SAN CARLOS DE BARILOCHE.— There are destinations that, due to their remoteness, mysticism and inaccessibility, arouse passions. Legendary and remote places that make us feel like the first to set foot there. This is what generates the Somuncurá plateau, in the center of Río Negro, in a group of friends in the city of Lobos, province of Buenos Aires.
this particular the landscape today formed of canyons has been covered several times by the sea. Its formation began 40 million years ago and included the action of volcanoes. Access is extreme at many times of the year and can only be done by 4×4 vehicles. And it is precisely the complexity of the terrain that motivates this group of Wolves.
“The idea of traveling to the set came from five friends: Gustavo D’Alessandro, Carlos ‘Carloto’ Pozzobon, Fernando ‘El Gordo’ Fassa, my brother Carlos and myself. El Gordo was the heart of the group, the one who always encouraged. Unfortunately, he had to go through an illness and was never able to make the long-awaited trip to the set, ”explains Gustavo Apesteguía, 52, who is dedicated to the maintenance of green spaces in the city of Buenos Aires.
“Fernando’s brother-in-law, Carloto, lives in San Blas and is dedicated to sport fishing. In the beginning, with this original group, we took trips to inhospitable places, always off-road, trying to get off the beaten track. During one of these expeditions, someone told us that he had gone to the plateau of Somuncurá with two friends. It was a destination that I already had in mind and that ended up deciding us”, adds Gustavo.
His brother Carlos, 46, who is a farmer and rancher and lives in the countryside, 20 km from Lobos, adds: “When we made the first descent from San Blas along the beach on March 7, a small town in the mouth of the Negro River, Rodolfo Grandoso, a boy from Carmen de Patagones, sponsored the guide. At the end of this trip, he showed us pictures of the set and that’s when the idea of doing a longer trip started to emerge. A programmed journey through places with a much greater difficulty than what they had done.
Roasted in between, the gatherings began to plan the route. What would the logistics look like, who would get a gazebo, tents and sleeping bags. They also chose a name for the group: The rustics. The first trip was made in April 2018, in two vans. “We left Lobos, picked up Carloto in San Blas and spent the night in Las Grutas. Later we went to Valcheta in the Chipauquil region further south and from there we entered the pure plateau. We pass by the Blue Lagoon, the Corona hill and we leave by Cona Niyeu. The plateau is captivating, only those who cross it realize the terrible magnitude that has. The vastness grabs you and the scenery is spectacular,” says Carlos.
“When we first talked about facing a trip to this place, neither of us had a clue what it was really like. Searching the internet a bit, they called it mystical, magical, endless but all of that became clear when we were up there. We knew of another group that had to return due to the cold and snow that had hit them. These comments added to the difficulties that the outing presented defined the trip says D’Alessandro.
His vehicle not being suitable for the company, the 49-year-old programmer became the group’s official cook. “We decided that due to food preservation issues, the meals would be based on stews and something similar to stews. But, in the end, we took the risk of also bringing meat and chicken, which with the cold weather kept very well for a few days. An anecdote: one lunchtime when the day was incredible, we stopped to eat and we realized that some cans of beer that we had on the roof of one of the vans were colder than those in the ice cooler”, recalls D “Alexandre.
The following year, in 2019, the original group added new members: there were 12 friends in four vans who left for this unique stage at that time. April was once again the chosen month. “On the second trip, we went to Maquinchao on route 23. A friend, ‘El Turco’ Elías, who has a hotel opposite the station, was waiting for us with a lamb. From there we entered the plateau through El Caín. We brought donations for the rural school of this place, it was a beautiful moment. Then we continue along a small path to Cona Niyeu. It was a crazy trip. We cross completely inhospitable places”, enthuses Gustavo Apesteguía.
What motivates them the most is the complexity of the terrain. Although there are no ledge roads, the trails are so run down that it is impossible to gain any speed. They say, for example, that on one of the crossings, making 60 km, it took them almost 10 hours. “We were driving along a road that crosses a dry river and suddenly the road was gone. We had to walk about 200 meters to see if it continued further. We found a small path and had to run stones to move forward. Literally, you have to make your way,” laughs Gustavo.
In addition to the landscape, there are two elements that all friends highlight: the sky and the inhabitants of the plateau of Somuncurá. “It’s very hard to live there, these people make it a homeland every day,” says Carlos. And his brother to add that “the few inhabitants are breeders who devote themselves to raising goats and sheep, and live in the mouths of inactive volcanoes”.
On the first trip, Lobos’ friends traveled to set up camp at the mouth of one of these volcanoes. It was a cold, windless night. No one will ever forget the starry sky that unfolded before their eyes.
“Another place where the nights are impressive is at the Blue Lagoon: the sky is falling on you. And that I lived in the countryside for years. But the clarity, silence and beauty it has is amazing. The sky is spectacular day and night, you can see from the first star to the last. And the daylight is beautiful,” says Carlos.
D’Alessandro, the chef, confirms:The Blue Lagoon is beautiful and you can’t believe you are in nothingness itself. I still remember the sky full of stars and the reflection in the lagoon. Another corner that caught my attention is the Corona hill, because one comes from a completely flat landscape and suddenly you see this imposing figure in the distance and you do not understand how it was generated.
But Lobos’ friends don’t just live on memories. The years of the pandemic have delayed the third trip across the plateau, but they will finally leave next Monday, to try to reconquer this desolate territory once again. This time they will go to Los Menucos, on Route 23, and enter through Prahuaniyeu. From there they will cross El Caín and continue south to Gan Gan and Gastre, to then cross the Chubut River through Paso de Indios. All of this last stage will take place in the territory of Chubut: the plateau of Somuncurá is so vast that it also covers part of this province.
“The plateau catches up with you, it enters your veins. You pass 10 km from one road to another and the landscape changes, it is inexplicable. And the difficulty is extreme. Only those who like to think outside the box appreciate it. And when it’s between friends, not to say, all your emotions are heightened, you even have fun doing tricks before eating in the evening, ”synthesizes Carlos.
Postponed several times, the third trip to this precious destination appears on the horizon for these friends of Lobos like the diaphanous and infinite sky of the Somuncurá plateau.
Photos: Courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism of Río Negro
Photo editing: Fernanda Corbani