Monday, March 30, 2009

Neuquén, on the southern frontier

We came to Neuquén in 1976 to live for a variety of reasons. We thought it would exciting to live in Argentina; we thought Neuquén, being a frontier town of only 60,000 or so at the time (now 300,000), had a decent shot at a future; and we had a very good friend who was the Dean of the Graduate School at the Universidad del Comahue, and he was able to get the Veterans Administration to approve the school so that I could get my G.I. Bill benefits there, at a time when the dollar was so strong in Argentina that we were able to pay a year's rent on a small apartment in Neuquén with just one month's worth of G.I. Bill benefits.

Neuquén is not a picture-postcard city by any stretch. It's located in what is basically a wind-swept desert that is fortunate to have two significant rivers running nearby. With plenty of water, the locals have been able to plant lots of apple trees, and more recently grapes—right now I'm drinking some great Sauvignon Semillon from a local winery. It is also blessed with what is probably one of Argentina's biggest oil fields. Some time after we left the city in 1979 there were some major paleontology discoveries in the nearby area, among which was the biggest dinosaur skeleton ever uncovered (if memory serves me correctly). In other words, a long time ago this was not a desert.

Neuquén is also the the gateway to Bariloche, which is to Argentina as the Alps are to Switzerland. We'll be driving there in a few days (from the flatlands of Neuquén to the Andes around Bariloche), and hope to post some pictures of the beautiful scenery and one of the world's most beautiful hotels, the Llao Llao Hotel.

The first two pictures here are of the Rio Limay, which comes from the lake that Bariloche is located on, about 450 kilometers from Neuquén, and flows right alongside the southern edge of the city. I'm only an amateur fisherman, but I'm told that the Limay (upstream) has some of the best trout fishing in the world. We used to drive down to the Limay, just outside of town, and go swimming in the summertime.

The next two pictures are of the house that we used to live in. I mentioned in an earlier post the mechanics of selling the house. It has since been purchased by the government and is now home to some department of the local judiciary. The front of the house you see above was added on to the very small (800 square feet) house that we built in 1978 for about $10,000. Inside we found our original dwelling, and the "office" you see was our bedroom. The guy who bought the house from us simply added on to the front, back, and side. I know this is not very exciting, but we're talking about a little tiny house built over 30 years ago that still lives on. Unfortunately, government bureacrats are now the residents. We toured the city a few hours ago with an old friend, and it struck me that there has been an awful lot of major construction here, with the government grabbing a significant portion of the business. The Provincial Legislature (in a province that can't have even a half-million people) is by far the largest and most opulent building in town.


Mark A. Sadowski said...

Your photo travelogue has been a great pleasure for me. I haven't been abroad in nearly ten years now (I was in London in 1999). It has filled me with the urge to travel once again.

P.S. It occurs to me that I never mentioned that my father's sister's second husband (it sounds far more complicated than it really is) Alan Puszman spent his first marriage in Argentina (following WW II). He is a wonderful man and gave my father a beautiful eulogy.

Cristian said...

I'm sorry but Nequen does NOT contain Bariloche. Bariloche is in Rio Negro and they get really upset when people think their city is in nequen

Scott Grannis said...

Thanks for the correction Cristian. My memory failed me. Bariloche is just outside of Neuquen province. I was thinking of Villa La Angostura which is part of Neuquen, and where I spent some time at El Messidor back in the 1970s.

Unknown said...

Scott I've throughly enjoyed your travel comments and thoughts on the market. It's a must read for me every day

Regina said...

The house is adorable Scott.
It's great that you guys got to see inside it again.

I'm looking forward to the photos from the alps.

Best regards,

Scott Grannis said...

Mark, Pat and Regina: Thanks for the positive comments. It's nice to get feedback as I experiment with new things. I'll do my best to post some pictures as we travel up to the mountains and lakes in the next several days.

Oh, and by the way Cristian: please note the correct spelling of Neuquén.

pcpb participant said...

Scott, this is a wonderful photo account of a beautiful land, but can we really call it "Argentina" in its natural and happiest sense without Norma in your pictures?