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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nature Calls

San Carlos de Bariloche in the Argentinian Lake District is known as the Little Switzerland of Patagonia - beautiful calm lakes, cosy cabins made of wood and stone, ice-cream shop counters showcasing a rainbow of mouth-watering flavours and rows of gourmet chocolate shops.

Nestled at the foot of the Andes, Bariloche is a popular winter wonderland with plenty of skiing opportunities in the nearby mountain tops. In summer, the sapphire-blue lakes offer boating adventures and people head to the lush green mountains for treks and picnics.

But what has the place to offer on a dreary drizzly cloudy day in November?

The perfect setting for photographing waterfalls!

We had planned to take a local bus to one of the lakes lying south of our hostel to visit a small set of cascades, which we were told were accessible by a short trek though the woods along the lake. Contrary to our usual prayers for sunny days, clear skies and NO rain, we were quite pleased to wake up to a wet morning resplendent with thick grey clouds.

Reason being, to get good photos of waterfalls, you need low light, either in the form of cloudy skies or tree cover. Sunny days don't make for good pictures, as the strong sunlight bounces off the white waters of the falls. Coupled with the fact that you need to lower the camera's shutter speed to create that silky smooth texture of the flowing water, overly strong lighting results in overexposed pictures.

Rain, however, doesn't feature in the formula. In fact, it tends to splatter a few irritating droplets on the camera lense just as you've composed your photo, gotten it in focus and are about to press the shutter. But in the Lakes District, rain makes a frequent appearance, so with our hoods on and our picnic lunch packed in waterproof bags, we made our way to the lake and into the woods.

The natural scenery in Bariloche is beautiful. But on a rainy day, the whole place just looks wet and grey. So this entry is about getting up close with nature on the trail that we took in the woods. It was nice to linger and take our time to examine water, wood, leaves and flowers in close detail, instead of trying to get that perfect postcard shot of the lakes.

We came across a gurgling shallow stream, the water just skimming over the stony bed

The divinity stick lead us to more water...

... in the form of a small waterfall

Examining some wet wood along the way. Quite taken by the ripples on this one.

This trunk was knobbly. A few of the bumps look like little eyes peering out from the tree.

Made of many thin layers on the inside

Going for the wet look

Following the stream, we got to the main attraction - a two tiered cascade - after about an hour. Or maybe two hours? It was not a long trail but we were really taking our time, absorbed in capturing details in our photos - I didn't once glance at my watch.

Treading carefully on slippery stones to get to the foot of the lower cascade

My camera lense got totally wet from the spray even though I tried to shield it with my hand. The result - a lovely dreamy watercolour effect.

Downstream from the falls - trying to capture a spot of sunshine that managed to creep to the stream through the cloud cover and tree canopy

Once or twice, during our stay in Bariloche, the sun decided to make a brief appearance. Unfortunately, we weren't on the much anticipated Seven Lakes Drive, nor on a mountain peak with an expansive view of the surrounding lakes when the sun showed it's face. On one rare sunny occasion, we had just alighted from the bus after a quick visit downtown and were actually on the way back to our hostel!

While there weren't spectacular vistas to capture along the dusty road in our quiet residential neighbourhood, there was still beauty all around us to enjoy.

Peachy pink buds just waiting to blossom

Fresh green leaves with delicate veins

Turning translucent in the sunlight

Rain or shine, it's nice to lose oneself in nature once in awhile. If not all the time.


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