May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside's Annual Travel Guide, 1999/2000 Page: 1 | 2
South America, Australia, New Zealand: The adventurous best of the other hemisphere


Fly-Fishing Junín de los Andes Patagonia

Patagonia is trout country, and the small town of Junín de los Andes, near the Ríos Chimehuín, Melleo, and Quilquihue, is its undisputed trout-fishing capital. Even its street signs are shaped like trout. Anglers regularly pull 15- to 25-pound rainbows, browns, and landlocked salmon from these rivers, which drain alpine lakes nestled among Andean spires.

My friend Craig and I had good luck on the Melleo and the Chimehuín, but we were both drooling over the prospect of fishing a "secret" spot on the Quilquihue we'd extracted from a friend. Once there, I fished some riffles with dry flies and within an hour caught a dozen rainbows. Craig nymphed some deeper pools and pulled in some very big browns. Later, our friend asked how many people we'd seen on the river. The answer: none. "Aha! Here you are on some of the best water in the world, during the height of the fall season, and you don't see another fisherman? That, my friends, is the beauty of trout fishing in Patagonia."

Flights (about $300 round trip) leave daily from Buenos Aires to Junín de los Andes. Rent a car at the airport; it's the only practical way to get to the good fishing spots. San Humberto Lodge ($280 per night; 011-54-2972-491-238) on the Melleo River is the region's best—a handful of
private little chalets adjoin a huge, rustic lodge with an excellent restaurant. The lodge's guides are the best in Nequén Province. The six simply furnished cottages at Spring Creek Lodge ($140; 011-54-2972-491-1584), within walking distance of the Río Chimehuín, sleep four to six people. My favorite is the basic but homey Hostería de Chimehuín (011-54-2972-491-132) on the same river; rooms with balconies are $20, including breakfast. Get flies, guides, and rental gear from Aníbal Saccone at the Fly Shop in Junín de los Andes (011-54-2972-491-548). —Kent Black

Surfing Montañita, Ecuador

There's a point break at a remote village called Montañita that is the best right-hand wave in Ecuador and, some say, in all of South America—and you don't have to fight the hordes to surf it. From December to May, this break produces good four- to 12-foot waves almost every day, at nearly any time or tide. From late March through early May, southwest swells hit the reef and deliver awesome rides. I've visited as late in the season as March and April, and even when it was really going off, there were no more than eight riders in the lineup.

Getting to Montañita requires at least a full day of rural bus travel north from Ecuador's southern port city of Guayaquil. The reward is one of the most laid-back surf towns left on the Pacific coast.
Accommodations are basic and inexpensive, food and beer are cheap, the water's warm, and the people are friendly and hospitable. Even nonsurfers can relish a week here, swimming and hammock-lounging under the palms.

A half-dozen small hotels are located near the point, less than a mile north of the village center. A good beachfront bet is El Centro del Mundo II (call the Quito office at 011-593-2-229-050), which has rooms with private bath for $5 per person and a small restaurant that's open all day—so you don't have to venture into town to an eatery that may or may not be serving, depending on the owner's mood. A better choice, several miles north of town, is the Alandaluz Eco-Resort (011-593-2-543-042), built entirely of local bamboo; the owners grow their own vegetables, serve fresh seafood, and rent rooms with private bath for $20 per night. The hotel adjoins a nice swimming beach, but for surf, catch the bus back to Montañita. —K. B.

Trekking the Choro Trail: La Cumbre to Coroico, Bolivia

Bolivia's Choro Trail is one of the most extreme treks you'll ever undertake. Not that it's death-defying, or even difficult; on this mostly downhill hike, it's the variety that's extreme. In three short days (approximately 36 miles) you might encounter blizzards, downpours, dense jungle filled with parrots and giant butterflies, and intricate Incan pathways leading to fragrant citrus plantations.

The trek starts in La Cumbre (15,256 feet), an hour northeast of La Paz; the bus stops near a large statue of Christ the Redeemer, whose left hand points out a trail that leads to barren, snow-covered hills. I made my way up a couple hundred meters to the pass at Apacheta Chucura, where for centuries travelers have tossed stones onto a nearby cairn as a prehike ritual.

After this daunting, snowy start, the 30-or-so-mile descent seemed almost leisurely. On the third day I arrived at the home of gracious Señor Tamiji Hanamura de Furio, who invited me to have tea and to pitch my tent in his colorful garden. From there it was an easy three-mile walk to the mountain village of Chairo. I then caught a ride into beautiful Coroico, perched on the edge of a 5,741-foot cliff with views of cordillera peaks.

In less than a week I'd descended from barren, snow-swept mountains into a lush forested valley, where I spent hot days swimming in the Río Coroico and cool, foggy nights sipping excellent local coffee and rum in front of a crackling fire in my cabana at the hotel Sol y Luna. The intimate little hotel rents four one-bedroom cabanas surrounded by citrus and coffee plantations with spectacular views of the surrounding peaks for $7 per person (011-591-15-61626). Hotel Esmeralda ($7–$12 per person per night; 011-591-2-811-8623) has a pool, tropical garden, hot showers, and rooms with balconies. Both hotels have vegetarian restaurants. For guided hikes, Andean Summits in La Paz (011-591-2-317-97; and Explore Bolivia (303-708-8810; offer three- and four-day trips for about $250–$670 per person, depending on group size. —K. B.

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