Cuesta del Viento (San Juan)
The Nahuel Huapi National Park is in the southern province of Rio Negro. The magnificent landscape has been under conservation since 1934, and many lakes and rivers flow through it. The biggest of them, Lake Nahuel Huapi is 700m up. Most visitors come to 'Little Switzerland’ for reliable winter snow on ski slopes like Cerro Catedral, or just to marvel at the mountains. Windsurfers and kiters are just fringe groups, although you’ll certainly encounter at least a handful of like-minded souls. At 3,400m the Andes here aren’t as high as further north so allow the prevailing westerly winds through all year round – after all, this is the Roaring Forties! The wind sweeps down the slopes of the Cordillera from Chile at up to 40 knots, onto the flat pampas of the Patagonian desert on the lakes’ eastern flanks. Most of the spots are on the south banks. On the edge of Villa Nahuel Malal, the tiny windsurfing launch of Bahia Serena is sheltered by a peninsula so has particularly flat water in moderate winds. Playa Bonita 8km west of San Carlos de Bariloche also has a small beach but there’s enough room for kites. In the centre of Bariloche, left of the harbour, the urban spot Bariloche Classic is named after the annual windsurf race. But Varadero Beach is the local favourite; the wind’s stronger and you can count on more wind-waves further east. The mood also changes as lush greens soften the brown landscape; replacing the conifers, grasses and scrubs dominate. Dina Huapi is the region’s kite zone, offering two launches: Dina Huapi West and Dina Huapi Rivermouth. The wind’s a little lighter and the water a couple of degrees warmer than elsewhere. If you want some solitude use the eastern arm of Huapi Brazo Huemul – it’s particularly good in NW winds. 20km further north on the RA231 there’s extremely shallow flat water at Ragintuco in front of La Estacada campsite. Two more options are Lago Moreno for smooth freeride, and Lago Gutierrez where a valley perfectly channels ra re southerly winds. It’s nearly 2,000km from Bariloche to Cuesta del Viento in the north, the best route’s via Neuquén, San Rafael, Mendoza and San Juan. For a break from the endless Dry Pampas try your luck on the reservoirs of Cerros Colerados (near Neuquén) or Embalse El Nihuil (in San Rafael) that work once in a while. Further north Lago Potrerillos (near Mendoza) and Ullúm Reservoir (north-west of San Juan) are both more suitable and reliable. Coming from Buenos Aires via Cordoba you could check out the dammed valleys of Los Molinos and Lago San Roque. But the standout choice is Rio Jachal’s reservoir, Cuesta del Viento, which roughly translates as 'The Wind Slide’ – it’s all in the name! Through a summer’s day a region-wide E to SE thermal builds on the 6,000m+ mountains in the west, accelerated up the well-positioned Rio Jachal valley. At an altitude of 1,600m, the lake’s mirror-flat in the mornings, then from noon the wind freshens and rises steadily to 20-30 knots, sometimes beyond 50! It’s most constant on the west bank, where there are a few options. The first is where Franco and Felipe built their windsurf centre. Puerto de Palos was a freshly flooded lake which the two brothers stumbled across while cycling through the Andes in 1999. Slightly higher are Playa Lamaral and the main kite venue Fincas del Lago with even flatter water. An insider tip is La Isleta in the south offering action between two small peninsulas beneath a stunning backdrop.
Kite and Windsurfing Guide