LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 93
By: Lugares File
Photos: Soledad Gil
Everything, absolutely everything belonged to the Mapuches. Even its name. Pehuen is the native name for "araucaria" (monkey-puzzle tree), and if one goes 50 km beyond Zapala one will immediately understand how appropriate it is.
The little settlement on the shores of Lake Alumine is one of Argentina's newest urban developments. It is carefully laid out in a haphazard fashion, conveying a pleasant harmony with the surrounding nature - an almost arid terrain where the blue lake waters make a contrast with the radales, ñires... and, obviously, the araucarias.
Before the nineties, Pehuenia I, II and III were merely the names by which the peninsulas and bays in the area were known; the Batea Mahuida was the volcano guarding the Alumine; and the remaining lakes - Moquehue, Ñorquinco and Pulmari- were a triad of forgotten sheets of water that few adventurers visited.
Only the Provincial Hostelry, seriously neglected of late, received fishermen and their parties. Today, Pehuenia I is the housing development of choice for Neuquen residents who want a weekend house; Pehuenia II concentrates most of the settlement's facilities, while Pehuenia III is less developed, and has larger plots of land, because of the Development Committee's stress on maintaining the area's wilderness character.
Batea Mahuida is also the ski center -Parque de Nieve (Snow Park), as it is known locally- a venture that has been operated by the local Mapuche community for the last three seasons. And the lakes form part of the "large circuit" of ViIla Pehuenia, a fascinating hike that starts at and returns to the same point, along "Routes" 13, 11 and 23.
Some 300 km from Neuquen, and only 5 from the border pass of Icalma, there are not only natural attractions as enticements to visit the area. There are hostelries and restaurants, and one of the best places for a white-water rafting trip, on the Alumine river, ending at the river's namesake town, 50 km from Pehuenia.