Angostura’s primary attraction: a walk through the Arruyanes Forest, a type of tree only found in this area – the last ferry out to the starting point was at 2pm at this time of year, and the earliest the following morning was at 1115 but we had just booked our onward ride at 1030am.

Audrey’s sunglasses had broken so we began our odyssey in search of new ones, but no joy in this town. No one in the tourist office spoke English, and we were told that Angostura is ‘muy tranquillo’…he was right, although the view from our hotel was spectacular, only to be surpassed the following day by the sublime Llao Llao hotel in Bariloche.

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Volunteering with the Mapuche in Argentina

Arnie, our local guide, picked us up in the morning to take us to a Mapuche community reservation called Chiquilihuin; stopping for photo opportunities of the towering, snow capped mountain en route. On our way there, we spent time with Carmen, based in Junin de los Andes, who is an advocate for this community, who accompanied us to Chiquilihuin.

Carmen has led projects with various NGO’s including energy provision, handicrafts, and a recycling programme. Her building was funded by the owner of the local beer ‘Quilmes’ and Cruzada Patagonia helped as well. Carmen is also a member of Ashoka.

When we arrived, we were introduced to  Pedro and his wife Maria, Mapuche folk, who immediately displayed their famed hospitality by inviting us to lunch – chivito, which is bbq’d goat, cooked in traditional style which is on a skewer type device over an open fire; it was delicious and incredibly tender, although at that point I thought we would be back at the lodge in time for a late lunch so did not gorge myself.

Pedro is a respected man in the community, so we discussed with him whether the community would like to have volunteers come on a voluntourism trip, and as this was assented to, we spoke about the sort of projects that our guests could get involved with.  Painting houses or schools was suggested, as was computer training – the school has three computers. Additionally, people with marketing/sales/branding skills could advise the artisans on how best to promote their crafts to appeal to foreigners.

So it is all looking quite promising! Now we press on to develop the sightseeing portion of our new itinerary, or potentially itineraries, as I am thinking the volunteering here lends itself to a trip blended with Chile…we shall see…visit www.handsupholidays.com for updates!

Sublime San Martin de los Andes and Tipiliuke Lodge

We flew to San Martin de  los Andes, but never saw the town until briefly on the final day, as we were whisked from the airport by Kevin, manager of Tipiliuke Lodge, our home for the next few days. This lodge is part of a working estancia of 15,000 acres, and is predominantly frequented by fly-fishermen – and women; we were surprised how keen some of the women there were about their fishing.

There were four other couples at this rural idyll, all there to fish and all from the US…needless to say this was the main topic of conversation, which was a little overwhelming, but they were all friendly and fortunately did have other interests…all had been to NZ, and loved  it!

Audrey and I opted for the other activity on offer – horse riding. Yvonne was our expert local guide who firstly took us to visit one of the ‘aunts’, Michelle, an octogenarian Franco-Spanish lady with firm views about the way of the world and how to deal with the Mapuche people…she should know, as she has worked extensively with them in healthcare, and is now helping them sell their handicrafts.

After spending time with her, with Audrey as translator, we got back on our horses (Audrey a lot more gracefully than me) and headed up into the mountains. I rode Colorado, and Audrey had Pomelo. Yvonne took us to steep parts because we told her we like skiing, but I cannot see the connection. I told Yvonne that with skiing I am in control, and she responded that it is the same with horse riding, and I wanted to believe her, but when we got back to level ground and started cantering, there was no doubt that I was not in control…quite scary actually, as we did not have helmets and one of my feet came out of the stirrup at one point…but I live to tell the story!

Our room at Tipiliuke was gorgeous, and the whole lodge is wonderful – nothing over the top, quite simple and tasteful. The staff were all superb, and wi-fi was much appreciated!

To have your own luxury volunteer adventure visit http://www.handsupholidays.com