Monday, January 20, 2014

The Snowstorm of 2011, San Rafael, Argentina

article from August 2, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

After spending an exciting winter in Uruguay a couple of years ago, dealing with the constant high winds and driving rain out on the tip of Cabo Santa María, we decided to relocate, and in my infinite wisdom I suggested to my wife that we go back to Patagonia to experience a real winter, with snow, surrounded by the Andes and the lakes and rivers that the area is so famous for.

Our timing was immaculate. We left Montevideo on the last day of February and entered Argentina around midnight on March 1. After a few days of enjoying ourselves in Córdoba, we rode the bus south to San Rafael, and then went on to El Bolsón in Patagonia. There we hooked back up with our dear friends Marina and Miguel, staying at their Don Celestino Cabañas for a couple of weeks while they generously helped us to find the right place, which was the Chacra Ushuaia, in the foothills between El Bolsón and Lago Puelo.

We enjoyed a lengthy late summer and fall, but to my great disappointment, I learned that we were in this microclimate that was too mild for snow at our altitude, except in very rare circumstances. We saw snow up on the nearby peaks, and we almost lucked out once, when we actually experienced some tiny little snowflakes for a few minutes, but overall, we passed the winter burning a small forest worth of firewood to keep warm without that special substance that was the whole reason we had gone there. Spring and summer came and went way too fast, the lovely cherries and raspberries soon were replaced by chestnuts and on the last day of summer, March 20, it started snowing on the cerros all around us. That was when my mind started wandering to warmer places with palm trees and bananas.

While all that dreaming and scheming was going on, we got an offer to live in San Rafael, Mendoza, 8 degrees closer to the equator! But somewhere in my mind I remembered that the winter before, the temperatures in Mendoza City were actually colder than at the Argentinean station in Antartica. After arriving here, we asked around about snow and were told that sometimes it snowed just a little bit.

So we have been enjoying a very mild winter …until the rains came late last week. We had seen on Wunderground.com that it was going to get cold and snow was in the forecast. We had heard that same thing in Patagonia, but it never dropped to our altitude. So Friday night, we went to bed with the sound of heavy rain pitter pattering on our roof. Around midnight, the sound stopped. I got up around 1 am to look outside, and sure enough, it was snowing. Back to bed I went, snuggling to keep warm.

As always, I got up about 8 am to let our formerly little doggie out. She, of course, had never seen snow and ran right out into it, using her nose as a snowplow and rolling in it, and then came the little neighbor dog, Catorce, and they went completely berserk playing in the accumulated snow.. Our palm trees were laden with heavy wet snow, and it continued to snow all day. The cover on the carport was sagging and eventually collapsed

Well, I did get my wished-for snow, just not in Patagonia, which, by the way, got the most snowfall in years from the same massive storm. Between the power outages and the frozen water pipes, it was exciting, but we made it through the “Blizzard of 2011.”

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza
Where that Malbec Wine is Keeping us Warm and Fine!

[Photo by Jamie Douglas]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.