The town of El Bolsón sits in a valley about 75 miles south of Bariloche. The first non-native inhabitants of the area were German immigrants arriving from Chile. In the 1970s, hippies from Buenos Aires settled in the area, resulting in the town gaining a reputation as a crafts center.
At least that’s what the guidebooks tell you.
We spent the day driving to El Bolsón for the much touted Tuesday and Thursday Arts and Crafts Festival; it was worth it for the drive through the valley.
And the setting for the festival was really something, surrounded by mountains.
But the festival itself was a bit of a let down, having become completely commercialized. Tour buses lined the streets and the booths displayed mostly wine racks, incense holders, mate cups and jewelry that we could have found in any tourist souvenir shop in Bariloche or Buenos Aires.
Too bad – kind of like what’s happened to Coconut Grove.
It certainly was not, however, a wasted day.
Besides the drive, an unexpected surprise was a tree we saw right in the middle of the festival – literally, right in the middle of the festival. It appeared to be from the cactus family, and this was the only place in our travels so far that we’ve seen vegetation this unique.
Ignored by the festival-goers, this peculiar tree was the most artistic thing in the plaza.
Nature is kind of cool that way.